Photo: Kirill Balobanov

Growing Up With Social Anxiety Disorder

Take it to step by step.


This mental health awareness month we are sharing personal stories from several of our writers – to destroy the dangerous silence around the issue. This is Naila's story:

I think it’s safe to say that many people suffer from some sort of mental disorder, whether it being slight anxiety or severe depression. Growing up I found myself in a lot of situations where I knew that there was something not quite right, but due to my practically non-existent knowledge of mental health, I wasn’t able to acknowledge what was happening.

I would say the first time I realized that I suffered from social anxiety was when I was around seventeen or eighteen. I know… crazy, it took me years to finally understand why I was the way I was. In all fairness, mental health has only recently become acknowledged and only now are people started to speak out about their experiences and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do today. My struggle with social anxiety isn’t something I’ve talked about much out of fear of being judged. It could’ve been something as small as not socializing with a friend of mine because I was scared of leaving my house or something more serious like not turning up to that job interview because I knew I wasn’t that bubbly, charismatic socialite who they wanted to hire. It’s pretty much stopped me from achieving a lot in life and held me back from doing things I always wanted to.

People who suffer from social anxiety can be on any bit of the spectrum, meaning some people may only get social anxiety in certain situations, although the majority suffer with everyday interactions. I myself have been all over the spectrum over the course of my life. I’d say between the ages of ten to thirteen were probably the worst as I couldn’t handle a lot of things, school being one of them. I can’t even describe the fear of sitting in a classroom full of thirty other kids… that’s when it must have started for me. Going onto fourteen, I found myself slightly more confident, I had a group of close friends who got me through the long school days, but I still had the gut-wrenching fear of attending social events at both friend and family functions. It was only around sixteen that I really tried to put myself out there, it was undoubtedly one of the scariest times of my life so far as people who don’t suffer with anxiety will never truly understand how hard it can be. Some of the simplest things, things that they could do without giving a second thought to it, can seem like the hardest thing for us.

One thing people don’t realize about social anxiety is that there is a way to beat it. It’s not something you “outgrow” because it’s not a “phase” as some ignorant people may think, but with the right kind of help, you can overcome it. I wouldn’t say I’ve completely overcome my anxiety, but where I am now is pretty amazing, as I always find myself doing things my younger self wouldn’t dare to do. From performing dramatic monologues in Drama classes, meeting new people at social events, traveling everywhere and anywhere.  I do have some days here and there where I think “I can’t do this”, but that’s alright, you just have to take it to step by step.

Some ways you can get help for social anxiety:

1.    Online Counselling – is a site where you can find a suitably licensed therapist whom you can email anytime you want.

2.    Hypnotherapy – This will help train your brain, which strangely a lot of people have found works.

3.    Chat rooms – Sometimes it’s best to share experiences with others, whilst helping each other out.

Next up, Mental Health: Ignorance Isn’t Bliss