Social anxiety is a real disorder

Social anxiety disorder is one of the least understood anxiety disorders. In fact, some psychiatrists and psychologists are still suggesting that it is not a true mental condition. They dismiss the problem as simple shyness or the result of deeper underlying issues.

I spend a lot of time reviewing books, video, audio, and reading tons of information on various websites – anything to do with social anxiety disorder. I feel compelled to do this because I want to eventually beat this thing; and having lots of information with different viewpoints is invaluable. The conclusion that I have come to is that most of the top people really have no idea what it is like to live with this condition; that is painfully obvious in the way they talk about it.

In fact, several famous PhD types and self-help gurus (people that I have looked up to for their expertise in general self-improvement) really have no clue when it comes to social anxiety. I would even go so far as to say they are at such a loss when it comes to understanding this condition, that they substitute generic psychological advice to fill the gaps.

This lack of understanding was obvious when I decided to seek help for my condition for the very first time. I was referred to a psychiatrist by my family doctor and I was looking forward to sitting down with a professional and chatting about SA. I spent weeks rehearsing what I wanted to say so that he would understand exactly what I was talking about. About 5 minutes into the initial consultation, I realized that this person would not be able to help me. Even though I tried several times to steer the conversation towards social anxiety and explained in very frank terms exactly what was happening, it seemed that we were on two totally different wavelengths. He chose to concentrate on things like personal history, family history, and negative influences in my past.

Realizing that this was simply the introductory interview, I decided to see him the following week. Again, I felt as though I were being forced into a pre-determined diagnosis even though I tried to make him see the social anxiety side of things. He seemed to regard my “self-diagnosed†condition as merely a very small part of a much larger problem. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what that larger problem was, because I truly felt as though we were not clicking – and never would. After fighting me every step of the way, I could tell he was becoming frustrated and I eventually took him up on his offer to refer me to a psychologist that specialized in social anxiety disorder.

Even though I had to pay for the psychologist, it was worth its weight in gold because I could finally talk to someone that knew where I was coming from and could offer helpful advice. I wasn’t crazy after all – there was some validity in what I was feeling.

Social anxiety is a real disorder. I will never be convinced of anything other than that. To say that it is extreme shyness or that everyone else experiences the same symptoms to lesser degrees (though they handle it better), is not acceptable to me. I live with this condition everyday of my life, and I am quite certain that I am in a minority.

I know of very few people that get as nervous and anxious as I do. I know of very few people that are as quiet as I am. I can see how different I am without too much trouble – and that’s not just me being too hard on myself – it’s there, and it’s real.

So when someone tells me that I’ve got it wrong – that it goes against popular psychological theories and treatments – that I need to do A, B, and C like every other person in the world that has risen above simple shyness, I can’t help but shake my head.

Walk a mile in my shoes…

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