Do I have social anxiety?

Mean Girls club...

Mean Girls club…

There have been times I’ve joked about having social anxiety – I know it’s not a joke – but I don’t really know if I have it. Why do I think I have it? In all honesty, as the years pass, I find it more and more difficult to be in social situations, especially if it involves more than one person.

I didn’t really think of it as an issue, until a few months back when I made a trip to Chipotle. All of the sudden, I was super nervous to place my order. Why? I still don’t know. It wasn’t a cute guy, and it wasn’t a gross order or anything. But I just wanted to get my burrito and get the hell out of there. I pretty much did, but it couldn’t happen quick enough.

So, let’s take it to Google. I’ll go ahead and preface this by saying no, I’m not a doctor, and the following is stuff I found online. Here’s a list of symptoms for Social Anxiety Disorder from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Concern that you’ll offend someone
  • Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing, sweating, trembling or having a shaky voice
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
  • Having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Spending time after a social situation analyzing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
  • Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation

…Ummm, I’d check “yes” for all of these (minus the third one, let’s be honest), but aren’t most of these feelings that we all experience in social situations? This is where you all chime in and let me know if I have SADs or not.

Maybe it’s not any sort of disorder, perhaps it’s my personality type – I am an INTJ, after all. I know my amazing friend Liz can clear this up for me – she has a vast knowledge of all Myers-Briggs personality types, and has informed me that while INTJs are rare gems of the world (my words), social situations are difficult for us because we pick them apart and analyze the shit out of them. SO true.

I found this article, “The Most Uncomfortable Situations for Each Personality Type“, and this is what it says for INTJs:

Having to hold up with social norms in public, can make the INTJ feel uncomfortable. They often become drained by being thrown into a situation where they have to maintain conversations with people that don’t surround the serious topics that matter to them. Simple social rituals aren’t the INTJs favorite thing and can make them feel uncomfortable. Being forced into a situation where it is frowned upon if they cannot follow the social guidelines is something that the INTJ definitely is not proficient in and can make them want to step away from the situations desperately.

….So that’s basically exactly how I feel. And it also explains why I simply didn’t want to go to the company Christmas party last month, and when I got grilled about WHY I didn’t go, my boss asked me if I had a history of mental illness. Nope, just a rare personality type that very much enjoys nights on the couch. #SorryNotSorry

Ontop of being an INTJ, I’m a writer at heart. I get sentimental about pretty much everything, and I like to observe people (in a non-stalker-ish way) because I ultimately want to know why we do what we do, and how we do it, and I want to tell the world my findings.

I was listening to the latest episode of NPR’s “Fresh Air” on Monday and they interviewed Lin-Manuel Miranda (basically my spiritual leader), and the host asked him how would you say one could create a great writer? And Miranda replied something along the lines of, “Make them feel a little out of place in every situation”, and I’m not quite sure if I’ve ever heard something that was so true.

Being pushed out of my comfort zone is what creates my need to write, and it’s what people can relate to (I think). So perhaps I don’t have social anxiety – although I’d venture to say that since we’ve all been stuck behind our phone screens for the last 15 years, we’re all pretty awkward when it comes to things like eye contact and talking.

I know it’s a reach, but if you’re willing to share a time you were uncomfortable, or perhaps you’ve noticed yourself being less sociable lately, or even the opposite. I’d love to hear about it! At least we can all find comfort in the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda has an answer for nearly everything.

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Posted on January 11, 2017, in The Squeeze and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I’ve had instances where I felt uncomfortable around a large group of people at an event. I’m not quiet sure why it happens. One time I was at a poetry slam and the more people showed up, the more I felt boxed in. I didn’t want to be there any more. At one point I thought it might be claustrophobia but I figured it couldn’t be. I’ve worked large events so it might be my personality type since I tend to analyze every situation.

  2. I think there is a difference with people feeling socially awkward because they’re so used to talking via text vs when people feel actual anxiety over saying or doing something and being worried about being negatively judged for it. In both cases, I think people can feel anxiety, but on different scales.

    I’m not a good judge to say whether you are just an introvert or if you have social anxiety. As someone who does have social anxiety, one thing I’ve learned over time is that everyone, even the most confident people, get anxiety, but not everyone may feel it as intensely depending on situations they are comfortable or not comfortable with.

    I can’t speak for every person with SA, but for those with SA who I have met, people’s symptoms and how they deal with it are very diverse depending on their personalities, individual experiences and coping mechanisms. One example is I’ve met people with SA who are pretty talkative and who appear to have no trouble keeping the conversation going with questions and topics. I have one friend like this, and after getting to know her, she admitted to me that she talks a lot and asks questions a lot because she feels anxious in conversations. That gave me a completely new perspective and made me realize she copes with social anxiety differently from me. I tend to get very quiet and withdrawn when I am uncomfortable in conversations because I become very conscious of how anxious I feel. In this instance, my gut reaction is to try to maintain a mask of calm on my face and to not let my anxiety show, but the downside to this is I waste so much energy trying to not look anxious that I can’t bring myself to talk.

    • Wow, thanks for sharing! I think you’re right. That’s probably why the list of symptoms is sort of general – because people have different ones and feel them on different levels. Thanks again for stopping by!

  3. Hey Nat

    I agree with the previous comment completely!

    Anxiety, social anxiety, depressive episodes are really normal – everyone has some. And your nerves and anxiety is very real, but it’s only a disorder if it becomes debilitating. So if you cannot look people in the eye (even really close friends), and you avoid doing things that are healthy and good for you because you literally cannot make yourself pick up the phone and call to make an appointment, then there is reason to worry. It’s so good that you are aware though! I was so uneducated on mental health stuff so I allowed myself to get really ill because I didn’t understand what was going on.

    Hope that sheds some light

  4. I relate to this… I fear most social situations even though I try to act calm about it all. Blushing is my weakness though.

  5. I am uncomfortable in almost any social situation. I work in a restaurant part time, and it is super uncomfortable every day I go to work. I have to talk to so many strangers, all night long. When I first started serving, I used to have panic attacks on a fairly regular basis. Now, though, I very rarely have a panic attack even though I still feel out of my element. I’ve found pushing myself out of my comfort zone has definitely helped me gain a little “power” over my social anxiety. Best of luck to you!

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