The young people of today, compared with their parents, grow up in a very competitive world.
They face strong competition for jobs, university places and internships. They have to project, present and perform in many situations where the opinions and assessments of others affect their chances of achieving their ambitions.
All these situations involve some kind of performance in the presence of others. Their progress can be stymied by an intense fear of what other people think of them. They may be suffering from social anxiety disorder if this fear is very strong and persistent. Is it only shyness?
Most of us can recall the awkwardness of our teenage years, when we would rather die than be embarrassed or humiliated. Perhaps we were reluctant to share our opinions with others perhaps we could not walk into a room without feeling acutely self-conscious. Do you feel anxious and nervous in most social situations? Do you lie awake at night, worrying yourself sick in anticipation of having to perform a task in front of others? Many suffer this in their childhood and teens.
But if you reach adulthood and still avoid doing things in front of others or shrink into the background in social situations, you might need help. David thought of himself as a shy, quiet person and had assumed he would grow out of it.
He was hesitant in his approach to tasks; sensitive to criticism and never had as many friends as he wanted. He did well at school and got to university, where more was expected of him. He had to make presentations in seminar groups and wanted to ask the lecturer a question in the lecture hall but could not bring himself to do it. He wanted to avoid those situations. He also realised that if he avoided presentations and got nervous when meeting a tutor in the corridor, how was he going to cope with speaking to managers in his future places of employment?
If he hated being the centre of attention how was he going project himself at work in order to be noticed and climb the promotion ladder? Once he had consulted a professional, David learned that he had Social Anxiety Disorder.
This is a condition, according to Anxiety Care UK, that is estimated to affect 10 -15 per cent of the population at some time in their lives. He had suffered bullying and teasing in his childhood from his father and schoolmates. His mother had been very protective of him and was anxious when he went out with friends.
He realised during the course of his therapy that he had always felt nervous and embarrassed before meeting people; he aimed to give a perfect impression to everyone he met. This was his way of dealing with his fear of people not liking him and it only made him more anxious.
His therapy enabled him to understand himself better, overcome these difficulties and achieve his social and work ambitions. Social Anxiety Disorder, with the right help, does not have to be a life sentence. Richard Burgess has more than 20 years’ experience as a psychodynamic psychotherapist.
He has worked with many people from different backgrounds and age groups in charity and private settings. He is a registrant of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy and a professional member of the Foundation for Psychotherapy and Counselling. You can contact Richard at email@example.com.