by Counsellor, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire
‘I can’t win. It’s like there is a barrier between me and other people. I’d love to join in and make friends but I can’t. If other people knew what I was like they wouldn’t want to know me. They would soon find out how anxious I am. I would probably say the wrong thing and people would think I am stupid.’
Social anxiety is a fear of social or performance situations and a concern about becoming embarrassed and a fear that other people will judge the sufferer in a negative way. It impacts on a person’s daily routine and creates distress.
We all experience some level of social anxiety. Many people feel anxious in particular situations, for example if they are asked to speak in public. People suffering from social anxiety will also feel anxious in more general situations, for example going out with friends or if a stranger speaks to them.
How do I know if I am socially anxious?
Do you experience the following thoughts:
‘I’m different and I don’t fit in.’
‘I don’t know what to say.’
‘I have to be entertaining when I’m with other people.’
‘Other people think I’m dull/stupid.’
‘Everyone is looking at me.’
‘I must have said something wrong because people are ignoring me.’
Do you suffer from any of the following:
Do you find that:
You avoid social situations.
You become very anxious if you do attend social situations.
You try to plan what you are going to say in social situations.
You avoid using the telephone.
You avoid making eye contact with others.
You pretend to be busy if you think you might have to talk to someone.
If most of the above apply to you then you may be suffering from social anxiety.
Is counselling helpful?
Often clients seek counselling for something else and during the course of counselling will say ‘I feel anxious in social situations and I have always been like this. Can you help me with this?’ It can be extremely difficult for someone who suffers from social anxiety to seek counselling in the first place.
It may be helpful to remember that counselling is not a social relationship. It is a professional, boundaried relationship. Your Counsellor will be working for your benefit. You do not have to be entertaining or funny in counselling or try to seek approval from your Counsellor. It is one place where you can be exactly who you are. You can say ‘I’m finding this hard and I don’t know what to do’ and that’s fine. We’ll create a relationship where you can flourish and start to find out just who you are and how great your life could be.
Counselling can help you to stop beating yourself up and give yourself a chance to let others get to know you. If you keep avoiding situations that you feel anxious about then you will never discover how well you could cope. Experiencing social anxiety is a lonely, limiting experience. You have a choice.
© Copyright 2010 Christine Bonsmann. All rights reserved.