Is it social anxiety?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I actually see a pyschiatrist and have seen him for almost two years now. I’ve tried to talk to him about this, but everytime I start to I panic and can’t. I was wondering if this sounds like social anxiety to you. Or is this something everybody feels everyday? And by the way, when I say I don’t like it, that means that I do everything I can to avoid doing it.

When a lot of people are around me (more than five) my heart starts racing, i feels hard to breath, and my chest starts hurting really bad. I make up excuses not to go somewhere with people. I don’t like talking on the phone. I don’t like being introduced to new people. I don’t like interacting with people I don’t know, or people I went to school with. I don’t like paying for things (I don’t want the cashier to talk to me.) I don’t like eating in front of others. I don’t like social events. I don’t like talking in groups (more than three people is too much.) made up excuses not to work in groups with people at school. I’m scared to be in front of people (public speaking.) In public places I like to stay by my safe person (mom.) I have absolutly no friends, and even when I did. there wasn’t too many of them. I feel like I don’t fit in with anybody, including family. I can’t make eye contact with other people for more than two seconds. I get creeped out when people look at me. I keep conversations with strangers very short. can’t get a job/liscense because I’m afraid of being judged. I dread having my picture taken, and I never smile in them. I have a difficult time making friends et alone keeping them. I wouldn’t run or do any of my work-outs in gym class if other people were looking at me. I would try and ditch school if I had to present something that day. And if I couldn’t skip, than I would just not present it and take a zero on it. If people would turn their test in befor me, I would hurry up and write random answers down so I wasn’t the last person to turn them in When I had to walk to my seat in class my heart would race. I hate being the center of attention. I get nervous talking to authority figures, besides my parents (that’s why I can’t talk to my psychiatrist about this.) I’m bad at initiating a conversation, or even keeping one going. I get really hot, chest hurts, heart races, when too many people are around, too many people are talking, or look at me to long. I would almost start panicing when the teacher would call on me in class to answer a question, because I was afraid I would stutter or give the wrong answer. (I only stutter when I’m nervous.) And I would stutter a lot when I was picked to read to the class, even if I was sitting in my seat.

I really need help with this, and soon. Because I don’t see my psychiatrist unti the begining of July. And in August I’m going away to college four hours away from home. And I don’t know how I’m going to make it at college without freaking out everyday. So please help. Sorry this is so long, I just wanted to add as much details as possible

A: I can’t make a certain diagnosis on the basis of a letter. I can tell you that the symptoms you describe are consistent with social anxiety. OK. Now maybe you have a name for what you’re going through. That’s not going to help you at all unless you take steps to do something about it. The positive thing about the anxiety disorders is that they are treatable. But they are only treatable if you get treatment.

You are certainly not alone in keeping vital information from your psychiatrist, feeling as you do. Talking about your symptoms puts you right into the thick of the very symptoms you are experiencing. I suggest you try to get an appointment sooner than July. You need time before going off to school to begin real treatment. Then either send a copy of this Q and A or write a letter to your psychiatrist, explaining what you experience. A mental health professional only has what you present to work with. If you don’t find a way to clue him or her in, you won’t get the results you need and deserve.

Although you may get some symptom relief before you head off to school, my guess is that you’re going to need ongoing therapy for awhile in order to master the skills you need to manage your anxiety. One of the many things your psychiatrist will want to talk about is how to continue your treatment while you are in school. You’ll want to discuss whether to transfer treatment to the school mental health services or whether you want to plan on coming home at intervals to continue with the same doctor.

I hope you will give yourself the gift of some intensive treatment. I for one think you’ve battled these feelings quite long enough. I think we both want you to have a happy and successful time in college.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Jun 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Is it social anxiety?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/06/23/is-it-social-anxiety/