Shy or Socially Phobic?

What would you say to someone who told you they hated talking on the phone? They screen every call before they answer, already irritable because the sound of the phone has made them jump. What about avoiding invitations to parties and get-togethers? Or going and then hoping to blend into the scenery, reluctant to chat or make eye-contact. Would you tell them they were just shy, to get over, get out there, meet some people? Or would you stop & consider they might be socially phobic?

It’s taken my husband 11 years to concede that I could be socially phobic. I think the millionth, “Why are you calling? Why can’t you text, for the love of all that’s holy?” finally got to him. He’s slowly comprehending how much my anxiety takes out of me, and the cost of ‘functioning as normal’. He’s your textbook good guy, a decent human being that would never want to see his loved ones in pain, but if it’s taken him long to ‘get’ this, how much do others suffer?

My social anxiety manifests itself in interesting ways. I don’t struggle with shopping, mostly because I do it online. I’ve been known to mutter frequently, “I hate people”. I have worked from home for 5 years now, because I am safe in my own space, behind my wall of screens, connected by the internet. On the rare occasions I have to do face time with clients, I psych myself up, practice everything I need to say, plan everything down to the last detail, and lay off the caffeine. But if there is any deviation from plan A, I have plans B, C & D. Is this time-consuming and exhausting? You betcha. But it’s the only way I know how to cope, and a darn sight better than the overwhelming sense of apprehension, nausea, clammy hands and gut-churning panic attacks that I used to have. What a rush, said no sufferer, EVER.

I’m the chica in the corner, on the fringe, at the edge. I’ll never be the person with my back to the door, or sitting in the middle of a restaurant. My anxiety gives me the strength to ask for a corner spot! Or it is my hyper-vigilance? I don’t discriminate in my anxiety; my husband has been on the tail end of my temper if he stands behind me for longer than 1.6 seconds. I’ve never been in active combat, so I don’t know why I am this way.

IMG_20140413

Me watching the London Marathon last year, with a safety zone of at least 3 metres one way and a concrete plinth to stand on so no one could sneak up behind me.

Many psychiatrists and psychologists believe, as with many mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder is most probably the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. However, the exact nature of the relationship between genetics and learned behaviour is uncertain. The parenting you experience may influence whether you will develop social anxiety disorder. If you have worried or anxious parents, it can often affect your ability to cope with anxiety during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

People with social anxiety disorder often describe their parents as:

  • overprotective
  • not affectionate enough
  • constantly criticising them and worrying they may do something wrong
  • overemphasising the importance of manners and grooming
  • exaggerating the danger of approaching strangers

Biologically, social anxiety disorder is currently thought to be related to abnormal functioning of brain circuits that regulate emotion and the “fight or flight” response centre. There is no cure for SAD. There is medication, which I don’t enjoy, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which seems to be working slowly. I’m working on identifying unrealistic beliefs & behavioural patterns. I want to de-sensitise myself to certain triggers, and question certain gut-reactions.

I want to be the person that can just say YES to adventure, to sit in the middle of a cafe and look strangers in the eye. Most of all, I want to stop planning and start living.

Wish me luck!!

27 thoughts on “Shy or Socially Phobic?

  1. Ms. Imperfection says:

    Hi there! I’ve missed being around the blogosphere. You know, I would have NEVER guessed this about you based upon the way that you write! I too suffer from social anxiety which has actually gotten much better now that I’ve stopped drinking. I remember having to go on job interviews and having all of those same exact symptoms. One interview I just got up and walked out the door, walked down the hall, threw up, and left. They must have thought I was a total looney tune. 😉 I’m glad you’re getting therapy and making some progress. It’s all about baby steps. Be kind to you. You’re amazing. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      Thank you 🙂 Only my closest people know how much I struggle on a day-to-day basis. I used to pretend I didn’t need help with anything. Acceptance is part of the recovery. And the space we have created here seems to help me a lot more than I realised. So you, too, will be part of my success 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dean B says:

    Good luck! I’m a lot like you btw. I don’t even like doing the school run. Luckily for me, my husband drops my daughter off and then I pick her up. I hate small talk you see, can’t stand it. And it’s so annoying because my daughter’s school never ever sends them out on time. So I’m stuck there with all the other mums looking at our toes and making small talk which is actually funny because I don’t really have much to complain about because the mums I usually chat with are all nice! It’s all in my head.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      I always fear I’m going to say something horrendously inappropriate so I filter, filter, filter, try to find something safe, and by that point, the moment has passed. Someday I’m going to blurt out the first thing I think of. Better to be mad than boring. I think 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chantell says:

    I struggle with social anxiety too, to the degree where I was once housebound with my two toddlers and kept the curtains closed for fear of someone walking past seeing me…It got so bad that I had to be referred to the mental health clinic and have spent time in hospital…I am a bit better now, can drive my kids to school and function on a very basic level (as a single parent of four, I simply have to)…But I cannot work, or socialize, or attend anything social without struggling and running out in tears 😦 And yes, the phone is terrible! Just the sound of the ringing makes me heart sink ~ I tell people to text me, as they know I won’t answer if they ring, haha! I feel for you, as I can relate to so much of what you have written here! I wish you all the luck in the world for improving your own social anxiety ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      I know what it must take out of you to get out and do the day to day stuff, so you have my admiration. I worry about passing this on to my daughter; I don’t want her to be a nervous wreck! How much do your children notice? It’s a whole different experience when you’re trying to manage any disorder AND be a good parent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chantell says:

        Absolutely! It can be very draining..I notice if I have to go out if town or to an ‘event’ at the kids school, etc, it really catches up with me the next day (if not before)…Just mentally flat, fatigued and headaches…I guess you know what I mean 🙂

        Yes, my older kids do notice how much I struggle now ~ they are 16, 15 and 12yr, so it’s been difficult for me to hide it from them for a while now 😦 That in itself worries me as I feel embarrassed and wonder what they truly must think of me? Aswell as feeling guilty for the times I haven’t been able to attend their sports matches or when my anxiety has gotten so bad that I have had to spend time in hospital…No parent wants their child to think they can’t cope, or to worry about them…

        I have always worried a lot too about passing this onto my children, especially the older two…I was at my worst when they were tiny and could barely leave the house at all, not even to check the mail… My daughter hasn’t got any of the same anxious traits that I do, and she is quite confident, thankfully 🙂 She did have to grow up quickly though and saw me unwell many times during her childhood years…I think this has made her a bit tougher in a sense, as she felt like she had to look after me? Therefore she can be quite introverted at times and tends to deal with problems on her own, and pushes people away, as I suppose she has grown up feeling like I’m not strong enough to handle things? I do feel bad for this, so I guess if you are concerned for your daughter, that is the only thing I would ask you to keep in mind…I tried so hard to hide it from them, but being a single mum, unfortunately it was my young daughter who saw me on the kitchen floor, shaking and crying, and had to encourage me to stand up and to ring someone for help 😦

        On the positive side though, I do believe that our children will grow up to be more compassionate and resilient people because they have seen us struggle, and it will have made them realize that we all have battles; none of us are perfect 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Petal and Mortar says:

        I talk to my daughter about how I’m feeling, about my triggers – edited versions that I feel she can handle. I want her to realise that everyone struggles and not all struggles are immediately visible.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chantell says:

        That’s great 🙂 I agree, it is important for kids to see that their parents are only human too! I think I tried too hard to hide my struggles from my kids in many ways…It is hard to find that balance between protecting them and letting them know things.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. wscottling says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about passing it on to your kids, especially if you have an outgoing spouse or other family members. I have four kids and of the four, only one has GAD, but I think it’s genetic too… It tends to run in our family. I have an uncle who makes me look like the life of the party. Me? I have issues as well. I’m an introvert who is comfortable with her own company and I will never ever sit with my back to the door in a public place unless there is no choice. I lost a job once because they suddenly wanted me to start calling people and I refused, so I totally get you with the phone thing. I’ll email people all day long, but call them? Not on your life. I hate phones.

    But, I can go to a party and put on a social face and blend — for a certain amount of time then I’m outta there — but I can fake it. I do well in work situations socially though I’m not much of a team player I can smile and nod with the best of them. Then there are times like the recent past and the present where you can’t get me out of my house with dynamite. (There are people out there…) So… yeah. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      My husband and daughter are both outgoing adventurous types. I’m hoping she stays that way. I could never do a sales job, but my husband could sell ice to penguins. I’m hoping I can get this under control so I can start enjoying life with them.

      Like

  5. Anxious Mom says:

    Wow I could have written this myself! I’m lucky, most of my people will text or email unless it’s an emergency (play up that hearing loss to my advantage).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Petal and Mortar says:

      I can handle 3 noises. Any more and I flip-right-out. So two people talking and the TV going is OK, but if the dishwasher is going at the same time, I have to mute the TV. I’m starting to think my family are heroes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anxious Mom says:

        I struggle with more than one but I think that’s because background noises seem to drown out the person talking. Puts me in b**** mode fast!

        Like

  6. lovetotrav says:

    I wish you well as you move forward with your therapy. I wonder if writing about it is therapeutic and will help as you strive to live more and plan less. Best of luck to a healthier and happier you! You sound like you are on the right track and have lots of support. PS. Maybe you can unplug that darn phone. I do a lot of the time and I don’t have an anxiety disorder. I just hate talking on the phone!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Joy says:

    Silence is highly underrated – if I never had to make a phone call it would be fantastic. The phone at work rings all.the.time. and the ring is maddening. Not to mention disruptive. The description you listed of people’s parents – that describes my father exactly. I am trying very hard not to influence my daughter in that way, but I do see some of those behaviors in myself. The good thing is that I am conscious of them and am trying to realize that many things don’t matter….she was much more anxious when she was younger and is still to a degree now, but she also has a sense of adventure. I hope to encourage that part instead and help her to cope with the rest…as I learn how to do it myself! Thank you for sharing this post – really good 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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