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Living with Social Anxiety


As soon as I started blogging, I wanted to address social anxiety. It’s apparently one of the most common mental disorders, but like for a majority of mental illnesses, it is often misunderstood. Many people think social anxiety is just another term for ‘shyness’, but there’s so much more to it than just feeling a little uncomfortable in social situations.

It’s difficult to explain what it really is, and for people who don’t experience it to fully understand, because in some cases the thoughts that go through our head aren’t rational. What may seem like the easiest thing for you, is actually extremely difficult for us. Everyone experiences social anxiety differently; a situation that makes me very anxious can be easy to deal with for someone else, and vice versa. 

There are two main situations I struggle the most with. The first one is cooking or eating in public. It’s not exactly that I’m afraid I’ll make a fool of myself if I stain my shirt or spill my drink; I feel ashamed of being hungry and wanting food. I am embarrassed of one of the most natural things that literally everyone does. Buffets are an absolute nightmare; I can sometimes manage to get some food if I am surrounded by friends and family I’m comfortable with, but I could not go get food on my own, even if I am starving. Cooking is another problem, as I often feel judged by others. By living in university accommodation or by sharing a house with friends, there aren’t many opportunities where I can breathe and cook on my own in a stress-free environment. I feel like others examine what I am cooking, and that they are mocking me for not necessarily knowing what I am doing or for the food I am eating. I feel judged if my meal is not very healthy, but also if it’s too healthy. It’s difficult to find balance, and I find myself trying to figure out what I could eat that can please others in order to avoid being judged, instead of focusing on what my body needs. 
Being vegan has actually really helped me. It was surprising at first since usually people stare at your food more and ask you many questions about it. I guess it is a way of controlling what I eat, without it being an unhealthy or dangerous habit. I am also very proud of being vegan, so I think that helps a lot too. 

The second difficult situation is in relation to small talk. I often find myself terrified of bumping into someone I know, because I am afraid I won’t find appropriate conversation and that I’ll come across as being too talkative, or not talkative enough and therefore having awkward silences. An awkward silence is the absolute worst, and they must be avoided at all cost. For example if I spot someone from afar, I’ll cross the street to avoid them seeing me. I’ll stare down at my phone and pretend that I am texting so that I have an excuse for not noticing them (even though I did). I have to be able to observe everyone around me, and at the same time seem occupied in case I do see someone I know. It’s exhausting to constantly be on alert, and it’s very draining. I often leave the house with a mental list of questions or sentences I could say in case I do meet someone, to avoid the silences and to seem friendly. It’s not exactly enjoyable to live like this. I feel like I’m not able to do little things that seem so easy for other people. 

Going grocery shopping, asking for help in the street, or making a phone call to set an appointment are all very stressful situations. I’ve never managed to go see a professional and ask for help, but I believe that it could be extremely helpful if they are able to help find the root of the problem. If my anxiety starts dominating my life again, I’ll try and go seek help, but hopefully it won’t come to that. 

I know this post might seem a little confusing and not well organised, but it’s very difficult to put feelings into words; especially into comprehensible words. I guess my overall message is to tell people who feel the same way as I do, that you are not alone. You are most certainly not alone. And for the ones reading this who don’t suffer from it, I ask you to be understanding and to reach out to the people who are struggling. Try and be a good friend by supporting them and not making them feel isolated. If they cancel plans regularly because of their anxiety, communicate with them to identify the problem instead of shutting them out, which unfortunately happens too often. We are too quick to judge other people without trying to understand that there might be a bigger problem underneath. 

Feel free to message me on social media or to email me (eleonoreturner942@gmail.com) if you have any questions or want to chat.
Lots of love,
Eleonore

P.S: I have had the opportunity to work with Consumer Health Digest and write an article for them concerning social anxiety, giving further details and tips. You can find the article HERE





Comments

  1. I also suffer from social anxiety, which is actually called social phobia, and the anxiety is a symptom of it.

    A lot of people don't understand the kind of thoughts & feelings we go through. I tried to explain, some friends took the time and understood, though they don't necessarily share it (which is good for them), but I had one horrible experience where a woman shrugged at me and left, while I was having such a difficult evening.

    It does get better when you manage to do gradual exposure, either alone or through CBT. We can discuss this in DM more at length and you'll see a lot of entries on the topic on my blog.

    I share most of the same anxieties as those you just described, and made some progress - we'll talk about that too.

    You're so right to ask others to be patient and reach out.

    Your post is a lot clearer than you think, Eleonore, it's a clear one and quite detailed even if there is so much more to be said about it! Well done on daring to share your story!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I find the term 'social phobia' so scary! I can't wrap my head around it haha.

    I'm glad you have people in your life who made the effort to try and understand you. Hopefully they can help you through the bad expériences (like that woman you just described).

    I'm glad it's clearer to read than it was to write haha! felt like I didn't make any sense. Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is such a brave post - Thank you for sharing! XO

    https://octoberslallu.blogspot.qa/

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  4. I loved the honesty of your post. <3 It makes me feel more normal reading honest pots like these about social anxiety. I might not have it in a large scale, but I have struggled with it and struggle on bad days. Avoiding people I know (but don't know very well) is my go to. :D I just don't crave the akward - and what have you been up to? ;)

    A few years ago I somehow got over the scare of akward pauses. Ok, in a few situations I still feel akward, but I accept that there just might be a silence and it is ok, if I have nothing to say. I am trying to feel content with myself. Plus, the other person should say something too if the silence is bothering him/her. ;)

    Best of luck living your best life! :)
    Madara
    Lookforsmile.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm glad you could relate in some way! It's always important to realise that we're not alone in this, because that's most certainly how we feel.

    I'm glad it's going better for you, I try and accept that these situations might occur and that it's not the end of the world, but I'm not quite there yet haha.
    And I agree! conversation is a two way street so we shouldn't put all the pressure on ourselves to break the ice.

    Thank you for your comment, and best of luck to you too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blogging does bring together people and it is one of the best things. :) Strangers connecting over topics that IRL would be impossible. :) Not a bad thing sometimes the internet. ;)
      M

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  6. Very honest post, I know from experience how difficult it can be to explain and share those feelings with other people! Definitely see if you can get some outside help if youre really struggling, you can just google counsellors in your area. Great post, looking forward to future posts 😊

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yes for sure, there should be no shame in asking for help ☺️

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  7. Great post! Well done on speaking about it bb xx

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