Hey! Welcome to another Mental Health Monday.
Today I want to address something that hits close to home for me.
As stated, social anxiety is all too often mistaken as extreme shyness, or even an excuse for it. The thing is…
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people, a majority of them being my age, casually throwing around the term, “social anxiety,” in casual conversation as a synonym for nervousness.
“Oh my gosh, I hate doing speeches in from of the class. I get like… Social anxiety from it.”
Nervousness when public speaking is normal. Doesn’t mean you have a social phobia.
“Ugh I hate people. I get like, social anxiety.”
Yes I have actually heard someone say this before. I was at a theme park and there was a big crowd and a girl was complaining about how many people there were.
Now, these are but a couple of examples of the misuse of the term, “social anxiety,” that I have experienced recently. I am not saying that these girls definitely don’t have some sort of social phobia. That is not my judgment to make and there is no way that I, as an outsider, would know the mental state of these strangers. I am just analyzing what I hear and the context in which the term is used.
Another issue that I have noticed, and am deeply disturbed by, is this strange infatuation that people (mostly those around my age) with mental illness.
For some odd reason, suddenly people seem to believe that these are “traits” to be desired. They are seen as quirky and endearing.
I find this fixation on mental health, or the lack thereof, to be most common among those from my generation.
I largely blame the internet for this.
I am a lover of the website Tumblr. If you have never heard of Tumblr, it is a site for blog hosting, but it is one that is far more informal than your standard blogging sites. Though there are some more “professional” type blogs on Tumblr, a majority of them are photos that have been re-blogged (basically Tumblr’s version of re-tweeting), videos, and text posts that can be as short as a couple of sentences. Some are even as short as a single word.
Tumblr is a very strange place… Very strange indeed. But that’s not what this post is about.
Websites like Tumblr are a breeding ground for the romanticizing of mental disorders. The fixation on thigh gaps and thinspo? A large amount of this came from Tumblr (although thinspo was around long before that… It just exploded when a community for it formed on Tumblr).
I’m getting a bit off topic… What I’m getting at is that it seems like all of a sudden, certain mental disorders have become synonyms for emotions or actions that they are not.
“Oh, I’m like… Super OCD about XX.” Being super tidy or anal about certain things doesn’t mean you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
“Hahaha! I’m so awkward around people. Anxiety, ya know?” No. Just no.
“Oh, I had an eating disorder for like a month once. But then I was over it.” Eating disorders are chronic. A crash diet that you do for a month and then, “get over,” is not an eating disorder. An eating disorder is also not a diet… It’s a mental condition.
And with social anxiety in particular, there are all too many times that I hear people saying that they are introverts, but then saying that being an introvert is the same as having social anxiety. This concept that being an introvert and having a social phobia are one in the same is what I really want to address.
I already gave you the clinical analysis of what a social phobia is. But what about an introverted personality type?
Via GiftedKids.About.Com (not the most legitimate source, but I find the information stated to be pretty spot on.)
So, in comparing these two definitions, I think that it is safe to say that being an introvert does not automatically mean that you have social anxiety and visa-versa.
That being said, a social phobia can definitely be amplified if the sufferer already has an introverted personality type. If one already loves and values alone time and is already drained by (lengthy) social situations, they already tend to be more withdrawn from the world than the average person. Throw in a severe fear of being around people and the person can go from being slightly withdrawn to almost cutting themselves off from the world entirely.
It is definitely a balancing act.
At the same time, understand that an extroverted person can also suffer from social anxiety. I am definitely not an extrovert, so I can not speak from experience. However, I do know a couple of people, both personally and online, that struggle with anxiety while also being very outgoing and social people.
All in all, what I really want to do is reinforce the idea that mental disorders are real and serious issues. They do not makes you quirky or unique. They are not endearing. Honestly, I am mortified when I think about some the things that I have done when my anxiety has gotten really bad. I have thrown child like tantrums in public, I have cried in restaurants… In fact, I had a panic attack at work last week and started crying and had to leave early and quick. It’s shameful and childish and embarrassing.
So think before you speak.
Being neat does not equal OCD.
Skipping a meal does not equal an eating disorder (nor does being skinny. Stop using “anorexic” as a synonym for skinny).
Getting nervous in high pressure situations does not equal anxiety.
Being awkward in social situations sometimes does not equal social anxiety.
I apologize for how this post lacks any fluidity whatsoever and that it is more of a rant and less of the informative and professional(ish) post that I intended it to be… I guess that these are just some issues that I have been noticing lately and really felt the need to address.
Have a nice day and thank you so much for reading!