Shyness: The Introductory Symptom Of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

My first read about Social Anxiety Disorder left me very confused. In this part of the world, anyone who struggles to speak eloquently in public or mingle freely with folks, strangers or not, is considered to be shy. "So why is someone suddenly coming out to say shyness is as a matter of fact a symptom of a more worrying psychological problem?" I imagined.

When I was growing up I never bothered about friends. Kids are more or less free birds roaming about without any care in the world. I'd play with my colleagues in school then come back home to roam the streets with next door neighbours of my age bracket. I cared less if a kid was foul-mouthed or not, as long as we lived in the same neighborhood we automatically became friends/play buddies.

I only stay away from whichever kid my mom warned me against sticking with - and that's after taking several punishments for being obstinate. In short, making friends during childhood was easy as I had no time to think of social class, race or religious affiliations even though I was conscious of it.

I started noticing some unpalatable traits in me when I got to secondary school. The most striking one of them was that I found it very hard to make friends, especially with the girls. In fact, I find it hard to speak comfortably whenever I have girls around. My mates misinterpreted it to mean that I am proud, my parent's interpretation of this attitude was that I am a very shy person.

By the time I breached young adulthood I was already a full blown introvert. I talk less and make very few friends. It was a worry for me and I struggled for a solution. At times I get a little bit jealous of my pal who makes friends effortlessly. He'd get to a particular place and make friends in an instant but me, I'd be stuck in one corner staring at my phone all day long. I always wondered what his secret was.

I never realized how serious my situation was until I read the symptoms of SAD and realized I was exhibiting at least four of them:

  1. Worry about embarrassing or humiliating yourself?" Check.

  2. Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers? Check.

  3. Avoidance of situations where you might be the center of attention? Double Check!

  4. Analysis of your performance and identification of flaws in your interactions after a social situation? Triple Check!

After the read, I realized my problem was not that I was just being shy, I was simply exhibiting signs of Social Anxiety Disorder. Is it mild, moderate or severe? That wasn't important. My instant reaction was to find a solution to the problem that had hindered me from making friends since my teenage years till then.

In response to the HL prompt, after childhood making friends has not been an easy task for me. I am the kind of guy that takes months or even years to make friends in a new environment. I am slow to mingle and rarely initiate conversations with strangers unless it's compulsory to do so.

Also, I have gotten so used to having very few friends that I wouldn't want it any other way. Having many friends surely do have its merits, without doubt it will have its demerits too. So, I'm not really hung up on imagining what is not happening. However, in a world where networking is vitally important, having a couple more friends won't hurt.

Lastly, I do believe friendship is not in the quality but rather the quality. Extroverts with a multitude of friends do struggle, same as introverts with very few friends. It just depends on the impact of those friends.

And as for the SAD I diagnosed myself with, I didn't visit a psychotherapist for a cure. Instead, I sat my butt down, wrote all the symptoms of SAD in one place, marked out the ones I was already exhibiting and worked hard to knock them down. Fortunately, I have overcome some of them.

And, for introverts in the house, you may want to check if you have SAD too. A known enemy is less of a threat than an unknown one. At least, one can predict its moves.

It's been a while here, HL.

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