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My Social Anxiety Makes Online Classes My Only Option

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Sweaty, shaky hands, a racing heart, hives on my chest; these were all part of my body’s response to being a student in high school. Every part of high school fueled my social anxiety; asking the cafeteria worker for my lunch, answering questions in class and being picked for a team in gym class all scared me and caused my body to react in ways that showed outward. My body’s response to social encounters made me more anxious because I was afraid my peers would notice my red, blotchy hives and uncontrollably shaking hands. I couldn’t imagine enduring all of that again, so I signed up to take my college classes online.

High school was filled with nothing but fear and anxiety, and I never enjoyed even a minute of it. I wanted to enjoy college because I enjoy learning, and I didn’t want my social anxiety to get in the way of that. I signed up for online classes and simultaneously felt much-needed relief. I wouldn’t have to go through traumatic social experiences like I did in high school. Instead, I could sit safely and alone behind my computer at home. There would be no bullies, no teachers calling on me to answer questions and no pep rallies where I would be forced to participate. There would only be me, my mouse and my keyboard, working toward a degree in complete isolation and safety.

Though I’m thankful for the opportunity to go to college online, I’m disappointed by what my social anxiety will make me miss out on: the “typical” college experience. The “typical” college experience often includes living on campus with roommates, going to parties with friends and attending discounted sporting events. That college experience is a social experience, and I avoid it because I have social anxiety. It’s disappointing to know I’ll be missing out on making new friends and having fun with them. Everything I’m missing out on — singing in the choir, joining clubs and decorating my dorm — makes me hate my social anxiety. But even though I hate it with a passion, I cling to it, because it’s all I’ve ever known.

I don’t know what triggered my social anxiety, but I do know that no matter what I do, it won’t go away. I’ve tried for years to rid myself of my social anxiety, but nothing has worked. Therapy, relaxation techniques and pushing myself into social situations haven’t produced any results, so I’ve come close to giving up, and continue to live with social anxiety. I hope that someday I’ll find a successful way to cope so I can enjoy life like people who don’t have social anxiety. But until then, I’ll sit behind my computer, alone in my house, avoiding every part of human socialization.

My social anxiety prevents me from doing and enjoying a lot of different social activities like eating out, going to the library or getting a movie from the video store. But the most upsetting thing my social anxiety causes me to miss out on is a social life in college, and it keeps me locked in my house, behind a computer, and it will for the duration of my college career unless I find something that works.

I regret not being able to overcome my social anxiety, but I have no problem with feeling safe while I’m secluded. I’m terrified of my physical response to social encounters, so I’ll continue to avoid them. I’m disappointed about missing out on the college experience, but I’m content with feeling safe and avoiding what I can to keep my social anxiety from swallowing me whole.

If your social anxiety limits you to taking online classes, don’t be ashamed of that. Your education and your mental well-being are both extremely important, and if you achieve the best of both by taking classes online, that is OK. You can still have a social life with your classmates, even though you’d be talking to them virtually. Form bonds in online study groups and ask questions you might be afraid to ask in a classroom. You can grow significantly by taking online classes, both educationally and emotionally. Don’t be afraid of growing socially, either.

Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: July 21, 2016
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