Social Struggles

The fear of being watched or judged by others is sometimes described as social anxiety. This mental health condition prevents people from socializing with friends or meeting new people. It can impact several people’s daily lives regarding school, extracurricular activities, or even work.

Social phobia is a mental condition that gradually develops and manifests itself as time goes on. In several cases, it manifests at a very small age. Freshman, Destinee Lopez describes what triggered her first social anxiety attack.

“I didn’t realize I had social anxiety until four years ago when I had to perform a presentation in front of the whole class. I noticed my hands were shaking. I was sweating a lot. There was a rapid change in my breathing. I felt very lightheaded and dizzy. My friends at the time noticed what was happening and told my teacher,” said Lopez.

Social anxiety can be seen in all individuals despite their age. According to the National Institute of Health, “It is common for students to have social anxiety because they lack objective self-knowledge”. During the covid period, AP Psychology and US History teacher Ryan White explains how there has been an additional increase in the number of cases among students.

I think social anxiety is a  common disorder that is found in teenagers. It’s caused by a lot of different things. I think we’re seeing an increased amount of cases of social anxiety, especially in the past two to three years, since we’ve had COVID,” said White.

Several scenarios have led to the cause of this social phobia. Sometimes an individual’s mentality or the people around them generate this anxiety. Student support counselor Lori Cook illustrates the different things that stir up uneasiness.

There’s a lot of different causes. Sometimes it goes back to their shy personality, so being in a large group is very uncomfortable for them. In some situations where a student has tried to speak up in class or tried to answer and people would make fun of them. They kind of reverted to only themselves and just have a fear of speaking up. Sometimes it’s just anxiety, they have anxiety all the time. It manifests itself at school like in large crowds, like pep rallies, and stuff like that. There’s not just one specific reason. It’s dependent on the individual,” said Cook.

Sometimes social discomfort is associated with insecurity as a result of trying to meet expectations. Based on Pew Research “35% of girls get very anxious about their looks depending on their surroundings”. English III and Advanced English I teacher, Amy Markan clarifies the connections of how self-doubt can be caused by social anxiousness.

A lot of what creates social anxiety is people being insecure about how they look. I think that’s what makes them anxious. For example, if I don’t feel confident in what I’m wearing, or how my face looks or I feel fat or my hair looks crazy today, then I will feel anxious going into a place. I think if you study more about social anxiety, there are more cases of girls having it than boys,” said Markan.

Occasionally social anxiety can result in overthinking in terms of communication. An individual who experiences social discomfort may plan what they want to say in a conversation to avoid over rambling. However, this often leads to over-thinking. Sophomore Gabriella Costilla describes how social phobia affected her conversation in terms of texting and speaking. 

“Basically, I always script what I say beforehand in the conversation. Sometimes when I am texting someone, I overthink. Like when I am chatting with someone and ask them if we can go out, their reply is sure. I wondered what if they don’t want to go, but they just said to please me. Or I send them some of my pictures and they compliment me, but they don’t mean it. Or I ask them for a ride and they say sure. I think what if they don’t want to take me? Most of the time I think about the negative meaning behind their “yes” or “sure”,” said Costilla.

Most of the time people look for ways to cope with their social anxiety or reduce their anxiety attacks. There are several techniques that have been provided to help in supporting those individuals. Costilla explains some of the techniques that have helped her so far.

“For a while, I took medications that helped with anxiety. I learned a bunch of different techniques that my therapist gave to me in coping with my anxiety. One of them is the grounding technique.  So I look around the room and find five things that I can see, five things that I can hear or taste. It’s like naming five of each sensory thing,” said Costilla.

Social phobias are caused by several things and can create a lot of limitations in a person’s life. The after covid season has increased the number of cases presently. Oftentimes, teenagers experience this more due to fear of being judged by their peers or their insecurities. Different techniques have been provided by psychological doctors to help individuals struggling with social discomfort.