A Day in the Life of a Teenager with Social Anxiety Disorder

What It's Like to Live with SAD as a Teen

Social anxiety can strike during adolescence.
Teenagers can be especially prone to developing social anxiety.. Getty / The Image Bank / Lonnie Duka

In an earlier article, a description was provided of a day in the life of someone with social anxiety disorder. The goal with that article was to add a personal touch to the informational articles contained on this site. Perhaps the article described your own symptoms or those of someone you know.

As a new addition to this series, it was time to tackle a day in the life of a teenager with SAD.

Although many of the symptoms experienced by teens with social anxiety are the same as adults, the situations that they face on a daily basis can be quite different.

In many ways the challenges that they face can be even harder; social and academic pressures can often make social anxiety symptoms worse.

Perhaps you are a teenager with social anxiety and this story sounds a lot like you.

Or, you might be a parent, teacher or other adult who knows a teenager who seems overly fearful, anxious and shy. Will today be the day that you reach out for help or offer it to someone else?

This description is based on stories told by readers of this website, as well as several true stories about teenage social anxiety including "Kirstin's Story: No Place to Stand," "Rae: My True Story of Fear, Anxiety and Social Phobia," and "What You Must Think of Me: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager's Experience of Social Anxiety Disorder."

This is a fictional account and not based on the experiences of any one person.

I climb the steps of my high school grudgingly, knowing what lies ahead.

I have no friends at this school so it is one long day of loneliness. I always arrive early because I am afraid of being late for class. I couldn't stand the thought of walking in late and having everyone look at me.

Since I arrive early, the teachers often pass by me. I keep my head down so that we don't have to say "hi" to each other and the awkwardness that would involve.

I know what they are thinking.

What is wrong with her?

Why doesn't she have anyone to talk to?

I arrive at my first period class and listen to the chatter around me. Everyone is talking about their weekend. I keep my head down and try not to catch anyone's eye.

During class I do the same with the teacher in the hopes that he will not ask me a question.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. If asked a question I quickly mutter a response, feeling my face turn bright red as all eyes are on me.

During lunch I usually sit alone or with a group of kids I used to know but have nothing in common with anymore. I know they wonder why I am sitting with them when I never talk.

Sometimes someone will ask me a question. As usual I start to panic, feel my heart start to race, and the words get caught in my throat.

I say as little as possible.

I am sure everyone wonders what is wrong with me.

As much as possible I have scheduled my classes to avoid any public speaking. Unfortunately it can't be totally avoided.

When I have a presentation or speech to give I worry about it months in advance. The night before I get little to no sleep, and the day of I am a nervous wreck.

If it is in my last period class I can't concentrate for the entire day. When I finally get up to speak my heart is beating so loudly I am sure everyone can hear it. My hands shake and so does my voice. I have trouble catching my breath. I am sure everyone thinks I am crazy or that there is something really wrong with me.

Outside of school I am not really involved in any activities. I don't have a part-time job like most of the other kids because I am too afraid to apply or go for an interview. I spend most nights and weekends at home reading or doing homework.

I haven't talked to anyone about the way I feel because I am

1) too embarrassed, and

2) worried that they will think I am making a mountain out of a molehill.

I should be able to do these things, right? It's just a character flaw that I have such trouble with social situations. If I try really hard I should be able to become more outgoing and able to cope.

My music teacher did try to talk to me once about my anxiety. She could see how anxious I got and asked me what was wrong but I just brushed it off.

I was too embarrassed to talk about the way I was feeling; like she would think I was crazy or something. It is pretty ironic that the reason I can't talk to anybody about being afraid of people is because I am afraid of people!

Sometimes I get really down about the way things are; I think I might even be a little depressed at times. It just wears on you when anxiety is constantly with you.

I am both anxious and hopeful about the future. I am hoping that when I finish high school things will get easier.

Hopefully I can start fresh somewhere that nobody knows me and work on my fears. Maybe at some point I will get up the courage to get the help that I probably really do need.

Maybe a college professor will take pity on me and ask what is wrong. Maybe there will be a counseling center at my college where I can go for help.

I have heard that both medication and therapy (like cognitive-behavioral therapy) are effective in treating social anxiety disorder (SAD). I do think that is what I have; so maybe at some point I will be able to get help.

At least more is known about anxiety disorders now than 20 years ago. I feel bad for anyone who suffered with this problem before it was a recognized diagnosis. At least if I do choose to seek help there are options to get better.

In the meantime I continue getting through each day.

I read stories about other teenagers with the same problems as me and sometimes participate in online forums about social anxiety.

I know that some people have it worse than me and so I am grateful that I am managing as well as I am.

I just wish someone would really take the time to ask me what is wrong. Maybe if I could just talk to one person about the way that I feel, I might be able to get past this problem that is consuming every moment of my life.

Read Next: Tips for Teenagers with Social Anxiety Disorder

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