Sometimes it can be difficult to understand someone who has an illness. It can be particularly difficult when it is one you can’t physically see. It can also be hard to emphasis with something you have never experienced yourself so we hope to help you understand. So what is social anxiety? Social anxiety is…

the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance.

Social Anxiety Institute

In this article we are going to try and explain, through the use of film scenes. This way, it may help you understand what it is like to have social anxiety and to live with it on a daily basis.

Matrix – Neo confronts Agent Smith


When you have social anxiety it is like confront your worst enemy. You don’t see people as individuals but as a collective threat to your wellbeing. A person with social anxiety must fight the feelings they get inside when they confront something they are fearful of. They attempt to maintain a calm exterior but are aware this isn’t always the case. Inside their heart is pounding and they feel as they are about to be a in a fight.

From the outside, a person with social anxiety will look no different to anyone else. They can get so good at covering up their internal feelings may even look strong.

They frown a little more than average and even avoid eye contact with passers by, but the mental battle a socially anxious person must fight inside is exhausting. A respite of being alone is actually like paradise to them. To live a normal life whilst a socially anxious person takes a lot of courage and bravery. Imagine facing your worst fears daily. This is what they are doing. They are facing their worst fears, so,  next time you meet someone with social anxiety remember. They are actually a very strong person!

Inception – people looking at you, why?

When socially anxious, you feel like you are surrounded by people who are judging them for whatever reason. They become more conscious of when people look at them and often wonder why. They automatically think it’s for a negative reason rather than they find you attractive, are being friendly or simply in their line of vision when you walk past.

They become overly alert of their surroundings. Those around them, noises and notice anyone who may be looking at them. They are looking at them for warning signs that they might be being talked about in a negative way.

Strange as it may seem they feel like they ‘may be in danger’. This is why Inception is a very good example of what it can feel like to have social anxiety in this famous scene.

In Inception dream agents go into people’s subconscious as the actress start altering the world around her. As this happens the subconscious ( represented as people ) start realizing it is wrong and you shouldn’t be in there. They start to look at her more and more till eventually they try to kill her. Thus removing her from the subconscious mind of the actor.

This idea is similar to many social anxiety sufferers that ‘danger from strangers’ exists. iEven though they may not be a threat or aware of you, it is often s what a person who suffers with social anxiety will be feeling in social situations.

The Truman Show – thinking everyone is in on a conspiracy

The Truman show, a story about a man, a happy go lucky guy. Unaware that his life is being filmed for the entertainment of the world. When he starts to become aware of this he thinks he is going crazy. Eventually he finds out the truth. What he imagined is true and so tries to find the reality that has been hidden from him for so long.

A socially anxious person can feel like this. They can think the whole world has a conspiracy against them. Even though the person knows ‘it seems quite irrational’, the reality of what they feel is not.

The feeling is very real. They are constantly on high alert looking for signs that are linked with their thought pattern of being in danger.

They listen more to what strangers are talking about in close proximity. They look for signs they are being negative. Signals in the way someone looks at them. They are convinced, they must be on guard with everyone you meet.

Gladiator – Inside the Colosseum

As already mentioned having social anxiety you must face your fears in order to live. The feelings they have are like any other person when you are confronted with danger. Every day a person with anxiety walks down a street will be fighting his/her own internal battle. Their heart races, their lips go dry, their mind going blank and their mind goes blank.

Not only this but, they are on guard at all times, using their ‘weapons and armour’ of listening intently and looking for signs of danger in order to be ready to confront it or hide from it if need be.

Being on guard 24/7 is exhausting and why people who suffer with this condition can get tired easier than someone who is without this disease.

We have used the demonstration of entering the colosseum to help understand the feelings a social anxious might feel doing day to day tasks.

Why does social anxiety happen and is there a cure?

Social anxiety happens to people for varying reasons and no two cases are the same. Social anxiety happens (according to the UK NHS) due to

…is most probably the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Although this may be the case, it is in our belief that social anxiety happens mostly due to environmental factors. In another words, due to the people you meet, any trauma involving people and experiences in life. Any associated unpleasant social experience.

Social Anxiety tends to happen when the person affected is unable to deal or confront the perpetrator or change the environment. Anxiety is ‘the fear of future’ events. Imagining things happening before it happens and get into social situations. You imagine the worst case scenario and your body starts preparing you for a ‘fight or flight’ response. You releases adrenaline in your body and this can be absolutely exhausting to live with.

What it is like to have social anxiety

Woman with social anxiety. what it is like to have social anxiety demonstrated by a woman looking anxious

We hope this brief article has helped you understand what it can be like to have social anxiety. It is a terrible condition because to live, we must be social. It can destroy the happiness of not only the sufferer but the people around them. But with the right help, support and techniques, you can manage your anxiety and reduce its affect on your life.

As a carer, by gaining a small understanding of what your friend/lover/family feels like you can begin help supporting them. Realise that sometime the best thing you can do is say ‘its ok, you can try the same fight another day’. This can improve on their initial thoughts & feelings and know they are in control of their recovery.

Eventually, after much work and confrontation of their fears can heal. With some therapy, exposure to the fear, a socially anxious person will begin to see that the worst things that they imagined didn’t happen. This in turn, will begin to help anxiety reduce.

If you are suffering with social anxiety how do you manage your feelings? Do you find particular things help you more? Please comment below

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