On Being an Introvert…and Social Anxiety (Disorder?) Part 1

I’ve actually been proud of myself lately because I haven’t felt the need to write a new blog post on being an introvert. That meant that I have been comfortable enough (never fully) to maneuver my way through life without something triggering the anxiety that comes with social situations. I was close to patting my own little shoulder.

Then something happened.

My husband and I had a parent mixer for our son’s kindergarten class’s parents. I was excited for this cocktail party, and, I thought, comfortable with the idea. There would be at least three families that I was guaranteed to know and my husband wouldn’t know more people than me, which meant that he would more likely to remain by my side the entire night. All should’ve been good-to-go.

And it was…at first.

We immediately found the friends we knew and met a couple of new ones. A glass of wine found its way into my hand. I was relaxed, smiling, interacting. Then, as always happens with me, a switch flipped. Twenty or thirty minutes into the evening, I had to get out of that room. I had to flee. I turned to my husband and said, “Let’s sneak out and go to the bar down the hall.” We fled the party and found a quiet place.

Nothing happened at this point other than we met up with an old friend and had a nice catch-up. Then a few couples drifted in from the cocktail party. Again, everything was fine. We made new friends and spent the next hour or so chatting. It was great. The problem was, in order to keep talking and interacting, I had another glass of wine. Alcohol goes straight to my head, especially if I haven’t eaten (which I hadn’t), and when this happens, I start talking. Life’s social buffer works its magic and I become the extrovert I always want to be. But then I spend the next 24 hours replaying my conversations over and over and over, worrying, fretting-Did I sound stupid? How could I have monopolized that person’s time like that? Why didn’t I try to pay more attention to that person? They must all think I’m an idiot. I’ll have to try to act more normal in the future. I hope they don’t hold my weird personality against me or my son. Will I be black-balled now because I turn people off with my prickly, forced way of interacting?

This often happens to me-this obsessing over how I came across when I interact with people, especially people I don’t know well or at all.

*A little disclaimer-these nice folks in no way did anything to make me uncomfortable. This anxiety comes from within myself and the result would’ve happened with anyone.

This is one of many symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder. I don’t know if I have an actual disorder. I make my way through life well enough. I haven’t sought out medication or a therapist or a diagnosis. Just because I have one or two traits of a disorder (or more) doesn’t mean I have that disorder. Or maybe it does.

Social Anxiety Disorder includes fear, anxiety and avoidance that interferes with your daily routine, work, school or other activities. This statement and the following information come directly from The Mayo Clinic’s page on Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20032524

Emotional and behavioral symptoms

Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include persistent:
•Fear of situations in which you may be judged
•Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
•Concern that you’ll offend someone
•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
•Spending time after a social situation analyzing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
•Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation

Performance type of social anxiety disorder is when you experience intense fear and anxiety only during speaking or performing in public, but not in other types of social situations.

Physical symptoms

Physical signs and symptoms can sometimes accompany social anxiety disorder and may include:
•Fast heartbeat
•Upset stomach or nausea
•Trouble catching your breath
•Dizziness or lightheadedness
•Confusion or feeling “out of body”
•Muscle tension

Avoiding normal social situations

Common, everyday experiences that may be hard to endure when you have social anxiety disorder include, for example:
•Using a public restroom
•Interacting with strangers
•Eating in front of others
•Making eye contact
•Initiating conversations
•Attending parties or social gatherings
•Missing work or school
•Entering a room in which people are already seated
•Returning items to a store

There are treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder and a wealth of online information. Speak with your doctor. And try to remember what I do-people rarely think of me at all and certainly not as much as I think they do. It may seem strange, but for someone who likes to fly below the radar, this is a comforting thought.

Love and peace, Tracy

About TracyHewittMeyer

I love to write...anything and everything...aross genres and back again.
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