Reading & Ranting: Social Anxiety Makes Small Talk



So this post topic is based on two things :1) My actual experience with dealing with social anxiety and 2) the fact that a lot of people don’t understand what it is. I’ll explain number 2 first.

Social Anxiety is, as you can tell, an anxiety based disorder that is rooted in extreme fear of being judged/scrutinized in social situations or performance situations.That sounds like being shy, right? NO! One of my main peeves is when someone says I’m shy. I’m not…seriously…Like most people tell me “shyness goes away with time”, social anxiety does not. It doesn’t disappear on its own, you have to work through it and get the proper treatments.  Instead of thinking of it as a reluctance to speak up think of it as a phobia. I have an irrational fear of social/performance situations which can range from talking to a stranger to eating in front of people. I have been called mean, cold, weird, and unfriendly because of this but it’s not true. There was a time when I made friends easily, but that was before the wiring in my brain shorted out a bit and reset itself with a whole new set of rules. (I blame the horrendous stress I was under in college). I like having friends and meeting new people, I want to do group activities and go to conventions….but a part of me is vehemently against this. So much so that I actually get sick due to how utterly nervous I get before or after meeting people.

  • Social Anxiety is NOT Shyness
  • The fear IS irrational, but knowing that doesn’t change how it affects us

This is what I feel or react on an average day at the store

  • Stomach twisting and clenching – You know the feeling where you go over a hill really fast in a car? That…constantly.
  • Extremely amped up – I get a ton of energy
  • Hands/body shake – This is my tell. I actually shake when I talk to people I’ve known for a very long time including my best friend and sometimes even my parents. It’s usually the only way someone can easily tell I’m freaking out
  • Mind/heart races – Imagine you’ve just been given a test in your least favorite subject and now in order to pass you have to run a marathon at the same time…that’s what I feel like.
  • Nauseated or Stomachaches – I’m sure you can figure out what that means
  • Embarrassment – Sometimes I feel like I’m making a fool of myself and if I say one word wrong then it bothers me for hours. I feel like I’m being judged, even when I know that’s not the case.
  • Exhaustion – Once the store closes or a customer leaves I feel a huge wave of exhaustion hit me.

The bottom line is social interaction is hard on me. I try really hard and some days it’s really easy, it feels like I can handle it…but that can all change at the drop of a hat.

On the off chance one of my customers reads this….I swear I’m not a mean person and if I don’t seem to be chatty it’s usually because I have no idea what to say or can’t get the courage up to actually say anything out loud.


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10 Responses to Reading & Ranting: Social Anxiety Makes Small Talk

  1. jeneaw0716 says:

    I understand completely. I’m not really shy, and once I get to know people I will probably talk them to death. But it is that first few times that just about kill me. Being a deputy for so long you’d think I wouldn’t be like this. (:

  2. Thanks for sharing this great information about social anxiety. You are spot on about the difference between social anxiety and shyness – it’s a distinction that is very important. I wanted to be sure you knew about some social anxiety resources that we offer that you may find useful. On our website we offer a free social anxiety test, a blog about living with social anxiety, and an online social anxiety program. I hope that you have an opportunity to take advantage of any or all of those resources. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have –

  3. Christy says:

    Well, I think it’s great that you are working in the store and putting yourself in that social situation. I know it’s hard, but you ROCK!

  4. Lauren M. says:

    I am right there with you and I was so glad to see this post. Do you know how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “just get over it”. I wish I could just get over it! I have agoraphobia and hardly ever leave my house. Horrible things from my past are why I am this way. I even have an anxiety attack when someone knocks on the door. I do not wish this life on anyone.

    • Right?! Like if we could just “get over it” I think we would all choose that option. I totally understand as I deal with more generalized anxiety issues as well, like I will completely panic while riding in a car for no reason. I really do hope things get better for you Lauren

  5. Kudos to you for even putting yourself in a retail situation, hopefully as your customers get to know you it will become easier. I am assuming you are getting help and practicing.I am homebody and honestly if I never had to leave the house I would be perfectly content. I get nervous around crowds or new people, but mostly because I have a facial tick where my eyes blink rapidly and it makes me uncomfortable. I have learned to count blinks even when engaged in conversation, but new situations add to the stress and make it more difficult to control. A lot of people have misconceptions about anxiety disorders.

    • I’ve definitely talked to people about my anxiety and it’s helped a bit, but the unfortunate thing with psychology/psychiatrists is that your progress does depend on how well you mesh with your doctor. My doctor and I get a long, but I’m not comfortable with her. There are days when leaving my house is the VERY last thing I want to do. Before getting the job at the bookstore I would only leave the house when I needed to get the mail or go to someone elses house (where I would immediately bunker down)

  6. That explains the differences perfectly. I am shy and apart from a bit of anxiety in large crowds, I don’t feel any of what you’ve described. It must be hard and tiring to fight that on a daily basis. So well done for working in the public eye, that means you are winning not the illness.

  7. I found this post via your post on depression. I too suffer from social anxiety. What I have is called agoraphobia.
    It started with anxiety/panic attacks, quickly escalated into social anxiety, and then ended up at full-blown Agoraphobia.
    There were times I couldn’t leave the house for weeks on end. Even now to this day my life is very…limited. Which is why I decided to start a blog, but on my off days I don’t blog at all.
    I am quite jealous that you’re able to work any retail situation. That’s just awesome. I know how hard it is and how many times a day you probably want to go running from the store and never come back. This gives me hope.
    We all have different paths we have to go down as far as treatment goes and progress but the one thing we all have been, is we know how scary and hard it is and how frustrating it can be.
    Thank you for sharing this with me and everyone.
    I often feel very alone when it comes to this.

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