What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

I guess I should describe what social anxiety disorder is since not everybody is familiar with the term. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as social anxiety disorder until I was in college, despite the fact that I’d been suffering from the condition for my entire life.

I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, so I can’t give you the proper medical definition of social anxiety disorder. For that, you can look it up on the internet. What I can tell you is what social anxiety disorder is for me— and what it is not.

For me, social anxiety disorder is not just being shy sometimes — I’m shy all the time.

Social anxiety disorder is not being anti-social — I like people.

Social anxiety disorder is not wanting to be alone — I want to have friends and relationships.

Social anxiety disorder is not depression— I generally feel happy. I know that other people with social anxiety may also suffer from depression, but the two conditions are not mutually exclusive.

Social anxiety disorder is not something that comes and goes or develops later in life — I’ve had it my entire life.

Social anxiety disorder is not just social anxiety— It goes beyond just discomfort in social situations to effect every aspect of my being.

For me, social anxiety disorder is wanting to talk to people, but not being able to in the moment. It effects my relationships with everyone— strangers and family, elders and peers, females and males.

The best way I can describe it is that whenever I’m in a social situation, my fight or flight response is triggered, and I have a natural instinct to get out of that situation as soon as possible. I know it’s an unfounded fear, but I can’t help it.

The good news is there are ways to dispel that natural instinct. I’ve tried some things that have worked and others that haven’t. I’ll talk more about that in the future, but for now, I just wanted to define what it is I mean when I say social anxiety disorder.

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