Social Anxiety and Brain States

Hello! I am Riagain Wiley, an intern at Berkshire HorseWorks from Miss Hall’s School. As someone who has suffered from anxiety my entire life, it is important to me to be able to share information about how it affects me and also recent studies that may help you or others you know. Relatively new research has been released, implying that social anxiety stems not from a phobia of the actual situation itself, but from how people around the person react to the situation.

I have a severe case of social anxiety which, if left unchecked could potentially cause me to miss opportunities that I need and want. For years, I would not speak up when there was something I needed to say whether it was in class or another public setting, in fear of being judged by my peers. This stopped me from showing off what I was capable, and people tended to overlook me because of my lack of self-confidence and my social anxiety. I had to work for years on finding ways (even if they were small) to open up and start to believe that my ideas were worth sharing and that people wouldn’t judge me on every little thing I did. At first, talking in public settings felt like it was the end of the world. I was stuttering and would forget my ideas all the time. As time passed, I gained practice and knowledge in public speaking, and although my anxiety never ceased, I have better coping mechanisms, helping me to overcome my anxiety. Now I compete in varsity sports, singing competitions, have joined a band, and am a member of my school’s a capella group. Anxiety is still a prominent factor in my life, but I have ceased letting it dictate what I can and cannot

According to an online article by Psychology Today called “New Research Reveals Neural Roots of Social Anxiety”, anxiety is a broad term, meaning the symptoms and experiences can vary on the type of anxiety being experienced. Personally, I have a social anxiety disorder (social phobia) which is the overwhelming self-consciousness in ordinary social encounters, heightened by a sense of being watched and judged by others and a fear of embarrassment. Despite common misconceptions, anxiety disorders are more than just nervousness and worrying, they can also include irrational thought which can not be distinguished from rational thought by the person suffering from the anxiety. Some coping mechanisms include:

  • Breathe away anxiety. Deep breaths do work!
  • Shift your focus. Find an activity or person to distract you from the source (personally my work at Berkshire HorseWorks is a great source of therapy).
  • Be willing to experience discomfort.
  • Tolerate uncertainty. Realize everything is not under your control.