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19 Signs You Grew Up With Social Anxiety

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It’s not always easy being the quiet kid, especially when behind the shyness lies a scary, “adult-sized” foe — social anxiety. And while some kids show more classic symptoms of social anxiety, like being quiet or nervous in social situations, not every child with social anxiety is the same. And without a name for what they’re feeling, it’s easy for a child to just feel “different” or “weird,” which certainly doesn’t help them gain the confidence they need to face their anxiety, and face the world.

To find out some of the different ways social anxiety manifests in children, we asked people in our mental health community to share one thing they did as a child because they had social anxiety.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “I dropped out of high school. I was physically sick from stress every morning before school since the fifth grade. Now that I’m on anti-anxiety meds I wish I could start over again. I most likely would have finished school and gone on to college.” — Hannah E.

2. “I would always try to find someone I knew well… and stuck by their side every second I could, following them around. It was embarrassing.” — Denise O.

3. “I couldn’t sit in a restaurant with family. I was 13, I was shaking badly and drinking water that made me want to vomit. But I still said I was fine, because I didn’t want to ruin the day. As our food came in, the first few bites are good, after a little bit more, I get this huge wave of anxiety and fear, and think that everyone is watching me eat. I excuse myself to the bathroom and vomit everything. It was intense, but I’m a lot better.” — Dominic D.

4. “I would twirl my hair between my fingers continuously and every other twirl I’d pull out a strand of hair. I was so used to doing it that I wouldn’t notice anymore.” — Yadira H.

5.I would spend hours in a store looking for something, rather than ask someone where it was, because I was too scared. If I couldn’t find it, I would just go without and look another time.” — Dylan K.

6. “I had to stay with a teacher on school field trips. I always had to wear a hoodie or carry a backpack as a ‘security blanket.’ I chewed on my hair and bit my nails. I picked scabs or anything on my skin that looked like it shouldn’t be there. I was known as the girl who picked her scabs and ate her hair until I got into high school.” — Meghan M.

7. “I talked to the teachers at recess instead of classmates. I just always felt closer to teachers. And as a high school junior I still do.” — Jess H.

8. “I wouldn’t even go to recess. I would sit in the library and read because I didn’t want the kids to not like me.” — Audrey B.

9. “I always struggle when searching for jobs. My freshman year of high school I was determined to find a job, so I had my mom drive me to a pizza shop near us and I was supposed to go inside and ask for an application. When we pulled into the parking lot, I looked at the building and I froze. My mom was trying to push me to go in but I couldn’t and I ended up having an anxiety attack.” — Kiara S.

10. “All my relationships were extremes. I either completely ignored people, keeping them at a distance, or I was so attached to them. I never had any middle ground.” — Matthew Z.

11. “[I never talked] about any skills I had. For example, only some members of my family and a handful of friends know I practiced martial arts for 10 years, that I have been playing and writing music for several years or that (I am bit ashamed of that cause it’s kinda weird) I have extensive knowledge of military history. And when someone has heard about some of it, I try to avoid the subject and/or diminish the importance it has in my life. All of that being done with a self-undervaluing tone.” — Bastien E.

12. “I couldn’t order my own food at restaurants.” — Zoe L.

13. “I missed so much school. I didn’t even know why at the time, I just couldn’t make myself leave.” — Kirsty-May U.

14. “I put my garbage in my bag so I didn’t have to stand up in front of everyone, and avoided the cafeteria.” — Hannah M.

15. “I was clingy to my friends and family members, and was always asking when it was time to leave whatever public place we were at.” — Katherine C.

16. “I rarely spoke until I was 16. I was in constant panic and it was always made worse because adults thought I was being ‘rude’ and I felt guilty for letting my parents down because I couldn’t speak.” — Julie V.

17. “I would always ask someone to buy or order something for me. I wouldn’t be able to say it or do it myself without shaking and breaking down into tears.” — Cherokee N.

18. “Selective mutism is one thing. I would only talk to people I was very comfortable around. When I was 4 or 5 my Sunday school teacher told my parents at the end of the year that until I told her ‘thank you’ that day, she thought I was completely non-verbal, as I would just come in every week and sit with her or in her lap the whole time without saying a word to her or the other kids. I try to talk more now, but I’m still really uncomfortable talking much around people I don’t know well and I tend to avoid eye contact. I’m too used to being quiet and out of the way now.” — Erin H.

19. “I couldn’t play sports because I was afraid I would mess up and ruin it for everyone and be embarrassed and they would all hate me. I would hide, in bathrooms, empty offices, in the parking lot, in a closet, anywhere.” — Jill A.

What would you add?

19 Signs You Grew Up With Social Anxiety
Originally published: July 17, 2017
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