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Social Anxiety Tells Us We're Alone, but We're Not

A while back, Huffington Post Healthy Living published an article whose title piqued my interest enough for me to follow the link and then read the article: 11 Public Figures Who Will Make You Rethink What You Know About Anxiety Disorders.
This little piece is indicative of a couple of things, both important. Thanks to the efforts of many, many people and organizations, the world is beginning to take notice—serious notice—of mental illness and mental health. And well it should, for mental illness affects millions. Anxiety disorders alone affect more than 40 million people, and that’s just in the United States. The other important fact highlighted by this Huff Post article is that anxiety disorders know no boundaries. They can affect anyone and everyone. Including me (although I’m far from the famous people featured in the article).
I can appear to be quite outgoing. And I kind of am. But I’m kind of not, too. I like people, so I consider myself to be a “people person.” But I’m so deathly afraid of being judged, of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing or not saying doing something I should that I have a very difficult time relaxing and enjoying myself in public (and sometimes even at home).
My mind is constantly assessing itself for what it’s doing wrong. Before an event, I’ll worry about how to “be.” During the event itself, my anxiety increases as my mind determines that I’m doing everything wrong. And after the event has passed, during the night and lingering over the next day, I find myself anxiously berating myself for saying “x” or not saying “y” or for talking too much or talking too little. This is classic social anxiety.
There is good news, though, and there can be happy endings. Through dedication to the cause and hard work, I find my social anxiety decreasing in both frequency and intensity. We all have the power to do something about what we don’t like.
Anxiety is common, it’s a big deal in people’s lives, and it can be debilitating. Because of this, and because I think it’s important for the world to see just what anxiety can be like and how it impacts people, I wrote My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel. It’s not autobiographical, but it certainly felt natural to portray Brian Cunningham’s thoughts!
Avoidant Personality DisorderBrian definitely can empathize with the guy in the picture. So many people do. Those times when I’m standing to the side? It’s not because I’m aloof. I’m trying to decide how not to screw things up. Other times, when I’m joining in and talking, I’m still frantically analyzing what I’m doing and trying to decide now not to screw things up!
 
 
 
 
Here’s a peek into Brian’s world of extreme social anxiety:

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