By Sreynet Chhem

© ‘Scream’ by participant of Social Anxiety Ireland

This blog was developed as part of the Voices of Youth blogging internship assignment requirement. Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

Social anxiety is a nerve-wracking fear regarded as a non-existent sensation by the mass of people who do not bother to understand it. Misconceptions have been suggested, framing such anxiety as something “cute” to make fun of. Stereotypical questions have been asked time and time again. To be frank, I’m quite fed up of coming across these myths and questions. So, here are my responses and lessons about social anxiety.

“Are you like this at home?”
Socializing means walking beyond your home and mingling with people who are not your family and friends. As a living proof of social anxiety myself, I perceive this to be an irritating and spine-chilling scenario. Why would you “take it easy” conversing with someone you don’t know? What if this person somehow has bad intentions toward me? Does she keep staring at me because there’s something on my nose? Living with anxiety, you don’t get to choose to be comfortable and relaxed around anyone who’s not your mom. Questions of discomfort keep popping up like redundant Google ads. You wish there’s a button to turn off the anxiety, but the ugly truth of it is that anxiety is like riding in a car with a malfunctioning brake — you can’t stop it.

“Why are you so arrogant?”
Calling a person with anxiety arrogant is character assassination. Just because we don’t appear as cheery and bubbly as you doesn’t mean we are conceited. One should bear in mind that when someone is socially anxious, they feel insecure about their surroundings. This results in them building a strong “wall” to protect themselves from any disaster new people may bring . Understanding a person with anxiety is accepting that they are kept behind the state of being oppressed and pessimistic when socializing. As much as we want to be jolly and bright, we’re just not a fan of people’s ambiguous judgements and intentions. This is a sad fact one feels reluctant to admit while living under the label “anti-social.”

“Can you speaker louder?”
But can you be more attentive? Can you all do your bit on the “quiet” part? Are you ready to hear our opinions? This question shouldn’t concern victims of social anxiety alone. It’s improbable to hear a clap without two hands meeting. If an individual expects the other one to respond, they need to practice being responsive themselves. In other words, if a person speaks, you need to respect them and listen. It is as simple as Malala Yousafzai declared, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” Don’t ask us to speak louder when you’re blabbing.

“It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. You’ll do just fine.”
People falling victim to anxiety disorder wish these words could cure them. Instead, they help about as much as extinguishing a forest fire with an eyedropper. Social Anxiety Institute reveals many therapeutic methods that have been tested and studied; however, cognitive-behavioral methods appear to work the best. The goal of this therapy is to help the victim recognize negative patterns of thought, evaluate them and replace them with healthier ways of thinking. However, from an average person’s point of view, the treatment to the disorder costs quite a fortune. Meanwhile, people who cannot afford the price continues to battle quietly in the closet for the rest of their life, fearing each day what other worse things can come into their life with every single move their muscles make.

Coping with the fact anxiety is one’s best friend has never been a choice. Anxiety is like a birthmark that is hard to get rid of in the spur of a moment. It requires time and the victim’s willingness, with firm support from their inner circle in order to combat against the biggest block holding the victim back from opportunities and achievements. Having anxiety sucks but getting reminded is the last thing the victim wants on their list.

To learn more about social anxiety, please go to

Originally posted on Friday, August 19, 2016

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