I have recently begun to experience a need to remain inside and away from people. I find it very difficult to attend social functions such as parties or work events. I feel like people are watching me and thinking negative things about me. These feelings are getting worse. This week, I have had to really force myself to have the courage to even step outside of my house.
Having never felt this way before, I feel very frightened and confused. I have tried to explain how I feel to my husband, but he does not seem to understand. We have been trying to have a baby and he feels frustrated that this is not something I am able to focus on.
Can you help me?
Thank you, Louisa
I am sorry to hear what you are going through and I fully appreciate how frightened you currently feel. It reads as though you may be experiencing social anxiety disorder. This is a common type of anxiety disorder that presents an overwhelming sense of anxiety or fear when you are faced with social situations of any kind. It also involves the following;
- An intense fear of being judged by others
- Feeling insecure or self-conscious in everyday social situations
- An overwhelming tendency to avoid meeting new people
- These feelings are experienced for six months or more and have made it incredibly difficult for you to complete everyday tasks
Social anxiety disorder can affect your daily routine and your capacity to function and communicate with people as you have done before. It can negatively impact the close existing relationships you share with your family and friends. The fear of experiencing humiliation or judgement from people can stop those who suffer from this condition from eating or drinking in public spaces, using a public restroom, or even approaching a cashier in a shop.
This condition is a slippery slope and over time, issues with self-doubt and confidence often arise. Despite feeling powerless Louisa, know that you in fact, have all of the power to heal, if you make the choice right now to believe in yourself and if you make a personal commitment to nurture your inner strength moving forwards. In other words, your anxiety does not define you. You define you.
Counselling and psychotherapy will assist you in supporting you through your experiences and exploring different ways of responding to the situations that are causing you anxiety and fear. The process will allow you the opportunity to understand why you have come to feel the way that you do and allow you to attain a better sense of coping with your anxiety symptoms moving forwards.
It can feel impossible sometimes, to communicate your mental health experiences to your partner. It may help to write down your feelings in a letter that he is able to read and take some time to respond to. Another action I suggest is to write down each day three positive things about yourself. This is the first step in rebuilding your self-confidence and may prove challenging to begin with, but do try, each and every day, to recognise just three personal qualities that you are proud of.
Anxiety disorders can arise in all of us from time to time. Often at poignant life stages. You mention that you have recently been trying to have a baby. This in itself is enough to induce anxiety and may be worth considering as the potential trigger for your condition. What are your thoughts and fears about becoming a mother? What are your concerns for the future? The therapy process can also assist you in exploring this further.
If you take anything away from this message Louisa, it is that you do not need to suffer on your own. What you are experiencing is common and it is absolutely treatable. Take time to focus on yourself and your needs. Focus not on the perceptions of others but on your own self-care, which means prioritising yourself. Rest as much as you can, try to establish a healthy eating routine. Yoga and meditation can be incredibly beneficial to calm and ease your anxiety and negative thoughts. Have courage. You can overcome this.
Best wishes to you, Caroline
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