Anxiety in Social Situations

By Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Hi please help me. I don’t know what to do anymore. I think I already have a severe anxiety. It started when I was 10 (I’m 16 now) and my family had to move to a province because my father got a promotion in his work. I was even excited back then to meet new people and live in a different place but then when I got there my whole life changed. I had a hard time adjusting and making new friends, mainly because of the language or dialect. In my first weeks there, I was actually sort of popular because I’m from some other part of our country and I speak differently. I thought that was good but then it became a problem. Some didn’t want to talk to me because they were having a hard time understanding me that I started not to talk. I was afraid for others to know that I don’t speak their language. So that’s what I did in my four year stay there. I don’t interact. I always kept my mouth shut. I just made one friend and she’s the most hated person in school so I was also bullied. So that was also one of the reasons why no one wanted to be with me. But in truth, I only became friends with that person because no one wanted to be friends with me. In 9th grade, we moved back to where I originally came from. I was so glad to be back in my own city and speak my language without fear so I thought it was all over. But then in my new school, I was very sad to realize that I was still not the old me. I was rejected by my peers again but harsher this time that I often didn’t want to go to school. I really don’t know what to do anymore. It’s getting worse now. I’ve lost my ability to interact with people now because of so many years of isolation and rejection that I have experienced. People think I’m rude because I don’t talk. But I really want to interact with them and make lots of friends.  I just have an extreme shyness and I always feel like I’m lesser than someone.  People always ask me why I’m so quiet and I always want to shout at them that I’m not it’s just there’s something controlling me that doesn’t want me to speak. My mind is actually bursting with words I just can’t get them out because I’m afraid of being judged. Now I always avoid social situations because I always fail in it and I’m always having attacks like stuttering and fast beating of the heart. I also have low self esteem because of the way I look and perceived by others and because I can’t seem to achieve anything in school anymore. I’m also sort of depressed because of loneliness and unhappiness brought by the anxiety. I look confident and happy on the outside but I am painfully dying on the inside. I’m only pretending I’m happy and that nothing is wrong with me. I want to be checked but they might say it’s only a phase in my age but they’re wrong. This is different. I just want this anxiety to be removed from me forever and be a normal kid again, like teens my age who have lots of friends, adored and accepted. Just like I used to be. This is really interfering with my life especially on how I relate and interact with people right now. I’m afraid that when i grow up, I will have a hard time getting a job and be unsuccessful in life. Please tell me what should I do? 

A:  I’m sorry that you are going through all this and know that it must be hard. You are at an age that your friends can feel like the most important thing in life. It sounds like the last few years have been very difficult with the move and loss of friends. I agree that your anxiety could get worse if you don’t get it turned around soon. I also believe that if someone feels like they should get some professional help; it’s probably a great idea. 

I think a good therapist could not only help you with your shyness and social skills, but also help you work through the trauma of feeling bullied and isolated.  Sometimes therapy groups (or support groups) are also a wonderful addition to individual counseling because it’s a safe environment to practice interaction with others. I suggest that you speak to your parents soon about your desire to seek help. You can also talk to the school nurse or counselor to get some recommendations. 

In the meantime, it might help to try to make some friends outside of your everyday environment so that you won’t feel so judged. For example, join a club or group that is not affiliated with your school, get a part-time job, join a church group or volunteer for an organization in your community. It might also help to practice speaking to strangers, just to get your confidence built back up. Make a point of speaking to people while riding a bus or waiting in line at a store, etc. 

I am confident that if you get some help, and continue to work on the issue yourself, you will make friends and begin to feel comfortable speaking with others again.   

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Jun 2014

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2014). Anxiety in Social Situations. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/06/02/anxiety-in-social-situations/

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