Thursday, May 31, 2012


People with social anxiety disorder (S-A-D) can have excessive fear of social situations. Their anxiety can sometimes lead to intense panic attacks. As a result of the fear, the person endures certain social situations in extreme distress or may avoid them altogether. They are often known to suffer "anticipatory" anxiety - the fear of a situation before it even happens, even if it never happens. In many cases, the person is aware that their behavior is not fully rational, yet they are powerless to overcome their response. Adding to the associated issues are that outsiders witnessing such behavior develop strong negative impressions of the afflicted individual due to their lack of understanding. What can be confusing to outsiders is that people with S-A-D can appear completely at ease around others when they are immersed in professional or other controlled environments.

Let me share a recent story from my life with S-A-D. It begins with a co-worker of mine who hosts a well attended Memorial Day party at his house each year. Last year, I received an e-mail invitation with a request for an R.S.V.P. I dutifully replied with a "no thanks". However, my co-worker took every opportunity over the next week to pester me about going to his party. Finally, it got to the point that I couldn't endure his invite attacks any more and I told him about my issues why I do not attend these types of social functions.

Well this year, I again received the group invite to his Memorial Day party. I decided not to R.S.V.P. so that I would not call attention to myself to invite any of his remarks. However, last week before the start of a meeting that we both attended, he asked why I had not replied to his invite. When I looked at him, a light seemed to go on behind his eyes and he said, "Oh yeah, I remember, you get embarrassed in public."

You see this is the point. People who don't have to deal with this type of psychological issue just cannot understand or relate to those of us afflicted with such problems. Embarrassment? My troubles have nothing to do with embarrassment, I can assure you. "But you seem so normal at work." Work? Work is a highly controlled environment where I can dictate the parameters of the interactions that I am involved in. Oh, and just who are you to tell me what "normal" is?

Why am I telling this story? Well, perhaps it might just help to better inform folks and to help them understand some others a bit more.