People are talking about their anxiety more than ever before. It’s acceptable to share your struggles and even be open about your medication. However one branch of anxiety that is still not equally accepted is social anxiety. It gets thrown to the side and people who suffer from it are called ‘shy’ and told to ‘get over it’. This is a huge issue and I know that there is so much we can do to fix this issue. I’m focusing on reducing stigma surrounding social anxiety.
Social anxiety is the third largest psychological problem in the United States today. This type of anxiety affects 15 million Americans in any given year. Social anxiety disorder is not endemic to the U.S., it is a worldwide, culturally inclusive disorder. Social Anxiety begins at a very early age. Research shows that it starts developing at age 13. Since it starts at such a young age the time to learn about it is in school, especially at the beginning of high school.
People with social anxiety disorder usually experience significant emotional distress in the following situations:
- Being introduced to other people
- Being teased or criticized
- Being the center of attention
- Being watched while doing something
- Meeting people in authority (“important people”)
- Most social encounters, especially with strangers
- Going around the room (or table) in a circle and having to say something
- Interpersonal relationships, whether friendships or romantic
Self-diagnosis is never correct but there are many tests you can take online to see if you lean towards social anxiety or not. One of the best ones is provided by the Social Anxiety Institute
There are many different ways of reducing stigma but there are two main points that can make the biggest influence on our society.
I think that it isn’t until we, as a society, start accepting all mental illness’ that stigma will be fully gone. But we can start making small changes by being open about the issue and increasing education about it.
The next step of raising awareness is finding organizations that have more influence who can actually affect school curriculums.