By Sarah Smit
Contrary to popular belief, social anxiety is more than just extreme shyness. It is an underlying fear that, for some, does not go away if left untreated. Social anxiety affects everyday activities, self-confidence, relationships, and your social life. Committees at AUC, as well as the Student Life Officer, are aware of the consequences that social anxiety disorder can have for students and want to increase the focus on social anxiety to normalise seeking help to deal with it.
HandsOn, AUC’s philanthropy committee, chose social anxiety as the topic of their October Awareness Letter. Sophie Duncan, secretary of HandsOn, states that: “It’s a condition that isn’t discussed as much compared to other mental health issues, so we felt it was important, especially at the start of the year, with all the new people coming in, that it was brought up and talked about.”
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is one of the most common mental health conditions. It can occur in the most habitual and mundane situations, such as entering rooms, speaking in public, going to school and starting conversations. If one suffers from social anxiety disorder the stress of particular situations can be too much to handle, and it can affect all aspects of a person’s life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, those with social anxiety avoid meeting new people because small talk and eye contact make them feel uncomfortable, or they struggle with something like a presentation because the nervousness makes them forget everything they want to say.
Everyone experiences social anxiety differently. Not all socially anxious people have the same problems. Where some may find public speaking difficult, others can easily deal with that but find going to parties or dating absolutely terrifying. Peer Support, AUC’s support network for students, by students, explains that: “Everyone is different, so we have a chat with the person to see what they need and what they would like to get help with. There are so many people having struggles and there is nothing weird about that.” If necessary, they refer students to the SLO, the Student Life Officer, who is always available for support or concerns.
People suffering from social anxiety disorder often mistake it for extreme shyness or merely social awkwardness. This common misconception can make it difficult to seek out information or get the help needed to avoid that anxiety puts a stop to social interaction. Symptoms and an anxious feeling might occur immediately before an event, or one could spend weeks worrying about it. As stated by the National Institute of Mental Health, after it’s done, instead of relief, a person might spend a lot of time and energy worrying and overthinking about how they acted.
Students experiencing social anxiety can go to AUC’s SLO Aino Kekkonen for help. She states that “Social anxiety is a mental health condition no one should feel shameful for dealing with. Students can always come talk to me and together we can see whether it would be necessary for them to seek further psychological help.”
Aside from contacting Peer Support or the SLO, UvA psychologists are a useful resource and any AUC students can sign up for individual sessions or group counseling. Outside of AUC, one can always talk to their General Practitioner and acquire a referral for a psychologist or any other mental health professional. Kekkonen assures that: “There is help and support available, and no one should feel like they have to deal with it on their own.”
The easiest way to reach the SLO is through firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or wish to schedule a meeting.