According to Tim Kenny, “Social anxiety is one of the most commonly occurring mental disorders. As many as 1 in 10 adults have this condition.” It is not a widely known condition, and it is often confused with things such as shyness when it is actually completely different. Social anxiety is a disorder in which a person has an excessive or unreasonable fear of social situations. For example, just by me walking into a room of people, whether it is crowded or not, it produces reactions such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, nervousness, stuttering, etc. It is possible for this to stem from another unfamiliar disorder called selective mutism. Selective mutism is used to characterize children who are unable to speak in certain social settings even if they want to. As a young child, I wasn’t able to utter a single word if I was not in the confines of my own house, and people did actually think that it was due to shyness. If left untreated selective mutism can develop into social anxiety, and this is what occurred in my case. Although, I have never actually been diagnosed with either disorder, through research and personal analysis I have found that the signs and symptoms basically describe my situation. For as long as I can remember my life has been controlled by my social anxiety. In my younger years I struggled with communicating with people. I’ve missed out on many experiences and opportunities that most of my peers had, and even now that I know what is wrong with me I’m still hindered by it. At the time that I first started school I had no reason to believe that I was any different than any other child. I played outside and watch television. I loved sweets and getting new toys. Everything was new and exciting through my eyes. Maybe I was a little quieter than most children, but I didn’t think that was a problem. When I was at home I was loud and talkative just like my siblings, but when I ventured out to public places like stores or to someone else’s house I’d basically shut down. My facial expression would become blank and I would be unable to speak no matter how bad I wanted to say something. I remained silent until I returned home, and then everything went back to normal. If you had asked me if I was different, I would have told you no. Rather, I would have shaken my head. Apparently my answer would have been incorrect.
By the time I got into Kindergarten and first grade my teachers began to worry because I was not talking or interacting with the other students. When called upon to answer questions in class, I would sit stiffly in my chair and not respond. Of course this was a problem because they couldn’t tell if I was absorbing the information that they were teaching. There were conferences arranged with my parents to try to find out what was wrong with me and any possible solutions. My first grade reading coach was the one who proposed that I was a selective mute. My parents didn’t take any actions to try to find out if that was true or not. They just worked with my teachers to make sure I was learning. The plan was to record me at home reciting the information that I learned in school. This worked for my entire first grade year. By the time that summer came I had noticed that there was a difference between me and the other students, but no matter how bad I wanted to I couldn’t change. About halfway through that summer, I was at the daycare that my mom worked for and I wouldn’t ask for someone to pass me the ketchup. She noticed this and got upset. My mother got up and stood over me yelling, “If you don’t open your mouth and ask for what you want I’m going to take you around that corner and beat your tail!” From that moment on I have been able to at least talk to people when asked a question and sometimes when I needed something. After that event I thought I was “cured” or at least on the way to being cured. Contrary to my belief, I was far from being cured.