I have suffered from social anxiety disorder since I was about 10 years old, or about 34 years. I was a very intelligent child, but when teachers noticed a difference in me, I started trying to be invisible. Social situations, including school, were torture. I bulldozed my way through life, including dabbling in alcohol and substance abuse for relief of my anxiety and depression. I find it very interesting that the disorder is marked by a morbid fear of authority figures. And here I thought I was just being a rebel!
But I forced myself to be more comfortable around people by speaking, even though it was terrifying. I became a chameleon and tried to be and act like the kind of person I believed others thought I should be. I even believe that I quit school after a car accident because of my social anxiety disorder.
This disorder is much more than just being shy. Years ago, I tried to explain social anxiety disorder to my husband through a therapist, and I still don't think he understands it, much less alcoholism.
It wasn't until I got sober in 1991 that I started to feel comfortable in my own skin. That’s also when I was introduced to psychopharmaceuticals. I don't know how people did it in the old days because my life was a living hell for a number of years. I am glad that people are more aware now of anxiety disorders and medications and therapies that can help.
Now, at 44, I realize I am not shy. I can speak in public with no problems, and I fit into most social situations comfortably while maintaining my sense of self. I also have no trouble meeting new friends. This is in large part to my determination, but I couldn't have done it without medications, AA, and therapy.
No one should have to go through life suffering from social anxiety disorder. I think many children, especially so-called delinquents, experience this. Parents would do well to get information and learn as much as they can about the disorder, so they know what to look for. And thanks to my own experience, I think people with social anxiety disorder should go easier on themselves, even be more nurturing, realizing that they have a condition that can be successfully treated.