Social Anxiety Disorder?
Disclaimer!!! My opinion is simply that. But, please read with an open mind.
This is a sensitive subject, and to be honest, I was not even sure I should be writing about it. Mental health is a very hot topic right now. It is also very serious, and I am not know for my sensitivity. But, I think there are a few things that need to be addressed.
First, and foremost, serious mental illness is not a laughing matter. One death from suicide worldwide every 40 seconds according to the World Health Organization. This is an epidemic level issue. https://www.befrienders.org/suicide-statistics
Secondly, people suffering from crippling mental illness should be receiving counseling and medical care. There is no reason to go silently through life when there is help available. 800-273-8255 is a phone number you can call to get the help you need.
But, chances are, you are not one of those people! Severe personality disorders are still a rarity among the general population. Around 4% according to National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml
On that same webpage, there are two categories of mental illness defined. One is Serious Mental Illness (SMI), and the other is Any Mental Illness (AMI). Now, I am not going to waste my time defining the categories for you. This isn’t an academic paper. You can click the fucking link and do your own damn research, but I would like to delve into the AMI category a little.
Of the 43.8 million people in the US who fall into the Any Mental Illness category, 40 million have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
Does that number seem a little big to you? It certainly did to me too.
Ok. I am getting ahead of myself. A little background is needed. Please bear with me.
I knew I wanted to blog. I needed an outlet for my creativity and incessant desire to yell “fuck” in a supermarket. So, as any educated man would, I began researching how to construct a website and how blogging works. Part of my process was to get out the Chromebook and cruise the internet reading people’s blogs. I wanted to learn how it was done from people actually doing the damn thing.
I read dopey fucking mommy blogs and idiotic fashion blogs. I looked at pretentious travel blogs and shitty little fitness blogs. But, the one inescapable genre was mental health blogs. I was floored by the sheer staggering number of mental illness related blogs on the net. It is fucking daunting.
I kind of made a mental note at the time to check those out, but kept moving through genres that were more in my wheelhouse.
It nagged at me though. There was something kind of “off.” At first, I assumed that the blogs I had been seeing in my searches were information and awareness resources put out there, by professionals, for people struggling with mental health issues. Like I said, I didn’t really look at them.
Then I joined Twitter at the behest of Squarespace. Their guidance was clear; “use social media to get your blog noticed. There is little chance of your work finding interested eyes if you do not promote”...I’m paraphrasing.
***Digressing for a moment. Twitter is such a weird and amazing thing. For example, there is a group of twenty or so, Canadians who are the biggest pieces of shit I have ever had the pleasure of stalking. Funny and irreverent as hell. But, if potty humor is not your thing, you simply “follow” groups of people who reflect your values or share your interests.***
And while I do love a well-crafted dick joke, I was on Twitter to learn blogging, promotion, and process from other bloggers. So, that is who I began following. #Bloggerswanted and the like.
I found that a tremendous part of blogging is networking with other bloggers. Looking over their websites, at their behest, and commenting on their content. It is a very open learning environment. And I have a sneaking suspicion that the only people who actually read blogs are other bloggers...just saying.
But, as any good citizen of Twitter does, I participated. I began looking at specific owners’ blogs. And THAT is when I actually read a few of these mental health blogs. Holy Fuck! What the hell?
As it turns out, mental health blogs are not at all put forth by licensed professionals with the intent of being a resource. They are instead, people dealing with mental health issues and putting their stories and coping mechanisms online for people to read, use, and I am assuming, benefit from.
Unfortunately though, a lot of them are centered around Social Anxiety Disorder.
Verywellmind.com defines Social Anxiety Disorder as “a fear of social and performance situations in which others may negatively judge you. Although it's common for people to experience some nervousness or feel "butterflies" in their stomach, most people with the disorder are extremely self-conscious and have physical symptoms such as nausea, shaking, or feeling faint when they are around people or performing.” https://www.verywellmind.com/social-anxiety-disorder-overview-3024453
Well fucking DUH!!! That is everyone! Right? “Fear of social performance where others may judge you!?!”
That is not a fucking disorder, that is called being human. Nervousness to the point of nausea is a perfectly normal reaction to being removed from our comfort zones! Nerves are another side effect of being human.
Shortness of breath
Lump in the throat
Ringing in the ears
Heart racing (tachycardia)
Heart pounding (palpitations)
Feelings of unreality (derealization) or feelings of detachment from oneself (depersonalization)
Look at this fucking list. Just look at that fucking list!
Having this defined for me opened the floodgates in my head. I remembered hearing people who work for me claim social fucking anxiety almost on a daily basis. Admitting to someone like me, in a professional situation, that you were having anxiety is like a get-out-of-jail-free card. I cannot process that. My eyes immediately get wide, my mouth closes, and I walk away.
But now I know! And I will fire a motherfucker that claims Social Anxiety when I ask them to do something they don’t want to do. Ya done messed up A-Aron!
Seriously though, all of the things on this list are what separates us from our Google Assistant. All of the things on this list are what makes us human. Shortness of breath, chills, muscle tension, shaking, sweating, dry mouth are all things, I experienced before I told my wife I love her for the first time. Ya know, being human.
Blushing, sweating, ringing in ears are things I experienced the first time I had to speak in front of a large group of people. Ya know, being human.
Nausea, heart racing, feelings of unreality are symptoms that I experienced the first, and only, time I was ever arrested. Ya know, being human.
These things are not symptoms of a fucking mental disorder. These things are symptoms of being a fucking person and being put in a situation where one has to rise or fail.
But it is much more than that. There is the everyday anxiety. The everyday small things that cause stress.
Finding a parking spot when running late could cause sweating and muscle tension. That is not a symptom of any kind of mental disorder. It is called “running-fucking-late-syndrome.”
Having to explain to your boss while you were running late could cause nausea and heart racing. That is not a symptom of any kind of fucking mental disorder. It's called “I’ve-seen-this-motherfucker-fire-people-for-this-before-syndrome.”
I could go on and on, but you see where I'm going with this. All of these symptoms of social anxiety disorder are normal things. The body's normal reaction to being uncomfortable.
Think I am full of shit? Let’s look at one very powerful moment in history.
Did you see “Darkest Hour”? It was a movie released in 2018, following Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) in the early days of WWII. There was one particular scene in that movie that the director made sure to get absolutely historically accurate. And in my opinion, it was the most powerful scene in the entire film.
It was a moment when Winston Churchill was awaiting a phone call with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt had been lobbying Congress, quietly, for permission to get into the war. Or at the very least, support their historical allies with supplies. The United States joining the war, in some form or fashion, was something that a besieged Great Britain needed very much. Most of Europe, by 1940, had either already capitulated or succumbed to the German Blitz.
In the moments leading up to his phone call, Winston Churchill was a nervous wreck. Sitting in a room where no one could see him, he dropped his mask of control and just gave himself over to humanity. You could almost see his heart racing. You could almost feel his hope and worry leaping off the screen. Great Britain was in a fight for its very survival, and America could help if it had the political will to do so.
When Franklin Roosevelt told Mr. Churchill on the phone that the American people did not have the political will to join a war, or even support them in theirs, unprovoked, Winston Churchill, pleaded for equipment and ships, muttered some pleasantries, hung up the phone, and went completely to shit for about 10 seconds. Again, gave in to his humanity. He allowed himself to be fucking human. Then he dropped the mask of control and confidence back firmly in place and walked out of that booth the leader of Great Britain once again.
Now, was Winston Churchill, in 1940, suffering from social anxiety disorder? I think we can all agree that he wasn’t. But, the mental health community in 2019 would say “Yes! Yes he was.”
The Mental Health Machine
Let’s step back away from all of my reasoning and try to look at the mental health field objectively.
What is the mental health field at its core?
___________ ← Insert reasons why there is zero incentive for businesses to cure when it is much more profitable to treat. I am not going to come at you with a bunch of documentation. Google it. There is no shortage of websites on the internet devoted to this topic.
But, look at the argument like this:
If McDonald’s developed a cure for hunger, would they stop selling hamburgers?
If Ford developed an engine that would never wear out, would they put it on the market?
If New Balance developed an indestructible running shoe, would they sell it?
If pharmaceutical companies had a line on a cure for mental illness, would they release it?
I don’t know either, but I am leaning towards “no.” There is no long-term money in a cure. The money is in the treatment.
As my earlier examples illustrated, anxiety is a normal mechanism. Anxiety is not the enemy. It is the natural fear that keeps us alive or protected, from situations where death, injury, embarrassment...etc can be the outcome.
But what we have done over the course of the years is allow our normal mechanisms to become syndromes and/or disorders.
Parents do not tell their kids to toughen the fuck up anymore. They’re not putting a child who naturally shies away from situations that make them uncomfortable into those very situations. Forcing children outside their comfort zones used to be the norm. That very practice was a part of child rearing.
Put that kid, who is clumsy and awkward, in cotillion.
Throw that kid, who is kind of a pussy, into wrestling or football.
Make that kid, who has trouble meeting people, join drama club or a foreign language club.
Encourage that kid, who is terrified of performing, to join the band or choir.
These are things we used to do! This mentality is no longer prevailing. Now, we encourage our kids to be introspective and isolated. We aren’t forcing them to participate. We are letting them live their lives in their fucking devices rather than teaching them to speak to adults and build interpersonal relationship skills with peers.
Why? Because we are fucking neurotic!
We are afraid to let them go outside to play. We are afraid to let them join the Boy Scouts. We are afraid to let them get germs. We don’t let them go to sleepovers or parties. They don’t get to go to the park. They cannot ride their bikes and terrorize their neighborhood.
We carry bottles of fucking sanitizer wherever we go. We wipe down our fucking shopping carts and bleach our children.
We, as parents, in short, are teaching our kids to be pussies. No, that is not strong enough. We are encouraging our children to be pussies. So is it any wonder then that our kids are growing up to be a pussy-ass adults?
THAT is the root of social anxiety. Pussy-ass-ness. People who are never forced to grow calluses, do not have them in place when they need them. And how does the body decide where calluses need to grow? Blisters and pain. Pick up an axe and chop wood for an hour. Your hands will be trashed. Red, sore, bleeding, and blistered. But, when the body heals those wounds, it does so in a way that makes them stronger.
It is the same principle with minor mental health issues like SAD. If the psyche has never had to grow calluses, they aren’t in place when they are needed.
If a young adult has never had to fail at something they tried with all of their might to achieve, is it any wonder that when failure finally catches up to them they have a full-blown panic attack?
People need to be put in scenarios where they will be forced to grow. And people who are not forced to grow simply do not.
You don’t need medication.
You don’t need therapy.
You don’t need a label.
You do need to fail
You do need to be rejected.
You do need to hurt.
You do need to cry.
You need to be judged, laughed at, treated like shit, and marginalized.
Because at the end of the day, your body will rebuild those wounds. And will do so in a way that makes you stronger, and better prepared, for the next time shit happens.
You need the fucking calluses!
Social Anxiety Disorder, is probably very real for a certain small percentage of the population. But most likely not for you. You need to assess. Take a step back and decide which category you fall into. The “mentally ill?” Or the “stifled by experiences, or lack thereof.”
I sure as fuck know which category I would want to be in…
Back around to the original point. 40 million people in the United States do not have any kind of fucking disorder! 40 million people in the United States have been duped into believing they are sick. Duped by a mental health industry that is loving how freely you give over your dollars.
Reassess your condition. Believe in the power of your mind. Stop letting them tell you that being weird or shy or sad or awkward is an illness.