Social Anxiety

by 18 year old college student

I think I have social anxiety disorder. I'm 18 and in college starting again on tuesday. I hate going. I don't talk to anyone in classes, I have nothing to say and get super uncomfortable. What's worse is that I'm going to be taking classes with this girl from work and I have nothing to say to her. It'll be awkward. I'm expected to talk to her, but ugh, I can't really explain. I don't know what to do. I'm dreading it.

Ben's Answer:

Social Anxiety distorts reality and makes you feel like you are on some kind of stage, having to perform - to say the right things - to talk to certain people - to say "enough."

But the truth is, unless you're partnered up with this girl in class, and expected to have some sort of dialogue with her - why do you have to talk at all? Most people have the opposite problem - they never shut up, and are uncomfortable with silence, so they fill the space with their own talking. Most people love to talk about themselves to anyone who is interested in listening. So when you're in an uncomfortable social situation, it's easiest to just take deep breaths, smile, and ask a couple questions. Ask open-ended questions (not yes/no questions), so they can give a long answer. Then just breathe, try to stay in the moment. Do NOT try to come up with some clever, witty, intelligent response while you're trying to listen and be present. Just be empty and try to relax. You're not on trial, and your not being tested. The only one judging you is yourself. You can always respond with a a smile and a nod, and a word of acknowledgment. Another good tactic is to repeat a few words that they say to you, to show that you heard what they said. Most people feel very comforted and connected when they get that sort of response, as long as it's not overdone.

The thing about any kind of anxiety, is that the more you avoid the feared situation, the worse the anxiety becomes. Putting yourself in these scary situations will desensitize you the the fear, if you keep at it and be gentle and non-critical with yourself.

I also highly recommend EFT for any type of anxiety. I believe it is one of the fastest, easiest and most effective methods of self-help. You can learn about it on this site.

Therapy is never a bad thing either (if you find someone good).

Go easy on yourself. There are ways to overcome this.

Ben Schwarcz

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