• Tom Robinson

Social anxiety disorder: will the lifting of restrictions pose problems?

I read an article yesterday which discussed the potential problems for people with anxiety disorders, which could stem from the lifting of lockdown restrictions.


Although most people are thrilled and excited about the prospect of being able to move freely and without constraint, there are some who say that they will struggle to integrate back into society and I can understand why.


Those with social anxiety disorder are most at risk of encountering problems, with many speaking about worries and fears associated with meeting up in groups again, and more broadly, of reentering society at large.


Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the fears and anxieties about social interaction create a problem to the extent that it disrupts and affects the sufferers ability to function effectively.


Often the sufferer will experience physical manifestations when presented with social situations, such as heart palpitations, sweating and panic attacks.


These problems only exacerbate the worry and heighten the anxiety, making the sufferer start to avoid social situations and then withdraw from society completely, which isolates them even further.


Although I don't suffer from social anxiety disorder per se, I do understand what these people are concerned about regarding the lifting of restrictions.


During my depressive episodes, I found it almost impossible to converse with people or engage in social situations because I had absolutely nothing to say for myself and I felt so utterly disgusting.


Depression obliterated my self-confidence and left me in a constant state of self-doubt and angst about everything, so that when I did try to do the 'right things' by putting myself in social situations I was left swimming in anxiety and fear about the whole thing and drowning in my own mental neurosis.


Battling my mind to even get out of the house, was at times excrutiatingly hard which makes the 'sticking plasters' that we're told in the media like, 'keep up social engagement', ridiculous instructions for the severely affected. The messages being sent out about mental health are all referring to mental 'well-being' NOT mental illness which is something completely different and that point needs addressing.


The BBC News article about social anxiety disorder, interviews a couple of sufferers who explain their fears and concerns which stem from the lifting of the restrictions, in an attempt to educate and enlighten others.


Oli, 24 from Surrey, explains that he's become accustomed to being in his 'comfort zone', where he hasn't had to be exposed to the effects of his disorder. This means that he feels a concern about how he will adapt to the challenges of reentering society, because his anxiety has been left unchallenged for so long.


Psychotherapist Charley Gavigan points out two problems that face those with anxiety disorder. The first is that social media is giving the false impression that people are thriving, which intensifies the feelings of disparity between what the sufferer feels and what they think they should feel.


The second problem that she identifies is that those with social anxiety disorder rely on having pre-prepared topics of conversation, and since none of us have been anywhere it's difficult to find things to talk about.


When I was depressed I found that both of these issues were affecting me, so I deleted all of my social media accounts as a result, and I haven't felt the need to resurrect them either. I don't miss the virtual world, I'd much rather live in reality!


I also found myself struggling with topics of conversation, because I was doing NOTHING at all but lying in bed literally 'dying to stay alive!' for months, even YEARS at a time.


When I did force myself back into society I felt like I had to do a 'Hollywood performance' of smile, smile, smile, (lie, lie, lie) and keeping up the charade was exhausting and only added to my fears and social awkwardness.


Thankfully I'm well now so I don't suffer any of these problems, and I can be my authentic self because I have a genuine interest in life and plenty to talk about.


I've managed all of this through hard work and resilience, as well as reading a tonne of books about regaining self worth and confidence, reeducating my brain to be able to talk and converse, as well as FINALLY being helped with an effective treatment.


Thank God for that quite frankly because there was absolutely no way I could have continued in my former stunted and socially awkward state, it was an absolutely hideous and unbearable situation that I hope I will never have to experience again.


I think the thing to remember at the current time is that the restrictions are going to be lifted gradually, so there will be the opportunity to reintegrate slowly, rather than having to contend with huge gatherings of people in one go.


I would advise people to take up the chance to meet one other person outside, and go for a walk and then slowly build up from there, this will make the readjustment easier to handle and soften the impact of fears and anxieties.


Do you have social anxiety? Are you worried about the lifting of the restrictions? What advice would you give to others? Do please let me know!


If you would like to read the article on the BBC News page then you can find it here.


Please also keep the interesting articles coming and please share these posts with others.


Thanks for reading,


Speak to you soon,

TR






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