By Sarah Schuster
When people think of social anxiety, many imagine a shy introvert who doesn’t go out and doesn’t say much. While this version of social anxiety exists, living with it is more than just being “shy.” In fact, not everyone who has social anxiety is even quiet. Social anxiety manifests itself in many ways, some which might even surprise you.
To find out some of the different ways people are affected by social anxiety, we asked people in our community to share something they do because of their social anxiety that others might not realize.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Most people think I’m being rude when I’m not talkative in a group of people. In reality, I’m terrified because my mind constantly tells me I’ll say the wrong thing.” — Maegan B.
2. “I’m constantly glued to my phone. It’s just an excuse to not look directly at anybody! Constantly going over a sentence I want to say about 30 times in my head, then realizing it’s no longer relevant!” — Grace D.
3. “Being quiet – I’d rather listen to a conversation than be in one. I feel like whatever comes out of my mouth may seem stupid.” — Juliana G.
4. “Talking fast, rambling and joking around even though really I’ve zoned out and I’m pretty much not there… I run on autopilot and later when I’ve grounded again I go through and recollect what I’ve said or done… a bit like after being drunk! Of course I joke and talk fast anyway so nobody can tell the difference, including me usually until after I’ve come out of the fog.” — Suze A.
5. “I don’t think most people realize that when I’m out with friends and I suddenly leave, it’s because of anxiety. There’s always a moment when it’s just too overwhelming and I have to go home.” — Lucas Z.
6. “Constantly watching the body language of everyone to see if I’m offending them just by breathing.” — Jennifer L.
7. “I actually find myself talking a lot… in my mind I’m telling myself, be quiet, you’re talking to much, no one cares, everyone is judging you. But I get so anxious when I’m out with friends and there is an awkward silence or no one is talking. So I feel the need to talk more even though I’m dying of panic and anxiety inside. Sometimes after large events, it takes me days of no social interaction or staying in bed to recuperate.” — Jessica G.
8. “Actually talking on the phone can take days sometimes to muster up the courage. Texting is easier, but it’s still difficult to be the first one to start the conversation. I don’t like talking in groups. Will go somewhere, sit in my car for a half hour and decide not to go in.” — Tiffany A.
9. “Being loud, playing the joker, laughter. Anything that will draw away from the fact that I’m extremely agitated and struggling.” — Vikki M.
10. “I get upset before I have to go deal with people. This usually happens at home and is basically the adrenaline aggravating me, but I get snippy and can’t answer questions in any detail until I have to drive and therefore get distracted. Includes, ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘Why?’” — Myrlyn B.
11. “I’ll play with my hair, purse, or anything I’m holding to relieve my nervous energy. I won’t even notice it sometimes until I’m holding a torn up napkin.” — Katie M.
12. “I will always sit with my back to the wall, will even ask a friend to change seats with me. I sometimes miss pieces of conversation because I’m busy selecting and planning my exit routes and taking mental notes and descriptions of everyone in the room.” — Julz T.
13. “I will either shut down completely and not talk and people think I’m not sociable. Or if I try to convince myself to appear ‘normal’ I ramble and talk fast. It’s a lose, lose situation.” — Bryanna B.
14. “Practicing and practicing what I’m going to say on the phone and writing it down on a piece of paper before calling so if my anxiety becomes too much, I can just read my script.” — Leah O.
15. “Taking a long time to reply to emails, texts, etc., especially group messages, because I’m terrified of spelling something wrong or saying something that is incorrect or could come across as rude or mean. I’ve had misunderstandings in the past with these types of communication and and it scares me. I feel like everyone hates me already, and when I write something silly I feel like they hate me even more.”– Keira H.
16. “Not focusing on a conversation because I’m thinking about if I’ll miss my train or if my hair looks OK or if I look interested enough or if I’m allowing the person to speak enough or if I leave now I’ll get home at X time and have Y amount of sleep. It’s exhausting because my mind won’t stop, and I generally can’t remember anything anyone has said to me during said conversation.” — Stephanie T.
17. “Social anxiety is part of why I keep my hair long. It’s kind of a safety blanket for me, very comforting to be able to play with and soft. I feel less exposed with my hair there like a curtain I can disappear behind every so often.” — Opal S.
18. “Resting bitch face… not that I’m not happy; I’m uncomfortable and can’t really show my emotion. When I zone out I’m deep in my own destroying thoughts. Constantly finding an excuse to leave a room because I’m uncomfortable in a room of people, being glued to my phone or social media to escape myself and everyone around me. Being fidgety.” — Andrea M.
19. “I cancel plans, often last minute, not because I’m rude or necessarily don’t want to go, but because I’m afraid of going out in public sometimes, afraid of what’s going to happen, who’s going to look at me, am I going to be embarrassed, etc. And afterwards, I feel bad for missing out.” — Jessica S.
20. “I start to sweat, ridiculously, no matter the temperature. The worst is the sweat that breaks out on my upper lip because there’s just no hiding that. Before every job interview, I have legitimately wondered if this time I should go through with trying an antiperspirant on my upper lip.” — Angela J.
21. “I always prefer to make plans at least one day ahead. Every morning I mentally prepare for the day. It helps soothe any anxiety and is a comfort to know what to expect. It is difficult to be spontaneous, but as long as a friend let’s me know they’d like to do something on a certain day, I can anticipate that social interaction yet be flexible about exactly what we do, where we go or when.” — Jessica D.
22. “Coming across as completely cold, blunt and uptight – when that’s in fact actually a direct result of the panic and sheer effort taken just to to engage with that person – ironically, in what’s intended to be in a ‘normal’ way.” — Cat S.
23. “I zone out sometimes when there are too many stimulants. I just kind of go somewhere else in my head and am physically just there, usually staring at something weird, like a garbage can.” — Elaine W.
24. “I just awkwardly smile and try so hard not to get in anyone’s way. All the while, I feel like I’m annoying them in some way. I just want to leave, even if everyone is nice. It sucks.” — Emily J.