I've been suffering from social anxiety disorder since my early adolescence.

I had my first panic attack at 14 years old and from that moment on it worsened every year.

I never said anything because I WAS SCARED that my parents didn't believe me and would have deemed me crazy.

At one point, things got so bad that I decided that I needed help and so I started seeing a therapist once a week.

Today it's my 6th year into therapy and let me tell you, I still have a lot of unresolved issues concerning my anxiety. But it's better than before!

But what is social anxiety?

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It's normal to feel nervous in some social situations. For example, giving a presentation may cause that feeling of butterflies in your stomach. But in social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, everyday interactions cause significant anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment because you fear being scrutinized or judged by others.

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Comfort levels in social situations vary, depending on personality traits and life experiences. Some people are naturally reserved and others are more outgoing.

Social anxiety disorder typically begins in the early to mid-teens, though it can sometimes start in younger children or in adults.

Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include:

↠ Fear of situations in which you may be judged
↠ Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
↠ Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers
↠ Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
↠ Fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing, sweating, trembling or having a shaky voice
↠ Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
↠ Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
↠ Having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
↠ Enduring a social situation with intense fear or anxiety
↠ Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation

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Left untreated, social anxiety disorder can ruin your life. Anxieties can interfere with work, school, relationships, or enjoyment of life. Social anxiety disorder can cause:

↠ Low self-esteem
↠ Trouble being assertive
↠ Negative self-talk
↠ Hypersensitivity to criticism
↠ Poor social skills
↠ Isolation and difficult social relationships
↠ Low academic and employment achievement
↠ Substance abuse, such as drinking too much alcohol
↠ Suicide or suicide attempts

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There's no way to predict what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you're anxious:

Get help early. Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
Keep a journal. Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health professional identify what's causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
Prioritize issues in your life. You can reduce anxiety by carefully managing your time and energy. Make sure that you spend time doing things you enjoy.
Avoid unhealthy substance use. Alcohol and drug use and even caffeine or nicotine use can cause or worsen anxiety. If you're addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make you anxious. If you can't quit on your own, see your doctor or find a treatment program or support group to help you.

and most importantly...

Surround yourself with people that value, respect you and are willing to stick by your side through your ups and downs ♡

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You can also check out this article I wrote about things that can help with anxiety:

thank you for reading ♡

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This article was written by @AcvrossTheUniverse for the Tenth Muse Writers Team

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