What It's Like to Have 'Social Anxiety' When No One Is Around

Imagine you’re alone. Somewhere safe, like in your room. Your mind is wandering like it always does.

Then, you think of someone you don’t know well and whom it would be awkward to be around. You imagine them there in your room with you. All of a sudden, your safe space no longer gives you comfort. You look around and try to imagine how this person will perceive your things, the awkward questions they may ask, how you would answer and anything that could go embarrassingly wrong with this person’s hypothetical visit.

The feeling of unease that a person with social anxiety knows all too well starts creeping in. Once it sets, it doesn’t leave because there’s no one really around. Therefore, it isn’t answering a stimuli. It is simply present. The only way I’ve found to get rid of it is to distract oneself and ultimately forget about it.

That’s what it feels like to have “social anxiety’’ when no one’s around. I’ve been having this for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I would imagine some of my less familiar classmates in my home. I would feel the anxiety and embarrassment of a playdate with someone whom I had nothing in common with, even if they weren’t there. Today, I imagine celebrities, coworkers or people I respect seeing my apartment, my room or intimate parts of my lifestyle, and I feel anxiety about their hypothetical judgment and self-conscious about my bad social skills.

In these moments, I feel extremely self-conscious and inadequate. This is probably a mix of my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and my social anxiety, along with my introversion. I never heard of anyone having moments like these, but I’m sure I am not alone.

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