Anxiety can follow us around like a lion stalking its prey.
If you separate yourself from the lion, it won’t harm you. But if you venture too close to it, it will pounce.
According to the American and Depression Association of America, social anxiety disorder affects 15 million American adults.
That’s correct – around 6.8% of the U.S. population has social anxiety disorder (SAD).
Sounds like a lot, right?
Well, it certainly is!
Ever since middle school, I’ve been very anxious about what people thought of me. And I constantly wondered if they gossiped behind my back when I wasn’t around.
Although I always felt comfortable enough being around my friends, I would often get nervous or flustered when someone glared or smirked at me – or at least sneered in my general direction.
But unlike me, there is an insane number of people who are never diagnosed with this condition for their entire lives. According to Mayo Clinic, social anxiety disorder typically begins in the early to mid-teens, but can begin in younger children and adults as well.
Mayo Clinic also states how fear is often attributed to SAD, whether it’d be for social interaction or worrying in general.
In my case, I often feared how people viewed me as an individual, which led to multiple long, sleepless nights – particularly in my early middle school years. Those relentless, restless nights would lead me to turn in homework late, or even skip multiple classes due to “my sickness.”
But the worst part of it was that I thought I was all alone in the unrelenting struggle. More specifically, I thought I was the only one in the entire school who had constant nightmares about going an entire school year without making a single friend due to my social anxiety.
The truth of the matter is this is an issue that affects millions of children and adults. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, social anxiety disorder diagnoses are associated with increased risk for suicidal intentions and attempts.
You heard me right! Social anxiety disorder – along with other mental health issues – are growing factors for the cause of suicide.
But what are we doing to raise awareness about it?
In fact, the use of social media practically promotes the development of social anxiety disorder. Very-well-mind.com, a mental health awareness website, stresses how people with social anxiety rely too much on social networking sites to make friends, excluding the possibility of trying to make real-life friends.
But don’t worry – everything changed for me during my later years of high school.
As I got older, I began to realize that social interaction was far superior to media-related interaction. Despite all the gossip or smack-talking, I couldn’t deny the fact that I wasn’t alone in how I felt.
Over time, I began to realize how fun face-to-face conversation truly was. I found out others’ lives, in reality, weren’t that much different from mine.
Now, as a sophomore in college, I am a very confident and intelligent student – lightyears beyond who I was as a middle-schooler.
But despite discovering my true potential, I must be mindful of the millions who are currently in the same position that I was in during my middle school years.
As the diagnoses continue to dramatically increase, and anxiety-related suicides start to skyrocket, we should consider our options for spreading awareness about the issue. Whether it’d be through social media posts or public speaking – change needs to be made!
After all, we aren’t too different – you and I.