Millions of people around the world suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as Social
Phobia) and related conditions. Despite being the most common type of anxiety disorder and
the cause of much impairment and suffering, it is under-recognised and under-treated.
Yet virtually everyone knows what it is like to feel shy or lacking in social confidence,
often to an extent that can limit opportunities and happiness.
Because social anxiety issues are still relatively unknown amongst the wider public,
most aren"t even aware that the thing which can have such a huge impact on their lives has a name.
The three main aims of this site are to provide a starting point for people just finding
out about SA and related issues, to enable them to access further information through
this site and through external links; to act as a central hub for the community of
those with social anxiety problems in the UK; and to attempt to raise the profile of
SA problems and campaign for change, so that in future, people afflicted by them don"t
have to suffer in silence as so many of us have done in the past.
SA-UK is a volunteer-led organisation so don"t expect a miracle cure!
However, most of us have found that just finding out more about the issues and talking
to other people who know what it is like to experience the same problems has been truly beneficial.
It might feel like it sometimes, but you are not alone....
The SAUK organisation is comprised of three parts -
The main site (this website)
Much useful information is contained both on this website and in the forums, and support is available from the Forum and Chatrooms,
please take your time to explore everything that the SAUK organisation can offer you.
'Regular' social anxiety is known to all of us as an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness.
Many people have particular worries about social situations like public speaking or talking to
authority figures, or experience more general feelings of shyness or a lack of confidence.
For some, however, these social anxieties and fears can become much more troubling and difficult to cope with.
Everyday tasks which most people take for granted - such as working, socialising, shopping, speaking on the
telephone, even just going out of the house - might be a wearing ordeal marked by persistent feelings of
anxiety and self-consciousness. Public performances or social gatherings might be out of the question.
When the social anxiety becomes this bad, sufferers could be diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder,
also known as Social Phobia. Shyness is not a criteria for diagnosis.
Sufferers differ in how naturally reserved or outgoing they may be and in regard to the sorts of
situations or people they might find most difficult or might be OK with.
Individuals who are particularly socially inhibited, avoidant and
sensitive to criticism or rejection may meet criteria for Avoidant Personality Disorder,
now seen by many as only the more extreme or generalised end of an 'SA spectrum'.
Sufferers typically experience excessive feelings of nervousness or dread in relation to feared social situations.
They may experience specific physical symptoms such as trembling, rapid breathing, sweating or blushing.
At the extreme, panic attacks can occur. Sufferers tend to be very self-conscious and worried about whether
others might be evaluating them negatively. They tend to ruminate over past social incidents, worrying about
how they might have come across.
At a deeper level, sufferers can experience chronic insecurity about their relationships with others,
hypersensitivity to criticism, or fears of being rejected by others.
Many people can go through this kind of experience during adolescence, but for SA'ers the problems can
persist well beyond those years. Over time, many sufferers come to avoid the situations they fear or become
very inhibited or defensive in situations, often leading to depression and loneliness.
If you have experienced or do experience feelings such as these, you could well have Social Anxiety or the more severe
form - Social Anxiety Disorder.
Experiencing these kinds of feelings and thoughts can be very isolating, you can feel like the only person in the world with these kinds
of problems, but one of the most reassuring things that many people gain from joining the SAUK community is that they are not alone, that others
have experienced and continue to experience the same thoughts and feelings.
Do not despair in your situation, there is help available, work continues within the field of Social Anxiety and many techniques and methods are now
employed in helping people cope with and overcome the thoughts and feelings that drive Social Anxiety, and support is always available through the
SAUK Forum and Chatroom, try to remember, you are not alone.
If you are feeling suicidal you should seek immediate medical assistance:
Your local emergency services via the 999 service or go to your local A&E department
Your own GP or local out of hours GP service (Note: most NHS Doctors will have access to a Crisis Response service in your area.
Crisis Response is a specialist NHS mental health service that is set up to help people who are feeling actively suicidal). Find a GP
Samaritans: Samaritans provides confidential non-judgemental emotional support,
24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair,
including those which could lead to suicide.
UK: 08457 90 90 90
ROI: 1850 60 90 90
Sane: SANEline is a national out-of-hours telephone helpline offering emotional
support and information for people affected by mental health problems.
0845 767 8000 - open from 6.00pm until 11.00pm Monday to Friday
Papyrus: UK resources and support for those dealing with suicide,
depression or emotional distress – particularly teenagers and young adults.
including those which could lead to suicide.
0800 068 41 41 - open Monday – Friday from 10am – 5pm and 7pm – 10pm, and 2pm – 5pm on weekends
If you do not want to speak to someone via a helpline, find someone to talk to that you trust:
a member of your family, a friend or someone you trust like a teacher
your GP, a mental health professional or other health care professional
a minister, religious leader or someone in your community
Talking to someone can help you see beyond feelings of loneliness or despair and help you to realise that there are other
options open to you apart from ending your life. Whoever you talk to now, you should also visit your GP.
They will be able to advise you on treatment options, should these feelings continue to trouble you.
If you wish to contact us, please put in the subject heading who you wish to contact
General Enquiries - support, questions about SAUK, etc.
The SAUK chat rooms are run independently of this website and the forum, by fellow sufferers of social anxiety.
They do not offer professional support. If you need professional help or advice, please see a doctor.
The rooms are intended as an environment for SA sufferers to socialise,
If you need to contact the SAUK Chatroom Admin you can email: saukchat[at]yahoo[dot]co[dot]uk
By entering these chatrooms you are agreeing to abide by the rules
The SAUK Chatrooms
Accessing the chatrooms
The above links open the chatroom in a new window in your browser, while the site remains in this window.
The java applet may take a while to load, depending on your connection speed.
To start chatting, simply choose a nickname, click on "Connect", and once the chatroom appears you can start chatting!
There are other ways to access the SAUK Chatrooms, most browsers offer means for accessing chatrooms or you can install
a standalone client, such as mirc, Pidgin or XChat,
which will install like any other program on your computer.
To access the rooms manually using mIRC, Trillian, XChat, etc, join: chat.serenia.net server
The two SAUK Chatrooms are - #sauk (for family orientated chat) #lounge (for conversations of an adult nature)
For the port enter either 6667 or 994, and for the group "serenia".
SAUK Chatroom Guide
How to get into the chatrooms
SAUK has two rooms, #lounge and #sauk. While both rooms aim to provide a supportive environment for SA
sufferers to chat and socialise the tone of the rooms and the rules* for each vary. In #lounge there may be
swearing or topics of an adult/contentious nature, while #sauk gives priority to SA discussions in a milder
"family friendly" atmosphere.
You can access both rooms from your browser by clicking the links on the Welcome to the SAUK Chatroom page.
(Please note that by using chat you are agreeing to abide by the rules)
Who's Who and getting started
Once you've entered a chatroom you'll see a list of the other chatters in the room on the right side of the screen.
At the top of the list some names may have different symbols next to them.
Ops/operators have an @ symbol beside their name and are chatters who have volunteered to help supervise the rooms,
make sure the rules are followed and try to answer any questions users may have.
(Some ops will have a & symbol beside them, showing they are also co-owners of the rooms).
chat may be quiet for periods of time even if there seems to be a lot of people in the room.
This is partly due to the natural ebb and flow of conversation but also some chatters (and ops)
choose to stay logged into the rooms while browsing the net, eating, watching TV etc.
We know this can be off-putting for new users due to the very nature of SA but please don't let it deter you,
as you become more used to the rooms you'll learn which are the busiest times when you're most likely to find someone to chat to.
PMs (Private Messages)
Once using chat you'll probably hear people mentioning "PM's" (Private Messages),
conversations only you and the other chatter involved can see.
To PM someone double-click on their name and a new window will appear with their name on it,
rather than the name of the room. Anything you type in this window will go directly and only to the person whose name you clicked.
Changing/Registering your nickname
To change your nickname type /nick mynewnickname.
For example to be known as ABC you would type /nick ABC .
You can alter your nickname at any time using this command,
although please note doing it too often can be annoying and confusing to other chatters.
If you become a regular chatter you may want to register your nickname so that only you can use it. Instructions for doing so
can be found within the tab titled Nickname Help
Smileys (emoticons) and acronyms
Smileys are symbols often used in chat to show how a person is feeling,or how something they say is intended.
(For example if something was meant as a joke, sarcastically etc).
Below is a list of some basic/most commonly used smileys to get you started.
They are meant to represent a face,if you can`t see the connection try tilting yor head to the left -
you will see the left/first character is the eyes, and so on. (Sometimes eyes will be represented by :
sometimes = or X, and some chatters leave out the character for the "nose" but the basic meaning stays the same).
:-D Big smile/Grin
:-P Sticking tongue out
:-| Undecided/Not sure what to say
:-S Unsure/Oh dear
Several much used phrases are often abbreviated or turned into acronyms for speed/ease of use in the chatrooms.
Rather than typing out a whole phrase some chatters use just the initials of the words.
Below is a list of the most commonly used and their meanings.
LOL = Laugh Out Loud
WB = Welcome Back
BRB = Be Right Back
BBIAB = Be Back In A Bit
AFK = Away From Keyboard
PM = Private Message
OP = Operator/Moderator
Newb = Newbie, new user
Remember, if you need any help, don't be afraid to ask!
SAUK Chatroom Rules
Rules, Guidelines and Moderation of the Chatrooms
By using the chatrooms you agree to abide by the following guidelines and rules.
Anyone who willfully ignores or repeatedly breaks any of the rules or guidelines is subject to being banned from the chatrooms,
at the sole discretion of the Ops.
The SAUK chatroom and lounge exist to provide a WELCOMING, SUPPORTIVE, UNDERSTANDING and FRIENDLY environment for ALL of its users to enjoy.
EVERY USER of the rooms is responsible for helping to maintain a good atmosphere and behaving with consideration for others.
Please treat others with the RESPECT and TOLERANCE that you would hope to be treated with yourself.
Behaviour that is INTOLERANT, UNSUPPORTIVE, UNWELCOMING, UNFRIENDLY or INSENSITIVE and therefore harms the good environment
of the chatrooms will NOT be tolerated.
The chatroom operators (ops) are fellow sufferers of social anxiety and regular users of the chatrooms, who help to maintain
the chatting environment according to the above principles.
They can be approached by anyone who is concerned about any aspect of chat or a particular situation,
and they will do their best to help resolve any problems.
As a result of this, the operators may occasionally act to remove anyone who continues to jeopardise the chatting environment.
All users are asked to respect the decisions of the ops at any given time.
As well as social anxiety, all users all have one thing in common: we were all new to the chatrooms once.
Please try to remember this, and help to make newbies feel welcome and at home, so that they can also begin
to enjoy the benefits of feeling that they are part of the chatroom community.
The following actions are variously used by the ops when dealing with behaviour which breaches the chatroom rules and guidelines.
Informal Warning (via Private Message (PM) or in the chatroom)
Devoicing (user cannot speak but remains in chatroom)
Kick (removed from chatroom, no ban)
Ban (duration in mins, hours, days, weeks, or months depending on seriousness of abuse (potentially including indefinite, in persistent/serious abuse)
Extreme cases of persistent/serious abuse - possible report to IRC network administrator(s), Internet Service Provider and/or the Police
Registering your Nickname
If you need any help with this process, please ask an Op for help
Registering your nickname
To register the nickname, first you must be logged in using the nickname which you wish to register
(if you join as guest you can do this by typing /nickname mynewnick).
Then think of a good password, and a genuine email address that you can receive email from
(this is essential so that you can be sent activation details - it is not disclosed to anyone).
Then, type these details exactly as shown into the chat screen where you would normally type to chat to other users
(substitute your own email address and password where shown)
/msg NickServ register password firstname.lastname@example.org
For example, if your nickname is joebloggs, your password is monstermash6488 and your email address is email@example.com, type the following:
Please don't use the above password, or an easy-to-guess password like your nickname or your real name!
A genuine email address is required to complete registration as an authorisation code will be automatically sent to this address. The email address you provide is kept private,
and in future is only used to send you the password if you ever forget it.
Once you have successfully registered, the automated email will then be sent to you. It will be from NickServ with the subject "Activation code for your nick
"(e.g. joebloggs)" on Serenia IRC Network." Don't forget to check your junk mail folder if you use spam filtering!
Copy and paste or type the entire activation command line from that email into a chat window as directed, e.g.
/msg NickServ ACTIVATE joebloggs f784JI87s
Your nickname should now be registered fully. If you experience any problems, it is always best to ask an Op.
Identifying your nickname
To maintain your nickname registration, you have to use the password that you registered it with to "identify".
(Note that if you don't do this for 15 days the nickname registration will automatically expire.)
To identify your current registered nickname, type
/identify nickname password (obviously substituting your own password)
e.g. /identify joebloggs monstermash6488
Identification with the password helps to tell everyone that you are really the registered user of your nickname.
Once you have identified anyone who uses the /whois command on you will see the text "nickname is a registered nick".
For more information/help, type /msg NickServ help into the chatroom.
Social anxiety is anxiety (emotional discomfort, fear, apprehension, or worry) about social situations,
interactions with others, and being evaluated or scrutinized by other people.
It occurs early in childhood as a normal part of the development of social functioning,
but may go unnoticed until adolescence or may surface in adulthood.
People vary in how often they experience social anxiety and in which kinds of situations.
Overcoming social anxiety can be relatively easy, or just a matter of time passing for many,
and yet can be very difficult for some. The reasons are unknown:
It can be related to shyness or other emotional or temperamental factors,
but its exact nature is still the subject of research and theory.
Social anxiety disorder, also called social anxiety and social phobia,
is excessive social anxiety (anxiety in social situations) causing considerable distress and impaired ability
to function in at least some parts of daily life.
The diagnosis can be of a specific disorder (when only some particular situations are feared) or a generalized
disorder. Generalized social anxiety disorder typically involves a persistent, intense, chronic fear of being
judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by one's own actions.
These fears can be triggered by perceived or actual scrutiny from others.
While the fear of social interaction may be recognized by the person as excessive or unreasonable,
overcoming it can be quite difficult.
About 13.3 percent of the general population may meet criteria for social anxiety disorder at some point in
their lives, according to the highest survey estimate, with the male:female ratio being 2:3.
An early diagnosis may help minimize the symptoms and the development of additional problems,
such as depression.
A common experience amongst sufferers are feelings of dread about situations that they will encounter.
SA sufferers experience dread over how they will be presented to others.
They may be overly self-conscious, pay high self-attention after the activity,
or have high performance standards for themselves.
According to the social psychology theory of self-presentation,
a sufferer attempts to create a well-mannered impression on others but believes he or she is unable to do so.
Many times, prior to the potentially anxiety-provoking social situation,
sufferers may deliberately go over what could go wrong and how to deal with each unexpected case.
After the event, they may have the perception they performed unsatisfactorily.
Consequently, they will review anything that may have possibly been abnormal or embarrassing.
These thoughts do not just terminate soon after the encounter, but may extend for weeks or longer.
Those with SA tend to interpret neutral or ambiguous conversations with a negative outlook and
many studies suggest that socially anxious individuals remember more negative memories than those less
Social anxiety disorder is a persistent fear of one or more situations in which the person is exposed to possible
scrutiny by others and fears that he or she may do something or act in a way that will be humiliating or
embarrassing. It exceeds normal "shyness" as it leads to excessive social avoidance and substantial social
or occupational impairment.
Feared activities may include almost any type of social interaction, especially small groups, dating,
parties, talking to strangers, restaurants, etc. Possible physical symptoms include "mind going blank",
fast heartbeat, blushing, stomach ache, nausea and gagging.
Cognitive distortions are a hallmark, and learned about in CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy).
Thoughts are often self-defeating and inaccurate.
People who suffer from SA can experience one or more of these symptoms at any one time.
The two main treatments for SA are Medication and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants, are considered by many to be the first
choice medication for generalised social phobia.
These drugs elevate the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin, among other effects.
The first drug formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration was paroxetine, sold as Paxil in the U.S. or Seroxat
in the UK. Compared to older forms of medication, there is less risk of tolerability and drug dependency.
However, their efficacy and increased suicide risk has been subject to controversy.
Although SSRIs are often the first choice for treatment, other prescription drugs are also used, sometimes only if SSRIs fail to produce any clinically significant improvement.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Research has shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be highly effective for several anxiety disorders,
particularly panic disorder and social phobia. CBT, as its name suggests, has two main components, cognitive and behavioral.
In cases of social anxiety, the cognitive component can help the patient question how they can be so sure that others are continually
watching and harshly judging him or her.
The behavioral component seeks to change people's reactions to anxiety-provoking situations.
As such it serves as a logical extension of cognitive therapy, whereby people are shown proof in the real world that their dysfunctional
thought processes are unrealistic. A key element of this component is gradual exposure, in which the patient is confronted by the things
they fear in a structured, sensitive manner.
Gradual exposure is an inherently unpleasant technique; ideally it involves exposure to a
feared social situation that is anxiety provoking but bearable, for as long as possible, two to three times a week.
Often, a hierarchy of feared steps is constructed and the patient is exposed each step sequentially.
The aim is to learn from acting differently and observing reactions.
This is intended to be done with support and guidance, and when the therapist and patient feel they are ready.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for social phobia also includes anxiety management training, which may include techniques such as deep
breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, which may be practiced 'in-situ'.
CBT can also be conducted partly in group sessions, facilitating the sharing of experiences, a sense of acceptance by others and
undertaking behavioral challenges in a trusted environment (Heimberg).
Co-morbid Illnesses & disorders
The disorders documented in this section are those commonly associated with SA.
Avoidant personality disorder (AvPD) (or anxious personality disorder) is a personality disorder recognized in the DSM-IV TR handbook in a person
over the age of eighteen years as characterized by a pervasive pattern of social inhibition,
feelings of inadequacy, extreme sensitivity to negative evaluation, and avoidance of social interaction.
People with AvPD often consider themselves to be socially inept or personally unappealing, and avoid social interaction for fear of being ridiculed,
humiliated, rejected, or disliked.
People with AvPD are preoccupied with their own shortcomings and form relationships with others only if they believe they will not be rejected.
Loss and rejection are so painful that these individuals will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others.
avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
shows restraint initiating intimate relationships because of the fear of being ashamed, ridiculed, or rejected due to severe low self-worth
is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
Research suggests that people with AvPD, in common with chronic social anxiety sufferers also called social phobics, excessively monitor their own internal reactions when they are involved in social interaction.
However, unlike social phobics, they also excessively monitor the reactions of the people with whom they are
The extreme tension created by this monitoring may account for the hesitant speech and taciturnity of many people with AvPD; they are so preoccupied with monitoring
themselves and others that producing fluent speech is difficult.
There are different types of depression, which vary in the degree to which they impact the sufferers life, the characteristic
experiences are feelings of sadness, hopelessness and helplessness.
Major depressive disorder:also called major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere
with a person's ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once–pleasurable activities.
Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally.
An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person's lifetime, but more often,
it recurs throughout a person's life.
Dysthymic disorder:also called dysthymia, is characterized by long–term (two years or longer) but less severe symptoms that
may not disable a person but can prevent one from functioning normally or feeling well.
People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of
major depression during their lifetimes.
Symptoms of Depression
Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
Fatigue and decreased energy
Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
Overeating, or appetite loss
Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Because depression is used by many as a general term to describe a low mood, it isn't always taken as seriously as it should be, major depression
is a dehabilitating illness, which interferes directly with a persons ability to function on a daily basis. Depression commonly occurs with other mental
illness and issues, if you think that you have depression, you should see your GP.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder involves excessive and harmful worrying most of the time. The DSM defines it as:
Excessive anxiety and worry...occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (e.g. such as work or school performance)
The person finds it difficult to control the worry
The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three of:
Feeling Keyed Up
Feeling on Edge
Being easily fatigued
Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)
The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause "clinically significant distress or impairment in...important areas of functioning." (DSM-IV)
This degree of generalised worrying affects around 5% of people at some point in life.
It is different from other disorders involving excess worry or anxiety because of the lack of a
specific focus on only one particular area or theme.
For example, the worries are not restricted mainly to social/evaluation fears as in Social Anxiety
Research into GAD is looking at how the brain and nervous sensitivity can come to be
hypersensitive to anxiety states, and the role of brain chemicals and areas in this.
Other theories look at the sorts of interpretations and thoughts that GAD sufferers have,
for example about the risks involved in life, or the usefulness of worry for problem solving.
Many people have the experience at some time of feeling suddenly apprehensive,
becoming nervous and edgy.
Such episodes can be very unpleasant and perhaps lead people to avoid situations where
they might occur, or might not be able to escape from if they did occur.
Individuals diagnosed with Panic Disorder have come to suffer these episodes more intensely and more regularly.
The DSM sets the criteria as:
Recurrent unexpected panic attacks...followed by at least a month of at least one of:
persistent concern about having additional attacks
worry about the implications of the attack or its consequences (e.g. losing control, having a heart attack, "going crazy"
a significant change in behaviour related to the attacks
Panic Disorder is sometimes classified as being "with agoraphobia".
Here, attacks are linked to agoraphobic symptoms or situations -
the attacks may bring on agoraphobia symptoms, or the attacks are brought on by the
agoraphobic fears, for example of crowds or being trapped.
Agoraphobia literally means "fear of the marketplace".
The modern DSM classes it as an anxiety disorder, and a kind of panic disorder.
It involves a complex of fears, which most often relate to panic or panic-like symptoms in certain
situations. The DSM defines the disorder as:
Anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of...panic attack or panic-like symptoms.
Fears typically involve characteristic clusters of situations that include:
being outside the home alone
being in a crowd or standing in a line
using public transport
The situations are avoided or else are endured with marked distress or with anxiety about having a panic attack or panic-like symptoms,
or require the presence of a companion
Everyone occasionally experiences intrusive distressing or unpleasant worries they don't wish to have.
Many people have routines or superstitions which help them feel in control or that bad things are prevented.
Individuals with OCD have particular problems with being able to control these sorts of intrusive ideas
and routines, however. The DSM says there are:
Obsessions: recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses or images...not simply excessive worries about real-life problems...the person attempts to ignore or suppress [them] with some other thought or action...
Compulsions: repetitive behaviours (e.g. hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g. praying, counting, repeating words silently)
that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must
be applied rigidly; the behaviours or mental acts are aimed at preventing some dreaded event or situations;
however, [they] are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralise or prevent
or are clearly excessive.
Pure-O: OCD sometimes manifests without overt compulsions.
Informally nicknamed "Pure-O", OCD without overt compulsions could, by one estimate,
characterize as many as 50 percent to 60 percent of OCD cases.
Rather than engaging in observable compulsions, the person with this subtype might perform more covert,
mental rituals, or might feel driven to avoid the situations in which particular thoughts seem likely to
intrude. As a result of this avoidance, people can struggle to fulfill both public and private roles,
even if they place great value on these roles and even if they had fulfilled the roles successfully in the
past. Moreover, a sufferer's avoidance can confuse others who do not know its origin or intended purpose.
These symptoms can be alienating and time-consuming, and often cause severe emotional and economic loss.
Although the acts of those who have OCD may appear paranoid and come across to others as psychotic,
OCD sufferers often recognize their thoughts and subsequent actions as irrational,
and they may become further distressed by this realization.
PTSD essentially relates to extreme and recurrent states of stress following a traumatic event.
They can last a few months, or a lifetime. The DSM-IV sets the critiera as:
The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury,
or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others;
and the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror
The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in [various ways, including distressing recollections, dreams, illusions, flashbacks].
here is persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness
(not present before the trauma), as indicated by [for example, efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings,
or conversations associated with the trauma; efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that
arouse recollections of the trauma]
There are persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:
difficulty falling or staying asleep
irritability or outbursts of anger
exaggerated startle response
The disturbances last more than 1 month and cause clinically significant distress or impairment in [life].
Traumatic situations commonly leading to PTSD include warfare or natural disasters, violent assaults including rape, and traffic accidents.
Dedicated to all of us who suffer from social anxiety related blushing or fear of blushing (erythrophobia).
This is the right place to be if, like many of us, you dread that old familiar tingle around the cheeks.
Social anxiety can take on many forms and symptoms, blushing being one of the most common, but rest assured that there is hope in terms of improvement
and treatments many of which we aim to discuss here.
The most important factor in beginning to overcome Social anxiety and related blushing fears is to somehow break the chain of negative thinking and
avoidance that perpetuates the vicious cycle that sufferers become trapped in. We aim, in these pages, to discuss as many strategies and approaches
that can help to break the chain as possible to enable all sufferers to find a way forward that is suitable to their own individual wants and needs.
There are a number of avenues available for gaining help with problem blushing.
Many erythrophobia sufferers are able to gain help and support via their GP who may prescribe anti-anxiety medications
or refer you on for cognative behavioural therapy which has, to date, been documented as the most successful means of
treating social anxiety and can be of considerable help with the specific problem of blushing.
Sometimes you may be referred on to a specialist mental health team or department within the NHS via which you can receive various
support services and therapies.
Alternatively you can contact your local mental health centre(s) where you should be able to gain further advice and support,
contact details for which you can find in your local yellow pages under ‘social services’ or ‘health authority’ or citizens advice bureau.
There is also a surgical procedure available on the NHS in Britain called Endoscopic Transthoracic Sympathicotomy which is mainly aimed at
treating the related medical condition of severe facial blushing known as Idiopathic Craniofacial Erythema but is also an option that some
blushing phobics choose to take in order to deal with their debilitating fear of blushing.
You may be able to receive private treatments and therapies by becoming a member of a mental health organisation such as the
National Phobics Society through which which you can receive various therapies
ranging from established psychological treatments such as CBT to more holistic approaches such as
Reiki, Reflexology, Therapeutic Massage, Aromatherapy, Spiritual Healing, Acupuncture etc that some sufferers find helpful.
There are a lot of very useful self-help books and products available in book shops and new-age shops ranging from those dealing with CBT and anxiety
management techniques to hypnotherapy and relaxation strategies and complimentary approaches for tackling stress and anxiety.
You may also be interested in joining a local support group, where you can discuss your problems with fellow sufferers and possibly join in some
form of group therapy. You can try looking at the SA-UK - Meetings & Groups section on the forum for details of any groups in your area.
We hope you find this information useful.
This website has been compiled by fellow sufferers.
We are not trained professionals, and are not qualified to offer specialist medical advice.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is NOT the kind of therapy where you just talk to someone about the past - the focus is mainly on changing how you think, feel and act in the present. There are two main elements to CBT. The 'cognitive' side of it is about challenging overly negative or unjustified thoughts (for example 'People don't like me' or 'everyone is staring at me'), and 'retraining your brain' to interpret anxiety-causing situations more helpfully. The 'behavioural' side of CBT involves gradual, controlled exposure to more of the situations you fear, and trying to reduce 'safety behaviours' (e.g. avoiding eye contact) while in those situations. There may also be an element of social skills training if this is appropriate.
CBT techniques take time, practice and commitment, but are probably ultimately the best way of getting to the real root causes of your SA. You can read a thorough overview of the principals behind, and history of CBT here:
Your GP can refer you to a CBT therapist on the National Health Service, although there may be a long waiting list. You could also try finding a therapist independently (although you should try and seek out one with experience of dealing with social anxiety), via the website of the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapists (BABCP):
The NPS is a charitable organisation, which deals with all kinds of anxiety disorders/ phobias. They should be able to point you in the direction of a therapist in your area, and can offer reduced rates of therapy to their members.
Some people have had success overcoming blushing with the aid of medications such as beta blockers (for example, propananol), which are available via your GP. You would usually be recommended to take these now and again for specific or situational anxieties, although sometimes people take them on a regular basis to treat generalised anxiety. They work by blocking the signals in the body that lead to the anxiety/panic response and some sufferers have found that they help combat their blushing in this way as they remain calmer in what would otherwise be very stressful situations.
There are other medications available from your GP, which work more directly on the brain and can help over the long-term with anxiety and phobia problems. These are usually a type of anti-depressant called SSRI's ('selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor'), with three of the most popular brands of this type of drug being Seroxat (Paroxetine), Prozac (Fluoxetine) and Cipramil (Citalopram).
This type of medication increases the amount of serotonin activity in the brain serotonin is a brain chemical that has been linked to mood and arousal. You may be prescribed these sorts of medications for periods ranging from months to years depending how well they work for you.
Other anti-depressants like MAOI's (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) have also been shown to help with social anxiety (although they have worse side-effects), as have some newer types such as Effexor and others, which are similar to SSRI's.
All these medications are available only on prescription in the UK and all have side effects. Your GP will be able to advise you further. Please do not try to purchase these medications over the internet.
ECT Surgical Procedure
ECT is available on the NHS in Britain (although the waiting list is very long) and is used to treat excessive blushing with permanent results. This option is usually considered to be a a last resort since there are many potential side effects. It is more appropriate for sufferers who have tried all the other non-invasive options with no success, or suffer from the associated medical condition of severe facial blushing (Idiopathic Craniofacial Erythema) in conjunction with their blushing phobia. This surgery should only ever be considered after seeking proper medical advice.
The following websites provides further information and advice about the procedure and provides testimonials of those having had it, along with info on social anxiety related blushing:
Some sufferers find hypnotherapy beneficial in helping to reduce their worries surrounding social anxiety related blushing. A course of hypnotherapy can sometimes help individuals to keep calm in trigger situations and learn to adopt a more relaxed and positive mental attitude through the use of methods such as positive suggestion and visualisation.
It is important to make sure however, that you seek the assistance of an accredited and reliable hypnotherapist – see the links below for searchable directories of accredited hynotherapists within the UK. Hypnotherapists will often be happy to compile a recorded hypnosis programme for you to use in conjunction with or in place of a course of face to face therapy should you prefer to explore that option.
The National Council of Hypnotherapists holds a register of independent hypnotherapists in the United Kingdom and seeks to maintain high standards among its members.
List of hypnotherpists resident in the UK:
You can also seek the services of an approved hynotherpist at a reduced rate by becoming a member of the National Phobics Society.
Although visiting a hynotherapist in an established practice or location suits the needs of many, this environment is not always suitable for social anxiety sufferers. Some therefore choose to control their own hypnosis, tailoring the suggestions used to their own specific wants and needs, or listening to pre-prepared hypnotherapy tapes in the comfort of their own home, where they find it easier to relax. Many hypnotherapists are happy to teach self-hypnosis skills and practices to clients.
www.self-hypnosis.co.uk/ is a helpful and informative site, providing self-hypnosis information including downloadable hypnosis programmes, free email course and retail section.
www.hypnospractice.demon.co.uk is a UK based site / therapist and gives an informative background of the therapist, his work and hypnosis in general. Tapes may be purchased directly and tailored to suit individual phobias including blushing and anxiety. Self-hypnosis and stress management workshops are also available via the site and its associated practice.
Self Help Strategies
Many social anxiety sufferers see significant improvement by adopting a number of self-help methods, whether it be by reading publications detailing self-help versions of proven psychological therapeutic practices, positive mental approaches and strategies or following self-help exercises tailored to learning to relax and cope with the physical manifestations of anxiety.
The first one on this list - 'Coping with blushing' is the only one that deals specifically with the problem of blushing, while 'Overcoming Social Anxiety And Shyness' - is also recommended as it is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques you can work through in your own time. Prices below are correct on 1st November 2004 at www.amazon.co.uk
'Coping with Blushing' by Robert Edelmann (Sheldon Press, 1990) £6.39 ISBN: 0859699196
'Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness' by Gillian Butler (New York University Press, 2001) £6.39 ISBN: 1854877038
'Painfully Shy - How to overcome Social Anxiety and reclaim your life' by Barbara G. Markway & Gregory Markway (Thomas Dunne Books, 2001) £7.00 ISBN: 0312316232
Many of our members/sufferers prefer to opt for more holistic and complimentary therapy approaches to deal with their social anxiety and related erythrophobia and indeed learning to relax and take a more positive mental attitude can be of tremendous help when dealing with anxiety. There are plenty of ways to learn to relax including relaxation tapes, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, muscle relaxation techniques, reiki, reflexology, massage, and aromatherapy.
www.chisuk.org.uk: The Complementary Healthcare Information Service provides information on alternative medicine & holistic health. It includes a retail section with suppliers of natural products and medicines, equipment, books, music tapes and videos- yoga/ relaxation techniques etc
Holistic approaches such as Reiki, Reflexology, Therapeutic Massage, Aromatherapy, Spiritual Healing, Acupuncture are also available at discounted rates for members through the National Phobics Society
‘Physical activity reduces the risk of depression, and has positive benefits for mental health including reducing anxiety, and enhancing self-esteem. It can help you relax, sleep well and cope with stress. It can help you feel and look better’ - NHS steps to health scheme
You should consult your GP before embarking on a new course of exercise.
Many people find that physical exercise can be of value in helping to maintain good mental health. Those who suffer from depression, often resulting from some kind of social anxiety, sometimes find some relief by taking some brisk exercise, while those who are in the recovery process often find that exercise can help to speed it up. As well as having all round health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, maintaining good circulation and controlling weight, taking up a form of sport can be a very effective way of increasing social interaction, distracting ourselves from our anxieties and a good balance with other areas of our lives..
Anxiety in particular can be reduced significantly by a course of regular exercise as the stress reaction (i.e. the state we find ourselves in when tense and fearful at the prospect of blushing in front of others) encourages a state of high energy causing our bodies to stay in a tense state of arousal for hours at a time. Exercise can be a very effective way of dissipating this excess energy and encouraging a more otherwise relaxed and well-balanced attitude. Times when we experience insomnia are common times for worrying about future events or ‘self-prophesising’ about our social anxiety and blushing, and exercise can be a useful too in improving sleep and therefore reducing undue worries.
Other health benefits of exercise include the reduction of headaches, increased feeling of well-being, concentration and stamina. This is due to the chemicals called endorphins, which are released into the brain during exercise, morphine-like in their effect; they promote a sense of positivity and happiness, which can last for some time after exercising. This somewhat ‘elated’ mental state or ‘improved mood’ can help you to maintain a well-balanced attitude when faced with stressful situations where you feel you may blush by improving your overall mental health. So its well worth considering taking up a regular programme of exercise to help cope with and manage your social anxiety, blushing, and possible related depression.
The kind of physical exercise you choose to adopt is a matter for your own personal choice. However in order for exercise to be effective, it should be brisk rather than leisurely- brisk walking and cycling, even heavier types of gardening are ideal as out-door activities are particularly beneficial. At the very least, it is important to exercise three times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time. Other Aerobic activities like jogging, swimming, squash, football, aerobics classes and dancing are all suitable. Remember not to push yourself too hard in the beginning, to seek medical advice prior to taking up any new exercise programme and bear in mind that the body benefits more from short periods of regular exercise rather than infrequent bursts. Make sure to ease yourself into an exercise programme, as doing too much too soon could lead to physical exhaustion or injury.
Many NHS local authorities now have a ‘Steps to health’ Scheme in place whereby patients, who would benefit, can be referred for courses of exercise at local establishments for free- see your GP for details of any such schemes in your area.
http://www.embarrassingproblems.com/pages2/blush.htm - Online article discussing blushing and the various causes of it, featured on a website dealing all manner of 'embarrassing problems' including Good section on 'blushing caused by anxiety' and a related 'excessive shyness' section.
I much like many people I know get nervous in public situations. The only difference is that I'm not really that nervous of speaking in front of people yet that they will look at me and think differently of my extreme blushing. Ever since I can remember my blushing has been a major problem to me, not so much to other people. Other people think I'm nervous and usually feel bad for me for having to speak in front of others.
When most people think of blushing they think of rosy cheeks or something cute. This is not the case; my blushing is more like extreme red blotches that cover wherever uncovered skin is. I've tried wearing clothing that covers most of my body but some exposed skin always turns red. When this reaction happens I also get the feeling of being anxious and that I need to escape whatever situation I might be in. Once I remove myself from the situation the blotches usually disappear within one hour.
To some people this might not seem like such a big deal but to me it effects what courses I take in University, what groups of people I talk to and what boys I get interested in. Even though I'm quite outgoing and some might even say an extravert, this is a problem that I can't seem to shake. I've been to my doctor who has me going to a therapist specializing in this type of SA. I hope that in the near future that I will be able to reflect the happiness I have on the inside outwards! This is something that needs to be talked about and cannot be done alone!
My first strong memory of a blushing attack was at school. It was a big shock to be told in class that I had to stand for one minute and talk in front of the class. I did not expect to go bright red but I did. From then on I was aware of the awful feeling it created and time after time the blushing happened. Although 90% of people do not comment on it, the 10% that do, is all that you remember. One of the worst reactions I got was from a tutor in high school. Her words have been engraved in my head. " Do you have to go red every-time I ask you a question?" It is understandable why a complex can develop.
I suppose I lived with the problem for many years, feeling unable to discuss it with anyone for fear of ridicule. I basically felt inferior and therefore did not deal with it, as maybe I should have done.
I think that there comes a point in life when enough is enough. I reached that about a year ago. I realised that unless I tried to help myself, this problem was not going to go away. The blushing is not simply a performance anxiety; it can happen any place any time and anywhere. Of course as fellow blushers know, it is the fear of the blush that induces it. If only the fear would go. One of the worst things is isolation, which is why social anxiety organisations are worth their weight in gold. So far I have tried mild anti- depressants (setraline) which did work but I took short term because I wanted to tackle the problem myself. I have also tried C.B.T (cognitive behavioural therapy) which helped some. Other tactics are cutting down stimulants and generally looking after myself.
One thing for sure is I am a lot better than in my teenage years. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any quick fix but support from others and increased awareness is the way to think more positively.
Best Wishes, Sue
I'm 20 years old and an accounting student at university, I have and always been until I got SAD a very confident popular and very sociable person..I loved socialising and talking to absolutely anyone...I didn't care who as I just loved talking! I used to be thrown out of my classes at school sometimes coz I would be talking too much or too loudly and often had to be moved to sit by myself so I wouldn't be tempted to talk..but I still did normally shout across to someone over on the other side of the room...Then I went to university and for the first 4 months or so I was exactly the same and probably intimidated a lot of people. I made A LOT of mates in those first few months and everyone knew me as a friendly but very loud girl!
Then I went home at Christmas and felt a little bit uncomfortable being around some of my mates at home who I hadn't seen in a while...I wasn't worrying about going red at the time until I was sitting on the train with my old mates in a big group and then all the lads we knew got on the train, one of which was a bloke I had
fancied for ages and used to pull.. Everyone knew what had gone on between us and I hadn't seen him in ages.. He came over to talk to me but we were sitting in a group so he just spoke to me but everyone else went quiet and looked at me...I wasn't that aware I was blushing at the time but I knew I hadn't behaved how I would have liked to and then he left and went to talk to someone else.. My friend (who also fancied him and was jealous of me for pullin him) seemed pleased to tell me that I had gone really red..That made me feel really bad and I found it hard to talk to him later that evening (although I pulled him again!) in the pub...I didn't worry about going red when talking to anyone else it was just him...so at first I just thought about how awful it had been and how I was never going to be able to talk to him again..
Then I started to panic whenever I spoke to people I knew that I thought it was important for me to act in the best possible way without blushing..but then I found I did...I don't know if I actually go bright red..I just feel like I do and then I clam up and can't talk, although I probably want to as I've got tons to say! I felt I then got better over summer as I didn't worry so much and when I came back to Uni I had to go to my lectures by myself as all my mates had failed...it was good for me to start having to socialise with people I didn't know so well otherwise I wouldn't have any friends..and I hate being seen places by myself!
I totally stopped worrying about going red and felt like I had almost forgotten..until I went to visit a friend at another uni and I had to meet all her new mates...I had got it into my head that as long
as I'm not sitting trapped in a brightly lit up room then they would see if I was going red or not. I hate that feeling of being trapped...I can talk for hours to people on the street! Anyway, I had to meet all her mates in the kitchen in halls..and it was horrible, I met her boyfriend and I couldn't stop myself from blushing..I knew he had noticed coz he stopped trying to talk to me coz I kept having to look away coz I felt so red! Thing was we all went clubbing later and I spoke to him for ages and when we got in (even though I wasn't drinking!) and he must have thought..weird?!
From then on I started worrying about what my mates thought of me in lectures as I didn't know them all that well. I got really panicky about it and started to miss lectures, which made it, ten times worse. Then I got really depressed and stopped going all together...I was avoiding going into shops, the library and anywhere in the day where I thought people I knew might be. I got really depressed and didn't go out the house much except I went clubbin a lot in the evenings which made it worse I think coz I was so tired. When I broke up for Christmas and went home I told my mum why I was so unhappy and she told me I was being silly and no-one cares if I go red...which I know I just don't want them to see it!
I decided when I went back to uni I had to start going to all my lectures and get some help! I started an anxiety management group-counselling thing, which I still go to. I am going to most of my lectures now and socialising as much as I can...some days I feel fine and will talk to lots of people...other days I just walk in and talk to people if they talk to me. I worry less about going red but I still care about people seeing me blush. I think I'm improving though because with each lecture/tutorial I go to I feel better..unless I have blushed and then I feel worse! I've ordered some books to read about blushing and I've told one of my mates about it and she was very understanding, also I'm trying relaxation techniques which are quite good.
I'm 33 and have a quite specific, but common version of SAD - my problem is all about turning red. It's more than blushing when it happens: at its worst my face, neck and chest all go a bright mottled red, and it can take ages to subside. Although I think I have only really suffered SAD for the last 3 years or so, I now realise it all started years ago when I was first working, and for all the reasons I now understand (thanks to extensive reading of books on social anxiety disorders), I was always worried about giving presentations, in case I went red. It was never a fear of not being able to speak, or saying the wrong thing, it was always that I would go bright red, and EVERYONE WOULD NOTICE!! Then they would thing me incompetent/weird/anxious - all the usual stuff.
I put up with it for years, avoiding presentations whenever I could, which was pretty easy so I never really gave it a second thought. However, about 3 years ago, things changed dramatically. This coincided with a major career change and a move back to the UK from abroad, and a period in my life when my usual (and now I see invalid) measures of personal success were no longer clear. I had given up a senior, well-paid position and a life in an exotic location to return to the UK to do something a little more useful with my life. I'll share some of the highlights (lowlights?) with you. It started when I was in a meeting with some people at work, quite senior people, including my boss. I was called into it to give my opinions on something. We started going round the table explaining our experiences with this particular thing, and I suddenly thought 'What if I go red !! Oh no!! What if it happens in meetings, as well as presentations'...? I was also very aware I had my hair back and a v-neck top on, which exposed all my face, neck and chest, and so everyone would see me go red. My heart pounded, I felt hot and sweaty and when it was my turn, it got worse, big hot flush to my face/neck, shaky hands, sweating...the works. It was, as many of you know, horrible. I was absolutely mortified. And although I actually said my piece, and it was relevant and useful judging by their reaction, my redness was all I could think of. I hid in the loo for ages and was depressed for days. What was happening to me??!! Oh well, at least, it never affected me socially.
Then guess what? I was at a christening, and in my role as godmother I had to carry the baby up to the alter at the front, and stand there facing the whole congregation. What made it worse was all my boyfriend's family and friends were they're looking at me too. It was only about 10 minutes before I had to go up that I started the usual thing - suddenly thought, what if I go red, on no, not in front of everyone, they'll think me weird blah, blah, blah.....My self-fulfilling prophecy made another appearance, and there I stood feeling like a hot, sweaty, tomato. I didn't even have to say anything. Awful, awful feelings. I was fine for the rest of the day, except for hating myself for what had happened.
Since then, it spread to most all areas of my life. Whenever I was going to see someone, especially a social situation, then I would worry before and during, sometimes have sleepless nights, and often go red. Then, thank God, I found the social-anxiety network and its forums. What a relief - I am not a total nutter after all! Some of the stories I have heard make me despair, I can really feel their pain and misery, and can totally relate to the feelings. I recognise of course that many people have symptoms/problems with SAD much worse than mine. But once I found DrRichards's website, I started working on myself, doing the work books, meditation, relaxation etc.
Now I feel practically 95% recovered. I am well along the road to recovery. That doesn't mean I don't still go a little red at times, but it's not half as bad as before but best of all, I don't care that it happens (usually). I don't worry before and I don't obsess after. There are a few situations I can imagine would make me more nervous about it all, but there's no point worrying about things that may never happen. Day to day I generally feel fine and able to cope with life. The funny thing is that you would not ever have recognised me as a person with a SAD. Without meaning to sound big-headed, I know I am a genuinely confident, independent, outgoing, social person and I love my life. In fact I recognise I am probably the kind of person others with SAD can be somewhat intimidated by (but believe me there are plenty of people who intimidate me back!). But my experiences with SAD have touched me in the deepest ways. I think I have become a much more caring, compassionate person as a result. I try to listen more and not talk over others. I am acutely aware of other's reactions to things (most of the time). My friends/family would be totally amazed if I explained all this to them. I only ever told my boyfriend, and I wonder if this indicates one of the main problems I still need to work on - that I base my approval on other's opinions of me. However, I just don't think unless you have felt SAD you can understand what it is like. Telling them serves no real purpose.
One of my roles now is that I work lecturing adults in project management (computing) for about 5 days every month, and would you believe I really enjoy it. One of the reasons I decided to do that work was to face my presentation fears, though at the time I didn't know it was SAD. But about the same time I started reading the books and doing the CBT on myself, and used the teaching to 'practice' and as part of my exposure hierarchies. Best of all I was able to get proof of my new thinking - that going red didn't matter in the least. I still got good reviews for my teaching, and no one ever commented or probably even noticed. Within about 4 months I was able to do the whole course with no anxiety, sleepless nights, or redness (or at least, redness that I worried about). This showed me that I could also overcome SAD in other areas of my life, and it had indeed a good knock-on effect. Realisation dawned that it really doesn't matter to me or anyone else if I go red - it has never affected me or my life in any negative way - the only downside is that I (used to) let it depress me, but I realised that was my conscious choice. I was the one who decided to let it bring me down and make me miserable. It's now so much easier. I decided I would never let SAD stop me doing anything. I try to look on my experiences with SAD as a sign that something was wrong about me, that my deeply held beliefs about the way and myself others judges me were invalid.
SAD is good for me in many ways, in that it has helped me learn so much about me and what I want out of life, and I strongly believe I am becoming a better person - but of course am far from perfect. All this has made me determined to help other people identify if they have SAD, and then get help. I worry about the thousands of people out there who think they are going mad, when recovery is a real possibility for practically all of them, if they can get help. So if you see someone like me out and about, a seemingly confident, outgoing person with no apparent worries in the world (but maybe a little rosy cheeked), know that anyone can suffer from SAD and few people are what they seem! Underneath, many people are just as self-conscious and tentative as you are...
Blushing, a word that we are all familiar with and for some reason most of us feel uncomfortable with this perfectly natural emotional response. Blushing is often felt by the individual concerned as a sign of weakness, but more often to the observers it can be an endearing quality that can add to the appeal of a person.I am sure we have all blushed as some stage in our life and for most people it is nothing but an uncomfortable sensation when you feel embarrassed. For some, however, this naturally occurring bodily sensation can prove to be the catalyst that starts the progression of the now well documented mental health condition, Social Anxiety Disorder ("SAD"). Some even go so far as surgery to stop the problem.As a sufferer of SAD myself, this involuntary blushing proved to be the onset of my full blow SAD, although I didn't know it at the time. Our minds are so powerful that they can either work against us or for us, with the control centre being the way we think and process our thoughts. If you think about feeling an emotional response, you are in effect turning on the switches that lead you to just that response. The more I thought about blushing and NOT wanting to do it, the more my brain turned on that emotional response.
We have all been in the situation where somebody talks about, fleas for example. Yes, fleas!!! Don't you just know that we all start itching. Why, because we thought about it. The secret is to NOT CARE. It can be the most horrible thing and for some this is the most devastating part of their SAD. I was blushing frequently and feel like a right fool!I have overcome my blushing phobia by chance really. I remember reading in a book about trying to make yourself blush and when you want to you might guess, you can't! I started very slowly by trying to make myself blush in the mirror. I couldn't do it. I then tried it out on "safe people", people who did not cause me great anxiety (shopkeepers, strangers, etc.) I couldn't do it. I started to find the whole thing a little more amusing and realised that I was the one in control here, I just hadn't realised it.
Why do our brains do the exact opposite I kept asking myself? Well, it doesn't, it does exactly what you sub-consciously tell it to do. Sub-consciously we are telling ourselves we cannot cope with this and we are going to make a big fool out of ourselves, so you brain thinks, yeah OK that's what you want I will do that for you., blushing coming on!The next thing that happened to me, cemented some further positive thoughts in my mind and I progressed even further. A lady I work with is constantly flushed. She is not embarrassed, it is just her natural skin tone and she flushes easily. She comments on it herself, but does not seem unduly distressed by it. I pondered over this one evening at work when she looked particularly flushed and I thought how lovely she looked, in a kind of healthy glowing way. Now being a sufferer of SAD I can be highly critical and notice many things that the majority of people would not and I realised that in no way did I see this person as weak, foolish or lacking in some way. Quite the opposite actually.
Another friend of mine gets flushed through alcohol and, again, it never once crosses my mind that she looks negative in any way. This also proved to be a turning point for me. If I don't judge their appearance negatively and I am critical in what I am looking for, they why on earth would anybody judge me for looking a little flushed. Nobody really cares at all. It is no big deal to anybody else.Obviously, my blushing did not disappear overnight, but it started to come under my control. I began to think differently when I was out. I actually challenged my brain to "bring it on - go on give me a real good one" and you know they lost their sting somehow. The more I wanted them to come and enjoy the lovely warm feeling (imagery of a beach here!!) the more they eluded me. Typical.
Think about how you feel when you see a person blush. Do you really think they are that bad? NO you don't. It is all in the way we view it. Try to laugh when it happens (or somewhere discreetly after) it really lessens the negative feelings. I used to laugh out loud when it happened and even though the false laughter felt uncomfortable it soon became easier and my laughing was real.Welcome your blushing with open arms "it doesn't like that"! It runs away with it's tail between it's legs......
Hi, I'm in my 41st year now, but blushing and social anxiety has affected my life for as long as I can remember. For me, blushing was always one of the worst aspects of my social anxiety, simply because it was the most visible sign of it. A lot of the time we can mask our anxieties, but when the dreaded red face descends, it makes it all so very obvious.
If my SA could be described as a permanently burning fire, blushing was the equivalent of throwing petrol on it. They both created a vicious circle that was to go on to blight all aspects of my life. It's amazing how something so harmless can actually eat away at your life to the extent of reducing it to a never-ending nightmare. Like in a lot of people, I found that school was the time when I first started to encounter real problems with blushing. Even though I was SA right back into infant school, it was in early high school that the blushing really took hold and it's effects grew. It was here that I started to employ all manner of avoidance tactics. I soon become expert in this field. I've sneaked out of class in mid lesson, and then walked home just to avoid a blush inducing moment. When I knew certain blush inducing events or lessons where coming up, I'd play truant and hide in the local cemetery. The fear of blushing was so bad that when I was told I'd lose 30% of my exam marks in my English exam if I didn't do a speech on my chosen topic, I thought it was a fair trade. I willingly failed just so I didn't blush in front of my classmates. How sad is that? There were always particular pupils, especially members of the opposite sex, and also some teachers that I'd blush in front of, to the point of becoming phobic about them. In the end, my whole education was a total write-off due to blushing, avoidance and SA.
At home things were not much better. I'd had a lot of problems with my dad over the years, and I used to blush terribly when he spoke to me. It really comes to something when you can't even converse with a parent without blushing. I felt like I was dying inside when this happened. I was also dreadfully phobic around my mums niece, who I'd actually know since I was a baby. She babysat me as a child and knew me all my life. She was very attractive though, so I suppose I developed a bit of a crush on her. I blushed so badly in her presence that I eventually dreaded her calling at the house. Unfortunately for me, one day she turned to me and said "why do you always go red when I talk to you? It's annoying me" This remark cut me to the bone and I felt so humiliated. She'd suffered years of depression in her past, and I somehow thought she'd understand my anxiety...but no.This poured more fuel onto my SA fire and just made my problem with blushingeven worse.
In the end I'd just hide away in my room if we had visitors to the house, as I couldn't bear to blush in front of people anymore.This set the tone for my future years, where I embarked on a constant exercise of ducking and diving people and social occasions just to keep the dreaded 'red' away. It's no surprise that all this helped to create a deep lack of confidence and esteem in me. I'd failed my education, and was now failing socially too. I tried to avoid all aspects of life where I may blush, but this isolation just led to depression, frustration and bouts of self-harm. The frustration drove me potty in the end. In order to try and have some social life, I turned to drink. This killed the anxiety and I could mix without the dreaded blushing after the alcohol went to work, but in the end this dependence on alcohol led to far more problems than it ever solved.I was lucky enough to have some good relationships with girlfriends in later years, but my dread of the blush always got in the way when family occasions, Christmas, and pretty much any other social event that included more than just the two of us came up. This caused numerous problems over the years, and has done until recent times too. I've been known to create an argument with someone before an event, just to manufacture a reason not to go. Just another avoidance tactic I suppose.In my case a blush can range anywhere from just going red, to going beetrootred with severe sweating, shaking hands, and heart palpitations. It can develop into a full panic attack where I have had to flee the room. In the early 1980s I had this happen at the hairdressers when I went for a cut. It left me so traumatised that I've cut my own hair for 20 years or so now.
All the jobs I've ever had have been affected by my blushing or by my fear of blushing. I quit my first job after 4 hours due to this very reason. I got stressed and blushed for England...they couldn't see me for dust as I jumped on my bike and fled, never to return. Being instructed on how to do a job was like a fate worse than death. I'd always seek the background, so consequently I never learned much and certainly never excelled at anything. Ducking and diving became a way of life, and the fear of blushing motivated everything I did...or didn't do.In one job I had to operate a machine that was up off the floor. I had to stand on a wooden platform to operate it, so I was highly visible to the room full of women workers sat at their tables all around me. If anyone spoke to me then all eyes would turn in my direction. I felt so vulnerable and filled with dread. Once a blush took hold I had to shoot off to the toilets to compose myself again. The strain certainly took its toll though. I'd often feel sick and just want to die. In some work situations, I felt I'd rather die than carry on, but I always seemed to manage to just scrape through and survive through careful avoidance giving me just enough breathing space.
In my last job I was a home care worker for 7 years. Initially I loved this job but SA, and in particular its most visible sign in my case -the dreaded blush- eroded all my confidence and love of the work. I could fill a website with blush stories in this job, but it's enough to say that when you can't talk to doctors, nurses, colleagues, social workers etc... without turning into a big strawberry jelly in front of them, things are bad. One day I simply disintegrated into a strawberry coloured sweaty mess in front of a client's speech therapist. This just couldn't go on anymore, it was affecting my ability to do my job, and indirectly my client's well being. I was avoiding training courses too, so I was eventually endangering my clients.
Something had to give, and eventually it did...my mental health. I quit the job and went off sick. It was the blushing, which tipped my anxiety over the edge. I'd lived with SA all my life and learned to hide much of it, but you just can't hide a blush.I seriously contemplated suicide at this point, and even went as far as to plan it and get my affairs in some sort of order. One day though I just went to the beach in my car with a pen and pad, I drew two columns, one to list reasons to live and one to list reasons to die. Amazingly I decided I had more reasons to carry on. April 2002 was the turning point in my life. From that moment on I decided never again to contemplate suicide or self-harm. I would beat this blushing by any means I could.
In the past I'd tried hypnotherapy, meditation, auto-psychology, counselling, relaxation, alcohol and self-help books with only limited success so I was short of options and inspiration. Out of the blue though I stumbled across two things, which were about to change my life.
1. A story of a nurse whose life and career was being crippled by blushing,who went on to have the ETS operation and felt as if this had "cured" her ofthis problem.
2. A story of a new drug in trials, which was being aimed at SA. There was a woman who related her story of success on this drug whilst using it in clinical trials. It was later named as Cipralex (escitalopram).
These stories gave me the hope I needed just at the crucial time. I researched the ETS operation on the internet, then armed with my new information I went to see my GP. I asked to be put on Cipralex as soon as it was approved and marketed, and I requested the ETS operation. She was happy with the Cipralex idea, but less so over the ETS, simply as it is such an extreme step to take. She could see my desperation and determination though, and agreed to find me a surgeon if I took counselling in the meantime. A fair deal I thought.The first surgeon I saw on the NHS does ETS for excessive sweating of the hands, feet and underarms, but had no experience of cutting as high up the sympathetic nerve chain as is needed to deal with facial blushing. Due to his lack of experience he decided not to put my health at risk, possibly leaving me with Horner's syndrome. He promised to find me another surgeon with the relevant experience within 2 months.
He was as good as his word, and I received a letter to go for a consultation with an NHS surgeon.Before our meeting though, I'd done far more research into the ETS operation and had become very scared of the possible side-effects such as severe compensatory sweating, Horner's, no sweating and a lack of skin oils above the nipple line, etc...... I'd also started on the new drug Cipralex by now, and after a bumpy start I was starting to feel good in myself. I was still blushing, but I didn't care half as much as I did before. I was also using the cognitive therapy approach to view my blush in a different and less threatening way. I was putting less importance on the blush, so it was starting to lose its grip and power over me. The consultation with the surgeon went really well. I told him how I was feeling about things now, and he assured me I could have the ETS possibly within 1 year on the NHS if I still wanted it. He went on to say that as I was having a degree of success with my positive thinking and my medication was a good sign and the decision was up to me. He also explained how blushing is a cycle and the key to dealing with it is to break that cycle. ETS is the last resort as far as tools to break that cycle are concerned. If CBT can do it..then great. If medication can do it...then great, but if you need both that's fine too. For some ETS may be the last but eventually only resort in their eyes. All things considered I declined ETS with the understanding I can still have it at a later date if necessary.
I made what I consider personally to be a wise choice in hindsight. Using the CBT approach has worked wonders for me, and Cipralex has dealt with much of the anxiety and all of the depression. I now realise that a blush cannot harm me, only my attitude towards it can. I still blush...some habits die hard, but I just think..so what? now. Maybe I'll always blush, but if I don't care about it then it can't really affect me too much. I've never had proper CBT, but I've pinched a lot of ideas from books. When I believed that my blushing was a massive issue...it became just that, so now I choose to believe it's a tiny issue...and blow me! It's beginning to feel a hell of a lot smaller too. I'm so glad I didn't have ETS because I truly believe it is the last resort now. These days I'd say try everything else first before considering it. I firmly believe that CBT is the way forward on this issue.
Due to my blushing and SA, education, classrooms and groups of people have caused me major problems over the years, but for the first time in 24 years I have managed to overcome the SA and blushing enough to walk into a college classroom where I'm now in training to become a counsellor myself. It's not easy for me, I still blush and I may yet fall flat on my face, but I've made more progress in this last year than I ever did in the previous 39. This proves to me that anyone can improve with these issues. If I can do it then so can you. We all can. We can come to terms with, and move on from our blushing problems. What we have to do is find whatever breaks the cycle within us as individuals. For me it was the CBT approach and the cipralex. It helped me learn not to care if I blush, and that robs the blush of its hold over me. When it finally gets the message that it can't bother me anymore, maybe it'll leave me alone.There is hope, and I wish all fellow blushers luck in finding whatever it takes to break the cycle in them. It's been a long and bumpy road for me, but thanks to my GP, my counsellors, Cipralex, the CBT approach and a willingness to change...I now know I'm finally on the right road.
Although I have been shy all my life and was always known for this (I even received a mock Oscar at my secondary school leaving do for being 'the person who had not talked for five years) In hindsight, I can see that I was always going to be a prime candidate to go on to develop full blown social anxiety in adulthood but I did not develop problems with blushing until I was a teenager.
This was probably, largely as a result of my becoming more 'aware' of the opposite sex, with it all suddenly being an issue and all the associated comments and jokes about people 'fancying' each other and being shy I attracted my fair share of mockers. I found it difficult to interact with boys at all and when I did usually went bright red, particularly round those I was attracted to or intimidated by. The usual schoolyard taunts about my blushing and quietness didn't help matters, and such comments along with incidents like one of my college tutors wafting my face with his notes during a one to one tutorial I had with him paved the way for my self consciousness and shyness to develop into my future full blown social anxiety related blushing.
I had never interacted much as a child and it became virtually impossible in my teenage years and is still difficult to this day. I had thought I would grow out of it but the problem has seemed to get worse with age (I'm now 26) as my avoidance and negative thinking regarding blushing have grown considerably. When I was younger I didn't talk much in school for fear of being ridiculed about what I was saying or not wanting to draw attention to myself. When I did speak my self-consciousness caused me to speak quietly or mumble and people would either not hear me or ask me to repeat myself which would make me feel even more self-conscious and wish I had kept quiet.
I do still tend to do this somewhat but it is more manageable and I realise that most people speak quietly from time to time. I have never liked being the centre of attention and having experienced more general blushing phobia when talking in groups etc. I have experienced more specific blushing fears in adulthood around members of the opposite sex in general (more so with physically attractive individuals), anyone of either sex in authority or anyone that I admire (for whatever reason). This is because I value the persons opinion in some form or other and am worried that may make negative assumptions about me if I blush.
I don't have blushing worries around strangers much as their opinion does not matter to me - I won't have to see them again so they will have no bearing on my life. Whilst I feel the problem did seem to subside somewhat in my late teens it has never really gone away. There is always seems to be someone in any social situation that I am trying to avoid at all costs for fear of blushing around them.
The longer I am in a work or study environment, the more paranoid I get around the people there. This has made it very difficult for me to form new friendships or any sort of relationships. The problem (along with other irrational social anxiety related phobias) has also caused me to drop out or courses of study and employment on various occasions and it has become so severe and I still haven't (prior to my current position) been able to hold down a permanent job for longer than 8 months because of it and up until now I have been unable to support myself sufficiently as a result. However, I have been in my current job for coming up to eight months again now and am hoping to continue beyond this period and I do feel I am now making progress.
Since I have started to recognise the problem more in recent years and look for ways to overcome it and address it properly I have made significant improvements and learned to take a different mental attitude towards the problem. Things are finally beginning to look up. I have tried a number of strategies and treatments in order to overcome my social anxiety related blushing and I feel they have all been beneficial in some way and have had a kind of cumulative effect in my improvement.
Initially, I tried hypnosis tapes to increase my self-confidence and I found these were very helpful as long as I kept the practice up and I feel they did play a large part in my successful return to university after initially dropping out the prior year do to a combination of blushing related social anxiety and other specific SA fears.
I also tried medications (specifically Seroxat), which did help me recover sufficiently to try therapy after I had experienced a period of agoraphobia towards the end of my degree. In recent years through a combination of self-help books/tapes, exercise and relaxation techniques I have been able to overcome my blushing worries to a degree but I know I still have a long way to go.
I have also taken up yoga which I find helps both as a distraction and as an overall more well balanced view mentally along with the more obvious physical benefits. Finding SA-UK and the friendships and support I gained from here, have also proved invaluable. Just talking to others who understood gave me the confidence and support I needed to believe in myself more and begin to tackle my fears more effectively.
I would say however, that the most beneficial of all the treatments I have sought has been CBT, as this has taught me to recognise my underlying negative and irrational thinking and to try to break out of the avoidance patterns I had become accustomed to. I've learned to question how others actually perceive blushing and take an overall more rational and objective view of it.
I have been working consistently for over a year now, being in my current position six months, after being out of work for nearly 2 years. I do find I still have blushing fears, but the fears have less of a hold on me and as I have learned to cope with them and take a more rational view and I am less likely to run away, knowing that it will only make the problem worse in the long run and repeat and further my avoidance patterns of the past.Although I would say the blushing worries are more manageable now, I know there is always the possibility of them re-emerging if I allow myself to think in certain ways and I think they always will be to a degree; but I at least know now what strategies help and that with effort I can get better.
Its hard fighting the irrational worry on a day to day basis, after years of feeling that everyone thinks you are strange for blushing, and the constant thought of 'Oh no, I'm going to blush' forever floating around at the back of your mind; but I am confident that I am getting better. I am hopeful that one day, in the not too distant future, that I will feel my blushing is something that just happens from time to time quite naturally, as it does for many people, and that it isn't anything to be ashamed of or obsess about and doesn't say anything negative to others about me as a person. Maybe, in some way, my admitting all this in a sort of public way is another step in the right direction as I never have done up until now.
Good luck everyone in overcoming this problem, there IS hope for us all to be able to lead the lives we deserve without the dreaded and frustrating fear of blushing holding us back. Trust me, if I can begin to get better, anyone can!
Take care, Kathleen
I am not 100% sure when it all started. Going to an all-girls school and having no brothers, I was always very shy with the opposite sex. The fact that I have got red hair with a pinkish complexion means that I have the type of colouring to go red more easily. Although it bothered me to some extent, the blushing really started to "get in the way" by my early 20's. To people looking on I suppose I come across as confident and outgoing but on the inside I lack some confidence in myself and tend to focus on my negative rather than positive attributes.
The blushing gradually got worse during my 20's. I moved to London and pushed myself amongst some very high achievers and looking back I continually compared myself to others whether it be intelligence, looks or generally having their "life together". My parents divorced when I was about seven years old, my mum left home for a while - she felt it was best to leave us in our home environment. She has since told me that my father fought for custody in order to keep the house. My mother, of course, had been wrong in having an affair in the first place. She has told me that my father used to hit her. I don't blame either of them now but I have gone through hostile feelings towards both my parents. I feel I was the adult in the family trying to take responsibility for everybody's happiness and fighting a loosing battle. I think it is why I became such a people pleaser - I still am, even now, but to a lesser extent. I don't really feel that either of my parents has grown up completely. They still don't talk to each other. However, on a more positive note I now feel I have moved on and do not feel anger towards them.
Anyway, back to the blushing. I would definitely blush at certain situations or people. With certain people I would not blush at all, however, with others I would blush very easily whenever they came near me - usually men versus women. With regards to situations that make me blush, it would normally be if the focus was on me. I have read alot about blushing and anxiety and now I realise that I got into a "pattern" of blushing in certain situations. The worry leading up to the situation would pretty well guarantee that I was going to blush anyway.I have always been quite a hyperactive person, constantly on the go - I take after my mum really.
Things had to change.The really serious stuff started about 11/2 years ago, about a year after I had started working in "front line" recruitment. People think recruitment is all about people but, in fact, it is very sales-orientated with a "people" content, constantly selling to the client as well as the candidate. Prior to recruitment I had worked in PA/secretarial roles but always felt I wanted to "achieve more". (I put "achieve more" in brackets because I now know it doesn't really matter what you do so long as it makes you happy and it is within your capabilities.) I had got it into my head that a secretarial role was not a "professional" role (I think this was partly due to the fact that I felt my father had never really acknowledged any job I had done - I felt he saw secretarial work as second class compared to, for example, my step-sisters who are both doctors).
I started in a new recruitment company in a "front-line" role and set up a new desk. This involved going out and finding new clients, interviewing the candidates and making the match. I am a complete perfectionist in the workplace and set myself ridiculously high standards which are almost impossible to maintain. I often found going to see clients like an emotional rollercoaster. I would get quite worked up before going to see a prospective client. If I did blush I would beat myself up about it and wonder how credible I had come across. Looking back most clients probably didn't even notice but I worked myself up into such a lather - such wasted energy when I look back. I did very well in this job and was top consultant, which was gladly recognised by my bosses. I have always sought approval from parents, bosses, boyfriends and friends alike. I proceeded to work long hours too and started to run myself into the ground.
What came next was the most difficult year of my life. I had started making some decent money, which enabled me to buy a London flat. This was, of course, a good thing but it meant that my disposable income had gone right down. The combination of high stress levels at work and very little cash meant that I was getting more and more stressed and anxious.By November 2000 I started to feel very tense all the time. I absolutely hated going on the tube and I soon realised I had developed a bit of a phobia and felt very self-conscious of people looking at me. As time went on my body would sweat profusely, some mornings my under-arms and back felt drenched by the time I got into work. Not a very nice way to start the day. Soon enough I was blushing on the tube on an almost daily basis and feeling very uncomfortable and worn out by the end of the day having got myself so anxious. Some days though, if I was having a particularly good day in the office and had just made a placement, I would feel less conscious of myself and less likely to blush. My blushing and anxiety did seem to be linked to how I saw myself achieving.
Over the next 2-3 months I think I suffered a mini breakdown though I managed to keep going on the work front. I refused to give up! Looking back all I was really doing was damaging my whole nervous system. An old boss invited me to go and work for her in St Albans so I bought a car, which added further to the financial strain though it meant I could avoid the tube except for the odd client visit into town. However, in this new recruitment role I was interviewing more senior people and so was stretching myself even further. The blushing seemed to subside but the anxiety got worse. I even started to get chest pains. Once again, despite the warning signs I would not give up in recruitment.
What then proceeded to set in, I have since learnt from the many books I have read, is generalised anxiety disorder. Blushing did not seem to be such a problem by now. In place of the blushing I was generally very "agitated" and my body would sweat. I would say that I have always had some form of "social phobia" in my adult life having worried about people judging me on meeting them for the first time. I met my boyfriend in July 2001 and it was initially difficult for me at times to hide my anxiety. I gradually opened up to him and he has been extremely supportive to me. I feel very lucky.
In November last year I sold my flat and moved to Surrey. For the first month or so my Generalised Anxiety Disorder was still acute. In the knowledge that I had changed my lifestyle drastically and still had the anxiety, I went to see my GP. He was very understanding and prescribed me Seroxat (Paroxetine), an anti-anxiety drug. I felt in some ways that I had "given in" but I think that I needed something to help me get on the right track. I still have GAD but it is getting better all the time. I have some days, which are worse than others, and something small might trigger it off. One of the symptoms which has manifested itself is a tingling of my skin. My body tends to get very hot when I am in uncomfortable situations or feel anxious. I think this tends to dry my skin and I then get a form of rash. I think I may have developed a very mild form of psoriasis - I am not too sure - when I have less anxious periods it does seem to disappear so it is obviously connected in some way.
I do believe that my excessive blushing and, more to the point, phobia about blushing, turned into social phobia which, in turn, developed into GAD (combined with me putting myself under extreme pressure). The worst thing I did was to ignore my symptoms for so long. I now see that the longer I put up with the stress, the longer it will now take for me to get better.Over the past year I have had hypnotherapy, acupuncture and taken up yoga. The hypnotherapy and acupuncture were excellent but a little too expensive for me to maintain at the time. I don't think I could have done it without the medication.
I now try to maintain a quieter lifestyle so that I can get better and gradually come off the medication. I am pretty good at hiding my anxiety though sometimes it does show. I think that daily yoga really helps, lots of sleep and a balanced diet are also very important. I do still have GAD but I feel I will get there in the end. I do yoga on a daily basis and am much more realistic about what I can achieve. I would also like to start doing some meditation. I do believe there is something good to come out of something bad. My blushing and subsequent GAD has forced me to re-evaluate my lifestyle - I allow time for myself now - something I never used to do.
I think the answer to blushing is to improve the way you feel about yourself. You should look after yourself, make time for relaxation and try to accept that everyone has different qualities to offer. I would definitely recommend yoga and meditation as a way of finding inner peace though, of course, everyone is different as to how they could go about accepting themselves more. I have read a number of books about anxiety and, in particular, I found The Social and Anxiety Workbook which is in the NPS booklist very beneficial.
Good luck and I hope my story has helped you to see that there are alot of people in the same boat.
Real stories from people who have overcome, or reduced their Social Anxiety.
We hope that these stories give inspriation and hope to others and help to show that progress can be made.
Jackie is an American who now lives in Gloucester, UK, with her British husband. She is 43 and has no children, but comes from a large family.
Having struggled with SA all of her life, Jackie tried getting help from a psychologist. When this didn't work as she hoped, Jackie found the CBT tape series provided by the Social Anxiety Institute, and hasn't looked back. Since completing the therapy, she has attended the three-week CBT course run by Dr. Richards in Phoenix, and has run a CBT workshop in Bristol.
How has SA affected your life?
Jackie: I have suffered from SA as long as I can remember. All through my life it has severely hindered my schooling, career and personal relationships. My parents were rather strict and judgmental and I always felt that I somehow didn't meet their expectations. SA, for me, meant I could not be comfortable with my peers in school or at work. I always felt I wasn't good enough, smart enough and I didn't fit into any group. I experienced a lot of negative feed-back from class and work-mates. I knew I seemed distant and weird, but I couldn't be myself and I didn't like myself enough to want to show my true self to anyone. As a result, I jumped from job to job and felt desperate to leave as soon as people started to see my discomfort and shyness. The only place I felt at ease was at home with my siblings, and this was my sanctuary. I seldom went out and had few friends. It was very lonely and depressing, especially during my teen years.
When did you decide to get help? Where did you look for it?
My lowest point was probably 1993, when I was working at a local newspaper, and again I could feel that people were starting to see my anxieties, even though I worked hard at hiding them. I knew I couldn't leave this job (I actually liked the work I was doing and had bills to pay), and so I actually considered suicide. Miraculously, soon after, while at my lunch break, I was reading our newspaper, when I came across an article on Social Anxiety. I had never heard of it before, but like most people when they find out, I felt a tremendous sense of relief just knowing that I had an identifiable disorder. I wasn't just a misfit, a weirdo, I really had a recognized emotional illness and it wasn't my fault!
I didn't tell anyone, but I booked an appointment with a psychologist. She confirmed my suspicions and diagnosed me with Social Anxiety Disorder. It was actually a bit frightening to make the appointment, but what was the alternative? After all, I had considered ending it all. How bad did it have to get before I plucked up the courage to try to help myself?
Unfortunately, she seemed to know less about SA than I did (which is often the case). This is not a put-down on her. The disorder had only been recognized by the psychology profession in 1988. After 10 sessions I decided to look further for help.
It wasn't until 1998 that I found a web-site which took me in the direction I was searching for. It was the web-site of a Dr. Thomas Richards and he, having suffered from SA himself, had founded the Social Anxiety Institute. Here was a qualified psychologist who had devoted his practice entirely to Social Anxiety Disorder. I found his web-site informative, helpful, hopeful and best of all...he had actually overcome SA himself. I wrote in several times and contributed my story to his then daily e-mail journal. After much discussion with my husband and much consideration, I sent for his tape series "Overcoming Social Anxiety Step-by-Step".
Tell us about the progress you have made... What successes have you had?
The Social Anxiety Institute tape series uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a way to overcome SA. I began to feel better after about the third "lesson". I felt I had found the therapy of choice in dealing with this terrible illness. I started to see how irrational I had been, how programmed I was to always think and react in the same old destructive way. Slowly, I began to change my thinking around. That is the clue to it all...our thinking and beliefs.
After completing the tape series, I made a really big investment and attended Dr. Richards' three-week course in Phoenix, Arizona at the Social Anxiety Institute. This experience helped me understand how to work the behavioral side of the therapy and thus completed the picture for me.
Now I had the tools to work with. I was not 100% cured yet, but I had a really solid base to work from and the knowledge I needed to change my life. I can honestly say I feel much better than I ever have in my life. I am more confident, relaxed and positive than I could have imagined 10 years ago.
I ran a one-day CBT work-shop in Bristol last summer and thoroughly Enjoyed it. Me? Run a work-shop? I would have NEVER believed it just a short time ago.
Set-backs come, but they do not last as long as they once did and I now know set-backs are a part of the healing process.
What advice do you have for others?
I would tell my fellow sufferers, remember that there is hope! Do not go down as low as I did at my lowest point. Things are so much better now that there are lots of people out there to help, including professionals and average folks alike.
SA is a recognized, diagnosable and curable disorder. At the present Cognitive Behavioral Therapy seems to be the best therapy to deal with Social Anxiety. I would strongly urge those suffering to try to find help.
Katherine is 34 and single.
Katherine was the 'shy one' throughout her teens and twenties. Her SA affected just about every aspect of her life, and she has suffered depression because of it. She found out about SA on the Internet, tried CBT from the NHS, and then CCBT from the Social Anxiety Institute. Her successes include giving a radio interview, making some great friendships, and feeling much happier and more confident about life in general.
How has SA affected your life?
Katherine: I now realise that I grew up with a very poor sense of self-esteem,
mainly due to external influences. I was always aiming for perfection in everything I did and consequently, always falling short and feeling something was lacking in every aspect of my life. My lack of self-esteem meant that I was always the 'shy one'. I hid behind others for many years, let other people take the lead and, basically, to cut a long story short, feel I missed out on much of my teenage years and twenties because I was so worried about what 'other people thought of me'. SA affected just about every aspect of my life.
I have always managed to keep on working, mainly I think because my perfectionist nature saw unemployment as a 'failure'. Working, though often
extremely difficult and painful, appeared to me to be the lesser of two evils. I suffered from depression at various stages in my life.
When did you decide to get help? Where did you look for it?
I found help through the Internet. I was actually looking up anxiety for
someone else when I discovered the term Social Anxiety and recognised the experiences being described. This was a major help, and the beginning of my recovery. This was 2 years ago and since then I have made tremendous progress. Realising that I had a recognised problem helped me to stop blaming myself totally for being the 'weird' and 'stupid' person I thought myself to be.
I went to the doctor who referred me for CBT. I had to wait about 4 months
and whilst it was helpful to a degree, it was not comprehensive enough and
I was not encouraged to practise consistently enough for it to make any lasting change. Through the Internet I also found out about support groups and the Comprehensive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CCBT) tape series from the Social Anxiety Institute in the USA. Attending a group was extremely helpful and supportive. I cannot overstress the importance of being with people who understood how I felt and who I knew did not judge me. I no longer feel the need to attend such a group but I have made some great friends who I still keep in touch with.
After some thought and discussion with others I also decided to purchase
Dr Richards' CCBT tape series. I felt comfortable with what he said as he
himself was previously an SA sufferer and seemed to have a good understanding of my problems. I also liked the fact that you do some work on yourself every day - made me feel I was doing something!
Tell us about the progress you have made... What successes have you had?
I can safely say that these tapes are the best purchase I have ever made.
My life has turned around as a result. I am not totally 'cured' but I can
recognise that my thoughts and beliefs are often totally irrational and unrealistic and take positive steps to address this. I am much more accepting of myself and my abilities and I value myself much more.
These are some of the things I have done with the help of the tape series.
Carry out a presentation at work.
A radio interview (still not sure how I managed this one!!!!).
Be more open with people. I have made some great friendships over the last year or two.
See myself as more of an equal rather than a 'hanger on'.
Stop those post mortem thoughts in their tracks.
Worry much less.
And loads more that I've forgotten. As you start to feel better you do forget what you couldn't do.
As I said I'm not cured. I don't think I ever will be as this is an unrealistic expectation. There are times in everyone's life when they will feel anxious but I accept this now. I still have issues to deal with but the world is no longer the dark and depressing place it once was. It now holds many challenges and opportunities. The tape series was a starting point really. I feel it has highlighted other areas of my life that I can now look at.
What advice do you have for others?
I strongly believe that a positive attitude can overcome any problem. I also believe that you have to look inside yourself for the answers - no one else can tell you what to do, although they can be supportive. This may mean resolving some uncomfortable issues from the past and then looking forward positively to the future. From my own experience, I can strongly recommend the tape series as a means of moving forward if you are really committed and motivated for change (This is important. The therapy is not hard but it does require time, commitment and discipline to stick with it).
Don't blame other people and dwell on situations from the past. It may well be that a certain person is responsible for making you feel the way you do now. Acknowledge this and get professional help if necessary but then move on to take positive steps to deal with the challenges you face. Don't live in the past. I have learned that, as an adult, it is up to me, and ONLY me, to choose how I feel about myself and how I see the world around me. Join a self-help group, read books on SA, get some CBT, speak to people online, look at the websites, go to the SA meets. I believe that we ALL have great internal resources at our disposal if we can only learn to believe in ourselves.
THERE IS HOPE OF RECOVERY! You may have to search for the help you need but
there is more help available for SA than ever before (particularly self-help,
which for me was the most helpful). If you look hard it will be out there somewhere. If I can do it, anybody can!
Sammie feels she has had SA all her life - both as a result of naturally being
very sensitive towards other people and how they view her (which has included
taking the actions and behaviours of others the wrong way, and always thinking people
hated her), and also as result of being bullied.
Sammie with a West End show star.
Sammie had a few close
relationships with people at school but she felt that they always used to turn
out badly or that they would 'go off' her. In recent months Sammie has made
great strides in overcoming her SA and associated agoraphobia from taking the
first tenuous steps in attending SA-UK meetings, to attending self-defence
classes and theatre groups and gently re-exposing herself to the challenges of
Sammie is 28.
How has SA affected your life?
Sammie: SA has extremely affected my life from leaving school at 15, to moving
school because I was bullied, then getting bullied again at another school, to
being agoraphobic for nearly 3 years. I couldn't stand to go out and see people
who I knew who I thought would hurt me. Its so hard to put this into a story
cause their was so much more to it.
When did you decide to get help? Where did you look for it?
I have never had any proper help, only meds and the support of my family, and
also the will power in myself to get better. I did have a counsellor for a few
weeks 3 years ago before I became agoraphobic but it was so surreal - I needed
more than just a counsellor - but finding this site was very helpful and it also
motivated me to move on. I found that knowing people who also had SA
didn't make me feel so alone and to have the opportunity to talk about my
problems via the discussion forums and chat rooms helped a great deal.
The meets were of great benefit because you actually get out there and meet new
people. When you don't have any friends it's nice to go out with those
that understand you. I remember a long time ago there was an article in
the 'You' magazine about depression, it sounded just like me and it gave me a
website address. I didn't know there were any Social Anxiety websites at
the time, so that prompted me to buy my computer. That was the best thing I ever
did as through the depression site I met someone from this site who mentioned it
and from that day I have been a regular at the SA-UK site.
I did go through a phase of buying lots of self help books which helped a
little, I also have the Doctor Richards' CBT tapes. Although they seemed v
helpful and I know have been beneficial to many I found I couldn't concentrate
on them which can often be a problem for people suffering from depression so I
prefer to just do what I can whilst trying to remain positive. The Gillian
Butler book 'Overcoming Social Anxiety' is very good and I would recommend that
to anyone experiencing Social Anxiety problems. I guess in a way that's why I
recommend the SA-UK meetings as well as its more a case of just getting out
without having to concentrate too much, as is the case for the site chat rooms
and so I'd even recommend that as an initial step in helping to recognise and
overcome Social Anxiety and agoraphobia...it certainly helped me on my way.
Tell us about the progress you have made... What successes have you had?
The progress I have made is fantastic. I never thought I'd be leaving the house,
but I went from not opening the front door to going to London to an SA-UK
meeting, and it was all on my own back.
It's so hard to explain but I think I was so fed up of living this way and I
finally thought that if I went out in the world again what else could hurt me as
I was already hurt enough. I can now go out my front door although it's still
hard, and I still watch to see if people can see me, I block those feelings out.
I never used to go into town and now I do. I have a friend who used
to go round with my old set of friends and I have recently been to her house.
I thought everyone would be horrible to me, but they were so kind. The thoughts
in my head were not real they were telling me lies. I guess a lot of
people used to tell me I was worthless especially an ex-partner I had and it
made me believe I was. But I know now they put thoughts into my head and it
wasn't true. I have started to get out more on my own again and I'm going to see
we will rock you on my own in London soon too. Now I couldn't have done that 3
years ago. Although I still don't have many friends I'm happy that way till I
gain ones I trust, it will happen to you too.
What advice do you have for others?
All I can say for you guys who want to get better is along the way you will have
highs and lows.... but the highs outweigh the lows, please don't be scared. I
know when we are low we don't want to do anything because the fright is so
strong but you can get out of that by just going for it. At first you might have
a few mishaps but don't let that put you off. Ok, this may sound silly but I
found wearing a baseball hat or bennie, gave me more confidence to go out, as
no-one would recognise me and I felt safer that way. I still pull my baseball
cap down so no-one can see my face, it helps me, do what ever helps you to go
out... even maybe to buy yourself a treat so you have a good memory after you
have been thorough all the emotional strain of getting there.
What plans do you have for your future?
I guess I can plan for the future now whereas before I never thought I'd have a
future apart from sitting at home and not going out... now I want a
relationship, kids, career, friends! I want to be able to enjoy going out for
walks, which I am now doing now.
I have also taken up martial arts (its gave me a lot of confidence) mainly as I
was bullied at school and I always felt I could never fight back. Now I can,
though I doubt and I hope that the situation will ever arise where I would need
I also am in a drama club though only doing the makeup at the moment but would
like to go onto other things. I guess its my determination that makes me want to
do these things and if I fail at least I know I have tried. Staying positive and
just trying is the most important thing and to forget the 'what ifs'. I also
would like to move to London and marry Tony Vincent (lol) but that's a dream!
David is 26 years old and Irish. He worked as a geologist for a few years, but now works in the family business. He is single, and living at home in the Northwest of Ireland.
David has tried many different treatments for his SA (including CCBT, NHS CBT, and Seroxat), and while he feels he is still only "30-50%" towards his goals, he has made a number of "huge leaps forward" towards a more fulfilling life. David's successes are inspiring proof of his determination, and as David says, he is "determined and hopeful - which counts for a lot".
How has SA affected your life?
I suppose my Social Anxiety really became noticeable when I was in my teens. I felt like the odd one out and different to others and got very anxious around people, even my close friends. Relationships were always a struggle and I often ended up doing things on my own to relieve myself of this unbearable tension.
My anxiety really kicked when I turned 16 (in 1994). I went to University in Belfast, where I felt a terrible sense of emptiness take form inside of me; self-consciousness, feeling weird/strange, avoiding people on the street, intense anticipatory anxiety, a general feeling of worthlessness, and a feeling that I was somehow not good enough and that there was no point to my life. I went to Aberdeen Uni in 1998 to do a Masters and my Social Anxiety really intensified. Life became unbearable - I could barely leave my flat, and I felt like I was going insane, and that I had somehow completely detached from the world around me. I used to avoid people completely - I would do things by myself and avoid people on the street. I stopped contacting friends because I thought they all hated me and that they thought I was a weirdo.
I felt completely incompetent and very low in myself as a person and was terrified of exposing this to people. I basically suffered from an intense fear of what people thought of me to the point where I would spend days ruminating and worrying about previous social encounters.
My lowest point was in the winter of 1998, when severe depression set in. I felt that there was no point to life, no point to myself, and no point to my future. My self-esteem was at an all time low and I didn't know how to turn my life around. I didn't know what I wanted from life, or even if I deserved to have a happy life. I just wanted so desperately to be normal!
How did you find help? Where did you look for it?
I didn't realise I had Social Anxiety until I surfed the web, found the SAI website, and bought the Thomas Richards tape series in Autumn 2001.
You could not describe the feeling that I felt [upon finding out about SA]. I had found that this thing I had actually had a name, and that other people out there seemed to be suffering this dark hell that I was enduring. I tried to tell my family but I don't think they understood exactly what I was going through.
I started seeing a CBT therapist in October 2002, as well as working through the tape series. I felt ashamed initially, but actually going to see somebody about my problem felt so liberating and constructive - it really gave me a sense of hope for the future, which was something that I never felt before in my life. I still suffered from the anxiety symptoms, but the key and crucial difference was that I had this overpowering sense of hope that motivated me through every day. This sense of hope was incomprehensibly liberating and uplifting!
I worked with a small local agoraphobia group in my area which was really good, and I hope to start a specific CBT therapy group in April 2003. I am presently just working through the SAI tape series and working on my cognitive and behavioral components daily.
I am finding the SAI tape series and its daily structured approach (persistency, consistency, repetition...etc) very helpful and am seeing a lot of forward movement.
Sadly, the NHS CBT therapist that I visited in my local area didn't hammer this home (the time, effort and motivation you need daily). I have met a few people who have been to this clinic and they seemed to have slipped back into their old bad habits due to the rather lax approach I believe. The thing that is really working for me at present is being disciplined enough to spend 30 minutes to an hour every day working on your cognitive strategies and consistently repeating behavioral exposures that you fear until they subside...not just once or five times. This takes a lot of effort and motivation and time but the results are paying dividends - this is my driving force ... big time!
When did you start taking Seroxat, and how has that contributed to your successes?
I have also been on Seroxat since I was 20. The drug is good and has really enhanced the quality of my life. My previous therapist believes I was giving the drug too much credit and not giving myself the credit I deserve for the progress that I was making while I was with him. I am only now starting to give myself the credit I deserve.
Mentally I feel a bit too dependant and reliant on the drug at times - often thinking that this is my crowning saviour in life. This is not the case. For instance, the drug does tend to diminish your attraction to the opposite sex. Another side effect is the withdrawal symptoms - I tried coming off them when I was 21, and again last February, and I got all sorts of really nasty thoughts and nightmares, as well as extremely agoraphobic. And that was using a gradual approach to coming off them as well. At present my previous therapist has told me to stay on them until the end of the year to give me a boost to my recovery process.
Tell us about the progress you have made... What successes have you had?
I suffered from debilitating bouts of anticipatory anxiety before ringing friends on the phone or meeting them at their house or in a pub. I also suffered from intense anticipatory anxiety before entering public places, shops, banks, walking on the street, dealing with customers, talking with a person at a checkout, and being the centre of attention. All these things caused my anxiety to go through the roof and I would usually avoid them at all costs and if I did go through with them I often beat myself up viciously for days after. My old way of dealing with this was to avoid these things at all costs at the expense of becoming a very sad and lonely person.
But now the CBT has really helped me a lot. Different techniques, like peacefully accepting yourself, understanding your rights as a human being, and turning around the intense negative beliefs/images into more rational ones have all worked well. I used to have a love/hate relationship with my friends - I wanted to hang around with them but I couldn't bear the anxiety that I experienced before, during, and afterwards, caused by my intense fear of exposing my insecurity and thus my worthlessness as a human being. I was in a dreaded vicious circle and always beating myself up. Now my anticipatory anxiety has reduced dramatically, and one of the best gains is that I have noticed that if I do slip up, stutter a bit and expose my insecurity I automatically don't care - where as before I would have beat myself to a bloody pulp.
I gave a presentation last week, can go to the pub now, can go out for the day with people (a big no-no before), can express my opinion in a group, and be the centre of attention without feeling too anxious. I am a keen rock climber and also love going clubbing, but always felt these things were becoming less doable in my life due to my intense fear and dread about the social part. Now I feel I am more in control of these social avenues in my life and can ring friends aimlessly to see if they fancy doing either.
I feel that there is a lot more definition to my life at present. I feel that a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and the work that I have done has given me a healthier range of options to my life, rather that just sitting in my house feeling sorry for myself. The fact that I am starting to feel more confident in myself and in how I interact with people has simply put changed my life completely.
I have encountered quite a few setbacks, usually when I believe my progress is going well and get a bit lazy. But the great thing about a setback is that it shows me how far I have come and gives my motivation a kick start.
I have seen small, steady but very powerful changes in myself, and how I interact with friends and people in general. I am starting to develop intimate relationships (gradually) for the first time in my life. The fact that I have seen these changes happen has given me tremendous hope to keep on going with my CBT and continue to keep facing my fears as often as I can.
I will hopefully soon be starting a group therapy in Sligo, Ireland. I am not completely recovered, but I have come a hell of a long way from 5 years ago, and I am determined to keep the successes coming.
What do you see for your future, and what advice do you have for others?
As for progress in the future, I would like to keep hammering home the good work that I have been doing for myself. I would also like to develop some meaningful relationships with my good friends, and hopefully with a partner at some point in the future. This is something that I have always craved but am starting to learn that it's no big deal, especially now I have started to like myself. I suppose a house, and a well paid job related to my qualification are definitely on my list after that.
The best advice that I could give is that if you decide to try a version of CBT, you need to keep working at it daily, stay determined, don't give up, and be persistent - as I have only recently discovered that is how the real progress is made.
Stefano is an Italian in his early thirties who lives in London. Having suffered from SA since he was in his early teens, he struggled for years to improve the quality of his life. He experimented with different kinds of therapeutic approaches, eventually overcoming his SA.
Stefano now enjoys a satisfying social life and his progress with social anxiety has been paralleled by a career change that brought him from an office job to a fulfilling career as a therapist. He has discovered a passion for working with people, and is especially passionate about helping SA people overcome their anxieties and get the satisfaction they are looking for and deserve in their lives.
How has SA affected your life?
SA has seriously affected my life. My social anxiety peaked in my late teens/early twenties, but I can recall several SA situations in my childhood, which makes me believe that the seeds for my social anxiety have actually been sown very early in my life.
I avoided being together with people. The thought of being around people just wasn't attractive to me; it did not represent pleasure in my mind. In fact, social interactions where a source of pain most of the time. I had a limited social life, with a few good friends and even a rock band, but I never really thoroughly enjoyed any of that. I avoided social situations whenever possible. A negative feeling, lingering and oppressive, accompanied me at all times. I lived in fear of people. I envied the popular guys who seemed to find it so easy to have fun with people, and to be liked by people. I found it such a tiring work, not even worth the effort.
It felt like I had fallen into a dark pit, where I lived a lonely, depressed and frustrated life. Every time I tried to climb its walls, I fell back and hurt myself. There was no one to share my feelings with, I thought nobody could understand me and that nobody could help. I desperately wanted to connect to people, to be accepted and be liked, but often the only thing to come back to me was negative feedback, and people finding me cold and distant. I frequently felt like there was a mighty force locked inside myself, which I could not understand nor express. Sometimes I just felt like screaming incoherently at the world, and at myself. I was frightened by what was going on inside me.
My social anxiety came together with powerful physical symptoms. I felt very tense, especially in my abdomen and my back muscles. In front of people I tended to become physically tense, my heartbeat accelerated and often my face flushed up.
When did you decide to get help- where did you look for it?
In time I realised that I needed to confront my social anxiety, that this was absolutely critical to improve the quality of my life. Too scared to seek help from people, I looked for help from books, and started to browse through the "self-help" section in bookstores. I began to read books, finding new titles and authors, following new leads, reading more and more. I didn't find much in terms of SA-specific help; nonetheless this stage has been important for me, because it gave me hope and it showed me that there were supportive voices out there for people like me.
Finding the SA-UK website also gave me a lot of hope about my situation. It was great to see that I was not alone in my pain, and that people wanted to get together to share their experiences and their feelings.
I put the first milestone in my journey "out of the dark pit" when I decided to get bodywork to relieve the physical discomfort I felt. I knew that I needed something deep, structural, which could release these powerful forces locked inside myself. Following on some information provided by a book, I decided to try a bodywork technique called Rolfing. Together with the physical release, emotions and feelings deeply buried somewhere inside myself came to the surface, got moved around and re-arranged themselves in new patterns. The treatments I was receiving made me understand the awesome power of touch. Since then, I have come to realise that any anxiety has physical manifestations, and that skillful bodywork can be decisive in the resolution of psychological problems.
The second milestone was my work with Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which significantly contributed to improve the quality of my life. I had already tried working with some other approaches, like hypnotherapy, which had helped a little, but had not provided decisive benefits. In just a couple of sessions of NLP, I made important steps forward. I then decided to attend a residential NLP training, which had a deep impact on me from many points of view, and one of the primary benefits was a new and more resourceful way to interpret and approach social situations.
Tell us about the progress you have made...what successes have you had?
I feel socially free. Years ago I was constantly feeling uncomfortable around people. Just making eye contact would make me feel uneasy. This is no longer the case now; I feel like it is OK to be around people, I know that I can have fun with people.
There still are situations when I feel anxious or worried about interacting with people, but now these situations are the exception, and in the last year I have been able to manage stressful situations that in the past would have shattered me. I now have fun investigating my perceptions, my responses to different situations and my physical tensions. It is a challenging and fulfilling process of discovery.
I am now a qualified massage therapist, and interaction with people is the essence of my work. What a big change! I have realised that physical contact, touch, has a great relaxing power. There has been a popular post on this topic in the SA-UK discussion forum some months ago, which shows me that a lot of other SA people share that belief with me.
From time to time people remark that I have good social skills. While at the beginning I couldn't believe my ears, I have now become used to my transformed social behaviours and I feel fine about them.
What advice do you have for others?
An important fact to acknowledge is that there are a lot of socially anxious people in the world. You don't usually see or hear about SA, because SA people hide, but in fact there are a lot of them around. SA people usually tend to feel unique, and lonely, in their condition. Thinking that they are the only ones to feel socially anxious, they compare themselves to the "world outside" and develop an inferiority complex. This is what happened to me, and I think this is an experience common to a lot of SA people. Realising that thousands of people are affected by social anxiety is very important; a community like SA-UK is very important for this.
Another important fact to acknowledge is that EVERYONE experiences anxiety in relation to social interactions, or just to the thought of social interactions. It is a matter of degrees of anxiety. Some people are highly stressed, some others just mildly so. Some people are anxious in a large range of social situations, others just in specific contexts. Anxiety is a component in the social life of everyone. Relating to people is a very complex matter, which can generate an incredibly vast number of emotional states: love, hate, affection, fear, sympathy, indifference, boredom, jealousy, empathy just to name a few. Anxiety is just one of the possible responses. From time to time I find myself in social situations where I am feeling comfortable, and then later someone else who also was there tells me that they were feeling anxious. Most of the time I wouldn't have noticed if they hadn't told me. It looked to me like they were comfortable and behaving "naturally".
The next step after realising that everyone is socially anxious in varying degrees is realising that you can transform your responses and can feel comfortable around people. SA is a response to certain stimuli, and responses can be changed. Human beings are much more resourceful than what we usually give ourselves credit for. Our behaviours and emotional states can be changed in so many ways. It is very important to realise that we can create options for ourselves. Something else which is important is having a strong desire to change your responses, to improve the quality of your life.
Professional help in the form of counseling or psychotherapy can be very helpful. In my case, Neuro-Linguistic Programming has been very effective. Whatever the approach or the technique, it is very important that the therapist wants to understand what SA is. From what I hear, a lot of people in the healing profession do not know SA and are not prepared to step into the world of their SA client. If this is the case, progress will probably be difficult.
While you are working to neutralise SA, it is essential that you have exposure to social situations. You have to feel the change in your flesh and in your bones. You need practice, you need experimenting with a variety of behaviours and situations, so that your transformation becomes your day to day reality.
What plans do you have for your future?
My professional career in physical therapy is unfolding, and I have just decided to go back into higher education to get another degree, which is an exciting challenge.
SA remains an important part of my life. I am interested in studying SA to find ways to neutralise it, and I have started working with SA people in one-to-one sessions, where I use a variety of techniques which can help explore and resolve the social anxiety.
I have also set up a support group in London, called the London SA Support Group, which provides a safe environment where people can explore their SA. The group is open to everyone who wants to work on their SA and the only charge is for the room hire, which is split among the participants.
If it’s something you have never tried, then it’s something you will surely be aware of by now. Seroxat, the drug used to help treat both depression and anxiety has been causing a stir in the mainstream media, derided for it’s alleged link with suicide cases.
Of course, what many scribes tend, or choose, to ignore that people will turn to the drug as a last resort to help them climb out of depression and possibly allay suicidal thoughts.
Whatever, anyone still reading this probably wants the answer to one question: does it work?
Well, before attempting to answer that I must supply the obligatory disclaimer. I am NOT a doctor; I don’t claim to be, and I don’t claim to be an expert on anything drug-related. There is one thing we’re all an expert on, and that is knowing our own experiences, and that is what I intend to share.
To the question above, you will, unsurprisingly as it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, usually receive one of two answers. Sadly for you, I’m going to take the mantle of that annoying itch on your buttocks and answer “yes… and no”.
I started taking Seroxat in early 2001. I’d been suffering from what I eventually came to know as Social Anxiety (SA) for approximately seven years, fluctuating in school between the popular guy who mixed with all crowds and banged in goals for the football team, and the misfit who avoided speaking to anyone and didn’t really do anything at all. In college my attendance eventually dropped to 40% for all my classes, and when I went to Essex University for three months I didn’t attend anything at all. I’d been to a private psychiatrist, albeit briefly, prior to going, and I’d made my parents well aware that without something else, without some sort of a treatment, there was no way I would make it beyond a few weeks.
So I saw my local GP when I arrived back home, and with the NHS not being particularly useful in fixing me up with a psychiatrist, he reluctantly prescribed me this ‘wonder drug’. I’m not entirely sure how the reluctance arose; I mean the potentially negative aspects of the drug will surely have been well-circulated amongst the medical community; but then again he was keen to stress it was important not to rely on it as a crutch. Either way, put me on it he did, and to be quite honest, fuelled by it I had the greatest summer since I was a primary school kid. I didn’t go on holiday anywhere; just a stack of nights out with mates, and of the side effects extensively listed in the pamphlet I had my fair share. But it gave me such freedom; after time I didn’t have to worry about waking up the next day too afraid to leave my house, or too afraid to answer the phone.
Never did I think penis-related difficulties and insomnia would be paradise, but, compared to what I was experiencing before, that’s exactly what it was. But these side effects didn’t last that long, maybe three months or so. There are plenty of others, which I escaped; nausea, headaches and loss of appetite to name a few. It seems they’re inevitable, but a lottery as to the ones you get. Test one is valuing the potential benefits of Seroxat against these side effects. Personally, the exhaustion of the sleepless nights and the, uh, discomfort of impotence was nothing compared agony of facing an everyday social situation.
At the onset of autumn 2001, I was back at university, this time Staffordshire, with a renewed confidence. For the first time I was entering an academic year free of the constraints of my SA. Seroxat, to this point, had been saving my life. But it didn’t last. After six months, this was the first time I had been back, consistently, amongst society. For the last six months I had chilled out at home, living at my own pace. As soon as I was back under social pressure, amongst people I didn’t know, the effects of Seroxat slipped, hence the “…no” aspect of my earlier answer. Of course I can only relay my own experiences, and in my case Seroxat only seemed to work when I knew I could enter social situations at my own free will, when I wasn’t being forced to do so via circumstances on a daily basis.
It may have continued to help to a degree. My SA has always fluctuated. Some people who have only met me once or twice would describe me as hilarious, confident while showing great humility, as well as open yet polite, and tremendously sociable. Others would say I’m passive to the point of rudeness, and verbally clumsy in conversation, losing my train of thought and not paying great attention in conversation. I know which ‘me’ I prefer, but even with Seroxat I can’t achieve that consistently. Continuing to take it for a few months I was able to sustain a 66%-good record for a while, but this dipped and by Christmas I was back down to, at best, 50-50. I even took the unadvised route of taking five pills a day instead of the maximum dosage of three, desperate to regain the normality I was living throughout the summer.
After my SA took unmanageable control I dropped out once again.
Last year and this, my SA has been just as bad. But somehow, I don’t know how, I’ve fought it with inner strength that I hadn’t found before. In the past, pre-Seroxat, I had forced good spells by just being out there, be it at school, college or forcing myself out socially with my mates. I’m forcing myself into social situations now more than any other time in the last three years, and more consistently than ever since I finished college four years ago. I still get desperate, and dabble with periods of Seroxat when I feel desperate. But I’ve done so enough times now to know that it will never have the same effect as it did back when I first started taking it. Unless I experiment with an alternative at some stage, I’m battling SA with my own homemade weapons for the foreseeable future.
To someone seeking medication and wary of but willing to face the early side effects, Seroxat may be worth a try. Whether it works for you or not, one must be very careful when coming off it. I hadn’t entirely trusted the journalist hyperbole about its failings until late last year, and I still don’t really, but then I experienced its potential dangers for the first time. I had been struggling immensely, forcing myself to class as much as possible but slipping too often. I was back on it for a few weeks, taking, again, an unrecommended dosage. No luck. The day I came off it I was hit by incredible panic. Suddenly, I was asking myself what the point was. Suddenly, the reality of my situation was I was fighting a pointless battle. I hadn’t felt this way for two years; and back then no-one understood my situation. It made sense to panic; but this time it didn’t. But, whether or not it was the Seroxat making me delusional, rationality wasn’t something I particularly cared about.
That was the only time I have ever truly come close to suicide. I had emptied several weeks’ dosage of Seroxat into a glass, along with 50-odd paracetemol. I’m quite sure I would have gone through with it, too, but a random phone call from a friend, catching me in floods of tears, probably saved my life. I came out with dismissive rhetoric (“if I tell you I’m not going to do it will you go away?”) but the call itself disrupted my loneliness for long enough for the adrenaline to subside.
The timing was too coincidental too be anything but withdrawal. If anything it’s taught me a lesson to pass on: be careful, be responsible. You’re taking Seroxat to help you control your life, don’t let it control you.
My name is Emma and I'm 24. I have had SA since I was three and
have since recovered to start my own business. I thought others might like
to read about how I did this.
For as long as I can remember I have always been known as ‘incredibly shy’.
At school I always had few friends. I never went to sleepovers, parties,
days out shopping or just hanging round talking about boys and makeup.
My earliest memory of feeling fearful about joining in with the group was as
a three-year-old at a soft playgroup. I remember seeing all the children
running about, laughing and having fun. I watched them from the sidelines,
sitting always next to my mum and the other mothers. I so wanted to go and
play but always waited until there was no one else about. My mum even had to
get up early so we could be at the playgroup first. That way I could have
ten or so minutes playing with the toys before the other children arrived.
Then I would simply crawl back to my mum and site in silence.
That never really changed, as I grew older. Looking back now there are so
many things I would have loved to have tried… dance classes, art classes,
acting and even learning a musical instrument. But at the time I had no
confidence to try anything.
I managed to work hard at school. I kept my head down and always tried my
best when it came to schoolwork. Even at the age of six I knew I wanted to
go to university and become a filmmaker… so I could make Star Wars films!
That goal never diminished.
I had my problems though. Various people throughout secondary school bullied
me. I was always the one who gave up her homework so the others could copy.
I was the one at the butt of the jokes. I was the one that was often left
red-faced and humiliated.
One of the worst times of my life was when I turned fifteen. For various
reasons I was incredibly depressed. I decided that I would end it all and
take an overdose of paracetamol. I went as far as writing a note to my
parents and buying some pills. But my loyalty to my family was so strong
that I couldn’t do it to my mother. I realised that I would simply be
passing my problems straight over to her if I died and I did not want that.
Through sixth form I struggled. I was suffering from depression and had very
few close friends. Then, in one of my new A-level classes it became apparent
that we would be taking it in turns to read aloud in front of the class on a regular basis.
I lost count of how many anxiety attacks I would go through as I waited for my
name to be picked out.
One of the main factors was that I had a terrible stammer when I read. I
would lose my place in the book and repeat the same line over and over. I
would miss-pronounce words and miss-read words that were there. This new
A-level class was full of girls from the high achievers class. Girls who
were quite well to do and very popular. I remember them sniggering as I
attempted to read which always made things worse. It got so bad that one-day
the teacher had to take over from me.
Typically I ended up playing truant for most of that class until I decided
to drop it from my A-levels. It meant my dream university place went up in
smoke, but it was a price to be paid for saving my own humility.
My sixth form days went quite quickly at times. I had an attendance rate of
62% (I know this thanks to my report card). But it was never really
questioned by the teachers. After all, they had the money for my signing on
and I wasn’t one of their star pupils, so who gave a toss?
In the September of 1999 I left with two A-levels (which I just scraped with
a pass) and went to the University of Sunderland to study media. Basically,
it didn’t matter what you’re grades were for Sunderland at that time. They
would have taken a baby if it meant filling a chair. I would have rather
have gone to Northumbria to do the countries leading filmmaking degree, but
I had given up that with my third A-level. Plus my careers tutor told me
that I wasn’t the kind of person they took!
University ended up being a complete nightmare. It was 90% group work and my
attendance rate was about 30% for that. Often I would travel into Sunderland
from Newcastle, taking about an hour and half on the bus and train. I would
arrive at the platform in Sunderland, have a panic attack and then turn
round and get the train back home.
I lasted one semester before it all got too much. I was close on having a
complete breakdown, so I went and confessed to my mum what I had been
suffering with all these years.
Her reaction was “thank god for that!” This didn’t surprise me. They had
tried to get me to admit it since the age of eight but I always denied there
was a problem due to embarrassment.
I was sent to see a GP at our surgery who referred me to a psychiatrist at
SA has come one along way since 1999. At the time
it wasn’t a well-documented condition. My Doctor's knowledge of Social Anxiety was basic.
He told me I would grow out of it, but that a twelve-week anxiety management course would help me to control the symptoms.
Now attending a group was normally my idea of a nightmare. But I decided to
go and stick with it just so I could go back and say to the doctor ‘look, I
did what you said but I’m still not right’.
The anxiety group started out as a group of twelve people and two
therapists. In the second week and remaining weeks after that it was a group
of three people and two therapists. I was one of the three.
Basically this group was about learning how to relieve anxiety symptoms by meditating. It
ended up being a complete waste of time. How can mediate when your body feels like it's dying?
I wanted to correct what was causing the anxiety, rather than to learn how to breathe and count to ten
when it was occurring.
I went back to my GP surgery and saw another doctor. He turned out to be my
saving grace. He said he had seen such a rise in this condition and that in
his experience medication would be the best bet. So I was put on Seroxat.
I know that Seroxat has a bad name in the media. Personally though I haven’t
had any real problems. The first three months were the hardest. The side
effects were tiredness, muscle twitching, headaches and some nausea. One
night I even hallucinated. But they settled down in time.
Within a month of taking them I would wake up in the morning feeling
incredibly happy. It was if I couldn’t wait to get up and take on the day. I
wasn’t cured of my SA as I would rather stay in doors, but for the first
time I felt so overjoyed for no reason.
After three months I began having regular chats with my neighbour who would
wash his car every day. It started out as a quick hello, but increased slowly every
day. Normally we would discuss the football scores and it was enough for me.
After six months my confidence was growing daily. It is amazing what you can
do when you feel happy in yourself.
The only thing that was getting me down was loneliness. My parents were out
at work all day and my sister was at school. Looking at the four walls
everyday was getting me down. I didn’t feel confident enough to go out
socialising. The thought filled me with dread, but just to have someone to
share the day with was what I really craved.
So that following March I got Harry, a seven-week-old West Highland white
terrier puppy. He ended up being my cure.
Having a focus other than my phobia was really all I needed. Harry was tiny
and needed taking care of. When he got to fourteen weeks, he, like every
dog, needs to be walked. I would take him to the local park three times a
day. He loved attention and would often run over to other dog walkers in the
My fear of people some how disappeared as I ran after him. It was if the bond I was developing just overpowered any thoughts of anxiety.
The other person would always ask me how old he was and what he liked to do. It was
amazing how taking the focus off me and putting it on to him made my SA
symptoms slowly disappear. Yes, I was nervous at first. But doing it three times a day, everyday, made it become eassier.
I was happy to talk about him to anyone who came upon us. I got to know
certain dog walkers quite well and slowly they would ask me questions about
me and I would ask questions about them. It was a slow process, but it was just the right pace for me to adjust.
There were some people who weren’t so friendly but Harry seemed to know
instinctively and would pull me away from them. He even pulled me off the park
one day. He just didn’t want to walk and pulled me towards home. I called
him ‘lazy’ until I read in the news that just ten minutes later a man hiding
in the bushes had attacked a girl just meteres from where I had been standing. Something like that
would send anyone into a mental state, but for me it would have undone so much hard work - and probably more.
My growing confidence was on such a high that I decided I wanted to try
University again. This time I would apply to the course I had always wanted
to do – film production at Northumbria. I knew it would be hard so I made
sure I studied for the extra qualifications I needed to make the entry.
In the June I had a letter from them saying I had been selected for
interview. It was the first time I had done anything so important.
Apparently 600 people had applied from around the world and they were
offering interview to 200. I was lucky to get this far and was determined
not to screw it up.
I sat in a room with six other people waiting for my interview. They were
just as nervous as me, which was actually reassuring. My interview was with
two of the male tutors. I told them about my SA and they informed me that they would
be able to accommodate me by offering extra support or exchanging
presentations for written work.
I went away quite proud of myself.
Three weeks later I received a phone call. I was told that that only 30 candidates had been
chosen for the course… and I was one of them! I was over the moon!
Plus it was only a couple of hours a day of classes, so I could still spend
the rest of the day with Harry ay home.
One of the big worries for me was the reading. There was a lot of reading to
do and I was so incredibly slow. As it turned out, my university suggested a
dyslexia test for new students. I was found to be dyslexic and had a poor
reading ability because of it. But they said that it was common for people
on my course. Apparently highly creative people tend to be dyslexic.
Three years later I graduated with a 2.1 honours degree.
My SA at that point had pretty much disappeared. I had the occassional anxiety
attack about certain situations, but they were never as bad as they used to
be. Plus, I used my 'little bit at a time' routine that I had devised thanks to Harry and it
did help a lot.
Whilst I was at University I had had an idea. It seemed like a good idea and
I discussed it with my family. I have to say that some people thought ‘how
the heck could she ever pull that off’, some people thought I was just all
mouth. My mum though said I should go for it…so I did.
Now, nearly two years later I turned my idea into Launchpad Media Ltd. A
company dedicated to providing new opportunities and businesses at the
I’ve reached two business award finals, been in the newspapers, met some
very important people and have attended some big ceremonies… generally
anxiety free. Plus Harry gets to come to work with me and is still dragging
me round new people so he can get a scratch.
At this moment in time I’m preparing for a big business presentation, which
I will make to an award panel. If I’m successful it could mean investment in
my company. If I’m not, then it means I’ve still succeeded by attending a
presentation I would normally have run away from.
It's amazing what you can do when determination takes control. Set a goal and
do a tiny bit day by day. It's amazing how confident you will feel once you make that first step.
Then you'll sit and wonder what you were so afraid of - trust me!
Getting a dog is a big responsibility. You shouldn’t rush out
and get one just to treat your phobia. A dog needs a responsible owner just
as much as you need a friend.
It all started when I was about 15. I remember feeling reasonably confident about life and able to talk in front of class without a second thought. Then one day when I started to speak in class I began to shake violently and the seed was sewn. I retreated away from my friends into my room and on my computer frightened by what was happening. My mind from then on would do everything it could to protect me from facing that situation again and that was half the problem.
I spent sleepless nights hoping the next day I would not be asked to read aloud in class. I knew it was totally irrational and could not make sense of if I was ashamed and couldnt tell anyone. My confidence evaporated. I thought I was going mad. I could not see anyone else having this problem. I found it harder and harder to enjoy life. I was terrified of being close to people. I never dared have a girlfriend. Part of me knew I was a great person to be with. Did I have to be perfect!
My anxiety at being "found out" for being scared continued through education and throughout my life. I could not understand why I was terrified of showing any vulnerablity/anxiety and that merely served to exacerbate the problem. I could never fight it. It was later I learned that this was counter productive.
I wasted 3 years at university when I should have been living it up and having a great time. Anxious every day that people would notice me or pay attention to me or ask me questions. It may seem far fetched but I remember wishing I had been born without a tongue. I could not sign my name properly in the bank as my hands shook so much.
I thought I would try and tackle my SA head on, my life was passing me by as I huddled in a corner. I got a bar job to face my fears that were out of all proprotion. The problem didn't go away. I could hardly pour the first drink of the night without my heart pumping and my hands shaking. Around this time I sought hypnotherapy which was very expensive. I have to say that for me it did not work. Positive thinking was not enough to release me from the trap, it didnt change my responses in the long term. I was so utterly frustrated by the insidious nature of SA. Whenever I thought it might be gone it reared its ugly head.
I drank alot to mask the feelings and the fears. I told my family that I had been to the doctors with anxiety, I was so ashamed. My father admitted to me that he had suffered in a similar way when he was young which was a great relief. He died a couple of years later though due to alcohol abuse. I cannot help but feel it was related to his anxiety. I wondered whether this problem was brought about through nature or nurture. In my case both could be responsible. I do not know the answer.
I have subsequently taken seroxat and beta blockers. Im still not sure whether seroxat did me any good. It made me a bit too emotionally detached. The best way I can describe it is it was like watching my life on tv, I lost all my feelings. When you are at the bottom though, that is a desirable state of affairs. Im sure many of you will agree on that
As Ive got older my symptoms have almost disappeared. I must say though in some situations, particularly in relationships, they come back again. Life is much better these days though. I think the best thing I did was to stop drinking so much, eat better and do exercise. Mountains became mole-hills again and my confidence came back a little.
I finally told friends about my problem and met others with the same. When I learnt about this website in 2000 it was such a comfort to know I wasn't alone. People with SA are the most fascinating and thoughtful people you'll meet anyway in my books, but then I would say that.
My greatest acheivement came when I was best man for my brother. I did a speech in front of 100 people. I would never have imagined I'd ever do that. I was finally glad I had my tongue!
Thanks for reading my ramble. I wish everyone the very best.
A journey to confidence - Paul's Story
I was always shy at school, I hid away in classes only speaking when I had to and avoiding the spotlight in the classroom. It was different on the football or rugby teams often captaining sides and being a leader in non school activities.
The first time my problem showed itself physically was in class when asked to read a passage from Shakespear. I was sitting at the front of the class and felt all eyes on me. I stated to blush, then sweat, then stutter and falter. This made everyone stare and made it worse! The teacher said "Dont you want to read this?" thinking I was deliberately messing around and asked someone else to take over. This experience left me open to ridicule by classmates and made me even more shy, confused and unwilling to participte in any activity.
It was the same talking to girls, I got embarrassed, blushed, sweated, said something daft and fled. I must have appeared very rude and diffident. At best I appeared painfully shy.
All through college I kept out of the limelight and the same when I started work in the Civil Service. I continued like this for 20 years with the problem getting worse and worse until one day I could no longer hide it from others.
By now I was a team leader/project manager and had many responsibilities. I was under a lot of pressure and I hated going to meetings always felt sweat on my body but apparently I was good at my job. The pressure grew until at one meeting I found I was sweating profusely on my forehead. I was always very fit but here I was sweating more than from any running I did. It was actualy dripping off my face. Everyone could see this not only was I embarrassed but I was making everyone else uncomfotable to see this. Eventually I mde some excuse and ran.
After that I found the same happening in all situations where I was the centre of attention. It would happen in the queue in the supermarket or at the checkout in any shop if there was someone else arround. I had some dreadful experiences in the barbers if anyone was waiting behind for their turn. Meetings at work were horrific and even talking to colleagues left me dripping sweat and making excuses to run away.
I couldn't make a phone call at home or at work without sweating profusely. This was without anyone able to hear me at my end. I never made a call when I could be overheard.
I was so worried about this happening that I didn't go out at all, I had no social life, my work sufferred. What was wrong with me? No one else had problems like this! I tried explaining to a friend - they didn't understand and said that everyone gets nervous at times.
Eventually I went to a doctor (am ordeal in it'self) and he gave me Seroxat. It didn't help and I didn't like the idea of chemicals messing with my brain. I then spent a small fortune on self-help books and tapes plus natural remedies, meditation and visits to a hypnotist. In a couple of years I spent several hundreds of pounds but nothing worked. Each time I tried a different approach I started all enthusiastically but hope always was dashed at the next meeting or shopping expedition.
I know we are all different and that differnt strategies will work for different people and eventually I found something that helped, I wont say cured because I believe like a reformed alcoholic a relapse is alway possible, and it was free!
It is possible that other approaches may have worked but I just wanted this problem gone immediately as each attack is such a debilitating experience and makes you feel so worthless. Also it is so frustrating as you know how much better life would be without it. And maybe that was the key to it!
I'd read about positive affirmations and maybe telling yourself you can do all the things you want helps, but actually visualising yourself succeeding was the key. Actually seeing yourself succeeding, seeing others seeing you succeeding. Imagining how good life would be when the problem was gone. Running these scenarios in your mind gives confidence but how to handle the physical symptons? The answer appeared to be - breathing correctly! Sitting quietly and breathing deeply and slowly, maybe 6-8 times a minute brings a feeling of calmness. I practiced this several times a day.
But this still wasn't enough I had to prepare for each situation. At the start of each meeting or joining a queue in a shop I had to remember to control my breathing well before the point the panic usually set in. Also pretending to be a confident person helped. Imagine the other people were seeing a confident person standing before them.
And it helped! There were the occasional relapse, maybe I hadn't started my breathing control in time or hadn't prepared by imagining a confident me but now I had a strategy to cope! The nervousness and apprehension are always with me, but now I've got a much better chance of getting through.
My last project at work was a very high profile, high pressure task involving many meetings and giving presentations. I succeeded but it was always very difficult. The nights before meetings always brought visions of previous failings but I know I'm better than before and I'm slowly building up a record of successes.
I started by saying that maybe I have not been as successful as others because I know I'll never be free of this but I feel I can now mostly cope. Also now I don't have the same pressure on me as I've taken an escape route and taken an early (very) retirement and I do part time outdoor manual work where it doesn't matter if you sweat.
Throughout my career I've always had to set aims and targets. I have always aimed to beat this but since discovering recently that I'm not alone in this, another aim is to help others. If my story helps or you would like more detail please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was always known as the shy one at school, right from the start. As far back as nursery school, I can remember being too scared to ever go on the slide, even though I desperately wanted to try it like everyone else. I knew from a very early age that I was different to most other kids. Not only was I the quiet one, I was also 'the clever one'. I was always top of my class in every subject and this lead to me being singled out more than most of the other kids. I would never voluntarily stick my hand up, even though I usually knew the answer because I hated being centre of attention. I was always frightened of being picked on and bullied, even though I never really was, so did everything to remain in the shadows. Unfortunately for me, the teachers wanted the exact opposite! If no one knew the answer, they would come to me and I would spend whole lessons panicking inwardly, my heart racing away as I waited for the inevitable moment when it was my turn to answer a question.
Even worse, I was chosen to take lead roles in school plays, even though I had no desire to act or be in front of a crowd, simply because I was 'the clever one'. Most kids might have kicked up a fuss and complained to their parents but I was too scared to even do that. I would do anything to keep the peace and not cause a scene, so ended up having to dance on my own in one play, in front of the whole school - a terrifying ordeal which only sunk me deeper into my phobia. I was playing Hiawatha the American Indian, and the skirt I was wearing kept inching its way down my body as I danced, to much laughter from the pupils. You'd think I would've declined my next role but I still didn't dare to say anything when I was assigned the lead role in the navity play. I had to sing a whole verse on my own dressed as a spaceman (don't ask!) and I still to this day have never felt so frightened. I don't know how I got through it but I did. You'd think that would've been the boost in confidence I needed but things only got worse.
As I went into secondary school, I had to make new friends for the first time. Before, I had always had a best friend but now I was separated from them and had to make an effort with strangers. I just didn't know how to do it, my social skills being very limited because I never went out to play with kids after school. I was always in on my own, playing with my toys and so I didn't know any other way. The friends I made, I never ever felt close to. I was always associated with three other lads in my class but I was always the outsider. If we had to get in groups of 3, I was always the one left over who had to go with the 'cast offs' and form another group. Whilst everyone else had formed their own cliques, I was left with 3 lads who I had litlte in common with. One of them was racist and would every now and then make nasty comments about my colour or goad the other two into joining in - some friends. Most break times I would walk around the corridors on my own or sit in the toilets waiting for the bell. Unless I was playing football (the only time when I ever felt happy and confident), I was almost always alone.
When I left school, things started to get even worse. I used to hide away indoors playing computer games most of the time but I now had to face my fears as an adult. I went to college but again, had to make new friends and struggled. I ended up skipping classes and doing poorly in my final year and as a result, not being able to get into a good uni. The only course I did well in was English. I always loved to write and this helped massively. It was the only class that I made friends in and could feel my true self coming through and I had a wonderful teacher which helped. But I didn't socialise with the friends I made, never called them and didn't think that they would ever want to see me outside of class. I used to eat alone in the canteen but stopped doing this after a while because I felt like I was being watched and lsneered at for being a loner.
After college I was so distraught that I didn't dare go straight to uni. I got my first job but ended up leaving after a month because I felt like such an outsider. I hated being the new lad and didn't know how to speak to people and join in conversation. I would spend lunch times hidden away in the toilets or go out for walks to get away from the tension building. I ended up on the dole for a year before I had the courage to got to university but that was a disaster too.
I thought a new city would be a fresh start and chance to re-invent myself but I remember being one of the last people to arrive in my halls of residence. Even though I was only a couple of days later than most poeple, I felt like I had missed the boat. People were already chatting and seemed to be mates and I felt like an outsider again. I never recovered from this. Even though I made the odd friend who should've become close under normal circumstances, it never lasted because I never thought they would really want to be my friend. By then, I'd gotten so used to being alone that I was totally out of my comfort zone in social situations. When people knocked on my door or invited me down the pub, I would often say no, just to avoid being around a group of people. I would always fade into the background not knowing what to say and whenever I did try, my voice was so quiet that I was often ignored or talked over by more outgoing types. In the end, I felt 'happier' just being alone watching TV. It was more comfortable and I wasn't anxious.
The only time I would ever go out was when we were going to a club. That way, I could be drunk, which was the only time I felt confident. But because I'd never had a serious girlfriend, I was so desperate to find one that I spent my time staggering around chatting up women instead of being with and getting to know friends. I would always end up on my own at the end of the night or sleeping with a woman. Even that didn't make me feel any better in the long run because I got a lot of rejections, many fake phone numbers and went on countless first dates where I probably put the woman off with my lack of self esteem, quietness and negativity - very different to how I was when drunk.
This was roughly when I started to first get seriously depressed. In the holidays I had no friends back home because I'd severed contact with my school friends and didn't keep in touch with the few college friends I had. The same happened with university and I was so timid that I didn't even turn up for graduation day.
After uni, I had no friends at all who kept in contact with me regularly and could go months without getting a text. My life was literally spent watching TV and playing music in my bedroom and I was so used to being alone that the thought of even having a friend and making the effort to be with other people, was something that worried me as much as spending my days by myself. I started going out drinking on my own to relieve the monotony, going to clubs purely to meet women. I've spent so many hours sat in the toilets in a club waiting for it to fill up so I'm less conspicuous, you would not believe it! In my second year at uni I got into drugs. It was the only time I was ever happy and I did ecstasy whenever I could. I never really liked alcohol, so it became a substitute. But after uni, I found myself using it more and more for every day things. I even had driving lessons and job interviews whilst high. During the week, my depression would go through the roof due to the drug come down and I would lock myself away in my room all week, only coming down when my house mates weren't around to cook food. It became a vicious circle of taking drugs to feel good, chatting up women whilst confident and then when it all went wrong with the woman, feeling doubly depressed until it was time to go out again.
It was whilst at my lowest ebb, crying my eyes out on a come down, that I decided I had to change. I had a crap job, no money, no friends and had to move back in with my parents. I didn't think about going to a doctor as I thought I'd just be told I was shy, would grow out of it or that nothing could be done. Besides, I was too scared to go to a doctor. I couldn't even do simple every day things such as catch a bus, go to a barber or phone my parents. I would do anything to avoid catching a bus in particular, even walking for miles in the rain, as I was so afraid of all those eyes on me as I got on and off. I was worried about tripping up and being laughed at or having the wrong change and scolded by the driver and would never dare to eat, read or listen to music for fear that someone might be upset or think I was rude or just be watching me. I wouldn't even wipe the window if it was steamed up or open it if I was hot or close it if cold. I would never ring the bell and get off on my own. I would only get off if I saw other people doing so, as I felt better if I wasn't being the only one watched as they disembark. Sometimes I 'd go on several stops past my house just through fear off getting off on my own.
Shops were the other major problem. I would never go into town on Saturday day time due to the crowds. If I had to go it would only be once or twice a year, to get birthday gifts or new clothes. I would be riddled with insecurities, never making eye contact and always thinking that everyone else was looking at me and thinking negative thoughts. I was constantly obsessed with the thought that people thought I was a shoplifter, so would make up scenarios in my head whereby I 'acted' as innocently as I could to prove that I was a genuine customer. I would even stay in a shop where I didn't want to buy anything, walking around pretending to look at stuff I didn't want, in case the staff thought I was leaving without a purchase cos I was a theif. Sometimes I had to build up courage for half an hour just to walk through the exit, as I was terrified of the alarm accidentally going off. I would leave a shop if it got too busy or if there was a queue for changing rooms and if I was trying stuff on, I'd never come out and look in the full length mirror. Sometimes I'd even not try on all my items as I panicked about taking too long and upsetting waiting customers.
In the end I was so lonely and depressed that I went to hypnotherapy as I'd heard about it on TV. I'm amazed to say that just one hour saved me - probably saved my life. As soon as I walked out of the session, I was a new man. I was deliberately making eye contact with strangers and smiling at them - I never, ever did that! I started testing out things I'd never done before, such as crossing the road without using a pedestrian crossing, and I could instantly do it! Every day I did something I'd never done before and did it confidently - from using an umbrella to not letting others push in front at the bar!
The turn around in my life was spectaculary quick. I went from a 9k a year dead end job, to my dream job - club promoting and DJ-ing, within the space of a year! I won a national DJ competition and was playing to small crowds. Despite initial nerves, I really enjoyed being the centre of attention for the first time in my life. Once I realised that I could acheive almost anything, even the setback of losing my job didnt stop me. I was positive instead of negative and proactive instead of waiting for things to happen. I suddenly started having lots of 'luck', instead of things always going seemingly wrong for me. I became a teacher, which I'd always wanted to be and ended up living in London, which I'd always wanted to try. I found a stunning girlfriend there and had my first ever serious relationship - I was 28 at the time.
In London, I didn't know a single person, so it was a massive step for me, showing just how much I'd recovered. I even set up my own website to organise meet ups for people new to London and made all of my friends through this. The teaching and the event organising put my confidence to unheard of levels, to the point where I decided to make one final massive step in my life - to go travelling. I ended up backpacking in Asia and The Pacific for a year and it was the best year of my life, something I never thought I'd have the guts to do and fulfilling a dream I'd had since I was 7.
Since I returned, things have not been so good. With no job initially and having to move back to my home town, I lost contact with all my new London friends. I'd felt part of a group for the first time in my life, not just on the periphery. In fact, I was at the centre and I loved it! I had felt myself start to slip back into my old ways as I don't have many friends in my home town. I joined Facebook but that only served to highlight how many people I'd lost touch with, how few true friends I really had and how great everyone else's life seemed to be compared to mine. That was when I came across this website. The relief on discovering that I wasn't the only one with these issues and that I could actually put a name to my problem and wasn't some weirdo, was so great that it has given me a new lease of life. I am now writing my first ever book (another dream of mine) about my travels and life as an SA sufferer and have also found a new career as a poker player! I plan to move back to London next year and although I am going to have to start over again with my relationships, I have the confidence and positivity that hypnotherapy has instilled within me and I know that I will be happy once again. I have also spoken to my family about it for the first time and it is a massive weight lifted from me.
I have suffered with social anxiety for about 8 years now, it started really when I had a
relationship breakdown and started university at around the same time, the all too familiar people
and surroundings that I had become accustomed to at college and with my partner had vanished and I
felt very exposed and venerable. I met a really nice man a few months later and that's when the
blushing started, not like the anxiety alone was enough to deal with I now had physical symptoms
that showed the whole world how I was feeling. Any situation with his mother made me go scarlet,
sometimes she would only have to speak to me and I would go red, she was a very awkward and sensitive
woman and I would often say something wrong (in her eyes) that would end up upsetting her, this made
me even worse and I dreaded being in her company. At University things were worse, every time I got
called to answer a question I would go bright red, my heart would race and I would just look around
to try and find some way I could escape from the situation. This behaviour became one that I would
rehearse over and over, even before I started to become anxious I would look at ways out of a room,
try and think of excuses I could make to either justify why I had gone red or why I had to leave a
particular situation/conversation. This behaviour also carried on into my working life after
university. To be honest I don't know how I managed to get a job or even go to the interview, but I
managed to force myself and give myself enough confidence to get through it, luckily my boss was an
easy going bloke and I felt comfortable around him.
I struggled at work, I would go red over a telephone conversation,I would have to stand up if any
one walked into my office (presumably so I could escape quicker), I would also go red if anyone drew
attention to me so you can imagine my horror when I had to tell people and my boss that I was
pregnant. After having my daughter I decided that I wouldn't go back to work, one because I wanted
to spend my time with her whilst she was little and two because I really couldn't face the attention
when I went back after 6 months off.
I have been at home with my children for 4 years now and recently I decided that I wanted to get re-educated and become a nurse, although with age my anxiety has reduced slightly I knew that when I got a letter from the University saying that I had to go to a selection day (where I had to do a presentation) that I couldn't do it and my dreams of becoming a nurse were over. I lay awake at night angry with my self for being given such a wonderful opportunity and letting my anxiety (AGAIN) rule my life. It was at this point I decided that I would do the un-imaginable and make an appointment with my GP. She is the least sympathetic dr and I thought it would be a total waste of time but I plucked up the courage to do it and it turned out she was brilliant and very understanding. She explained the condition and referred me to see a behavioural specialist she also gave me Fluouxetine a form of antidepressant that is used for people with social anxiety. I managed to overcome my fear and I went to the selection day 2 weeks later, I even managed to do the presentation in front of 30+ people and had a group discussion. I am so proud of what I managed to achieve in such a small amount of time, I know I still have have a long way to go but I can honestly say that being able to over come my fear and make that appointment (which is one of the hardest things to do for someone with social anxiety) has really changed my life, I just wish I hadn't suffered in silence for so long. It really is a recognised illness and my dr told me that in some people it is actually an physical illness (that cant be seen) where the chemical levels in the brain are low which isn't our fault.....its an illness.
I would like to remain anonymous please. I hope my story helps others
Anxiety UK is a national registered charity formed 30 years ago by a sufferer of
agoraphobia for those affected by anxiety disorders.
Today we are still a user-led organisation, run by sufferers and ex-sufferers of anxiety disorders supported by a high-profile
medical advisory panel.
Living Life to the Full:
The course has been written by a Psychiatrist who has many years of experience using a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
approach and also in helping people use these skills in everday life.
During the development phase of the course, each module has been used by a wide range of health care practitioners and
members of the public.
This site is two things at once. On one hand, it's a collection of articles on various topics related to social skills and getting along with other people.
However, taken as a whole, it's also a guide on how shy, lonely, socially awkward people can get over their issues.
This site is a one man show. I used to be really shy, lonely, and socially clueless myself and everything written here is based on my own experiences in overcoming these problems.
Centre for Anxiety disorders and Trauma
The Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma is a specialist treatment and research centre jointly run by the Specialist Director of the South London and Maudsley Trust
and the Institute of Psychiatry (King's College London).
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy treats emotional disorders by changing negative patterns of thought.
Gillian Butler, a consultant clinical psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society,
has condensed into this well-written,
very readable book effective techniques for overcoming conditions such as panic attacks,
depression, anxiety and addictions.
Everyone who has ever felt disempowered by their embarrassment or lack of confidence,
will benefit from reading this book--understanding your emotions means that it is possible to
effectively manage and accept them.
A drug-free guide to curing anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and other depressive disorders
uses scientifically tested methods to improve mood and stave off the blues.
Dr. Aron explains that in the past HSPs have been called "shy," "timid," "inhibited," or "introverted," but these labels
completely miss the nature of the trait.
Thirty percent of HSPs are actually extraverts.
HSPs only appear inhibited because they are so aware of all the possibilities in a situation.
They pause before acting, reflecting on their past experiences.
If these were mostly bad experiences, then yes, they will be truly shy.
But in a culture that prefers confident, "bold" extraverts,
it is harmful as well as mistaken to stigmatize all HSPs as shy when many are not.
If you suffer from depression you are far from alone.
Depression is very common, affecting over 300 million people around the world.
Written by Professor Paul Gilbert, internationally recognised for his work on depression, this highly acclaimed
self-help book has been of benefit to thousands of people including sufferers, their friends and families,
and those working in the medical profession.
In this internationally acclaimed best-selling classic, Susan Jeffers inspires us with many dynamic techniques
and profound concepts that have helped millions throughout the world grab hold of their fears and move forward with their lives.
Inside 'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®' you'll learn what we are afraid of...and why and the five surprising truths about fear.
You'll also learn how to let go of the victim mentality, the secret of making 'no lose' decisions, how to expand your 'comfort'
zone, how to create more meaning in your life...and much more.
With understanding and humor, Susan shows you how to become powerful in the face of your fears--and enjoy the elation of living a
more creative, joyous, and loving life.
The Road Less Traveled published in 1978, is Peck's best-known work, and the one that made his reputation.
It is, in short, a description of the attributes that make for a fulfilled human being, based largely on his experiences as a
psychiatrist and a person.
The SAUK Forum has sections devoted to Meets & Groups: