I don’t mean specific people. Everybody is afraid of certain people — or they should be. . . particularly people with weapons, anger-control issues, or otherwise toxic personalities. Let me explain the kind of fear I’m talking about.
Tonight I was able to visit with a woman I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I see her occasionally in the course of my regular activities. She works nights at an area hospital and has a deep love for God. She struggles with weight and health issues, as many people do. But she also seems to struggle with social anxiety — possibly agoraphobia, which literally means “fear of the marketplace” [public places].
She talked with me a while tonight about her difficulty being around people at the gym who are working out in close proximity to her. She also mentioned the fact that she tries to go in late to work so she doesn’t have to encounter as many people. The very fact that she is able to hold a job and make some time to get to the gym or a restaurant tells me that she is probably affected minimally by social anxiety. However, social anxiety is a real problem for many people in our society.
For thousands of people, social anxiety is a crippling condition that robs them of the joy of relating to others in many contexts. I have counseled a number of people who struggle with social anxiety, and I’ve noticed that the issue is frequently more prevalent around the holidays.
Perhaps that’s because they feel left out of many of the things other people are doing. You see, for someone with severe social anxiety, going to a Christmas party is simply not a real possibility apart from medication and/or counseling. In fact, for many such sufferers, even taking a step outside their house is a major undertaking. I had one client a number of years ago who had gone out to get the mail only a couple times in a year. She had a neighbor bring it to her every day in order to avoid a full-blown panic attack.
If you or someone you know is struggling with issues similar to those described above, I encourage you to find help. The good thing is that help is available. Social anxiety covers a wide spectrum of symptoms. Don’t surrender your life — or that of your loved one — to the grip of this crippling problem.