It's so much more than simply being shy.
Social anxiety. A commonly misused term. Few people actually understand how debilitating and frustrating it can be, and dismiss it as shyness. But it's so much more than simply being shy.
It can show up in many different ways, from intense nausea to trembling, and can often hinder everyday activities that for others seem 'normal'.
My experience of social anxiety
Speaking from my own experience, social anxiety in school is hell. I’m labelled as 'anti-social', 'shy' or 'a weirdo,' simply because the mere thought of going to class sends anxious thoughts racing through my head. They cause my heart to pound a million miles a minute.
Perhaps if people understood just how difficult it is then maybe they wouldn't judge. It's important to remember that everyone is different and can experience things in different ways, but that doesn't mean that we should just walk away from people struggling with social anxiety.
When I'm around others I fog up and suddenly that wall is thrown up, my mouth goes dry, and the most I can manage is a shrug.
The problem won't fix itself if we just ignore it. We need to learn how to help others. Personally, I love being around people and thrive on making them laugh. However, the thought of leaving the house most days fills me with dread and nausea.
My social anxiety makes me scared to say the wrong thing and I worry about being judged. I long to be with people and make friends, yet when I'm around others I fog up and suddenly that wall is thrown up, my mouth goes dry, and the most I can manage is a shrug.
It's difficult to truly understand unless you've experienced social anxiety, but it can lead to extreme isolation and loneliness. Often you can be in a room full of people, yet feel so alone. Intense and ongoing loneliness can worsen the symptoms of social anxiety, resulting in a vicious cycle. This makes it so important to reach out and help those struggling. You could save a life.
Putting in the effort such as sending a text to check in could make all the difference.
How to help someone with social anxiety
It can be really difficult to know what to do. Sometimes it may be helpful to ask the individual what they need from you. However, this doesn't work for everyone as they might not know what they need.
This is why it’s so important to take the time to understand and educate yourself. More knowledge can help you understand what someone is going through and feel better equipped to support them.
Additionally, putting in the effort such as sending a text to check in could make all the difference. Showing the individual that you care could mean the world to them.
Although you may feel like you are invisible, I promise you that you aren't. Things will get better.
My advice to anyone struggling with social anxiety, especially in a school setting, is don't lose hope. I know that can be really difficult and everything may seem so bleak, but you are seen and you matter.
Although you may feel like you are invisible, I promise you that you aren't. Things will get better. I strongly encourage you to reach out to someone if you can.
There are helplines and webchat examples at the bottom of this page if you don't feel comfortable speaking to someone in person. You will find people who understand you and it will be worth the wait. Remember, you are not alone.
You will find people who understand you and it will be worth the wait.
More information and advice
We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing.
Email support is available via their online contact form.
They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.
- Opening times:
- 4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
- Opening times: