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Social Anxiety Help is a founding regional clinic of the National Social Anxiety Center (NSAC): nationalsacenter.com


Click below to listen to the audio recording of Liz's personal change story:


Hello, my name is Liz and I have social anxiety.

I can't really say I acquired social anxiety at a specific age because I have always believed I was born with it. It was something that was in my DNA. Coming from a family with several members having the same problem, I did not want to follow the same pattern. Social anxiety appeared in my life at an early age. It all started when I started school: my mom was afraid that I was not going to be able to go to a normal school because I was not able to interact with people. Luckily, I was able to enter a Catholic school. I learned to not only love God, but love others as well as myself. Everything was getting better for me. I was able to get out of my shell, make friends, participate in events and more importantly, be happy.

Or at least I thought I was. But everything changed a month after I started 10 grade when my parents broke the news that we were migrating to the United States [from Peru] to look for a better life. I would never forget that day: June 23 of 2003. That is when my life changed. I remember I hated my parents for their decision. It wasn't until a year later that I finally understood that social anxiety was always there and the moving just helped to show me I have never overcome social anxiety but instead I just learned to live with it. I was used to the routine.

I started high school a few months after arrival as a sophomore. There, the history repeated once more, but now it was worst than before. I was not only afraid to not fit in, but was also afraid that I would never succeed as my parents wanted me. Surprisingly to me and my teachers I was able to get the language pretty quick and I was able to graduate from high school after 3 years of arrival. Even though I did pretty well, I felt really lonely. I missed my country, friends and family. I was back in my shell afraid of failure and judgment. I wasn't happy and I couldn't understand why. For everybody I was the smart kid, but at the same time I was the quiet girl.

I entered college the same year I graduated high school. I didn't want to go to that school that my parents had chosen for me, but that was all we could afford at that time. Things got worst than ever for me. It was not only that I couldn't make friends anymore. My grades dropped drastically. I wasn't able to ask questions, or talk to a professor during office hours. My test grades were really low. Social anxiety was worse than ever. I had developed test anxiety. I had lost all the little confidence I had in myself and I didn't know how to get better. I struggled with that for several years.

I knew there was something wrong with me. So many times I would mark a day in my calendar and I used to say "tomorrow things are going to change for me." But that tomorrow never came for me. I was feeling hopeless until someone really close to me talked to me about social anxiety and how to overcome it. After reading about it and seeing the changes in my sister, I decided to seek for help. I contacted the place where she attended, but I discovered that I couldn't attend the same therapy in the same place because we were relatives. So I tried individual therapy instead. I attended individual therapy for about 5 months. That is when I ran out of money and I could not continue going anymore. After individual therapy I saw very few changes in my life. I wasn't where I wanted to be yet.

Then my sister's therapist recommended me Larry [Social Anxiety Help, DC]. I went for one of his free orientations and I was convinced that that was what I needed, but because of my class schedule I couldn't join [the social anxiety therapy group]. I knew this time I wasn't going to give up so I went back for the next session. This one actually worked with my school schedule. The first day [of group] I was afraid to go. I didn't know what to expect, but I think the best feeling was to see that I was not the only one that was struggling with social anxiety. I learned several techniques that help me have a better life. I remember many times I didn't want to do the exercises because I always thought they were not helpful, but now I can say they did help me a lot.

I always keep in my mind all the things that I learned there as CBT [cognitive-behavioral therapy]. All these techniques helped me move forward in life. I have now a better understanding of my past and I'm really happy that I attended therapy. It's been almost four months since therapy has ended and I can't believe how things have changed in my life. I graduated from a university with the highest GPA since I started in college. I've been offered a job in a company where I've been interning the past months. I've been able to make more friends. But most importantly I got my confidence back. It is like people are finally starting to see me differently. They now see me as normal. I'm pretty confident that there are going to be more great things along the way that are still there for me to discover later. I can really say that social anxiety therapy has really changed my life.



M's Story

31-year-old gay, white man
Washington, DC

"I can just be me....
I moved forward. I took a risk, and the result has paid itself out so many times!"

T1's Story

33-year-old African American female
Washington, DC

"I needed to present this facade of perfection.
I didn't want to be another stereotype.
For me, I was representing my entire race
at such a young age, at 14."

K's Story

33-year-old married, white woman
Maryland, suburban DC

"I felt like I didn't really fit in with most people...
I felt like I was just bad at having conversations,
that I never knew what to say."

R1's Story

30-year-old African-American woman
Washington, DC

"I was bullied by all of my classmates....
I am a good person. No one can ever make fun of that."

D's Story

37-year-old white, male writer
Colombia, South America
(formerly of Washington, DC)

"I struggled with shyness and low self-esteem,
specifically with regard to my physical appearance and feelings of attractiveness."

S's Story

44-year-old single, female nurse
Washington, DC

"My life is different now.
I feel like I can be who I always was inside."

I's Story

(audio and written)
56-year-old gay male, retired investment banker
Washington, DC

"It is possible to find personal strength and happiness."

Mike's Story

34-year-old Jewish man
Costa Rica, Central America
(formerly of Maryland, suburban DC)

"I finally had the courage to do things I'd always hoped I'd be able to do"

C's Story

33-year-old transgender, white woman
Maryland, suburban DC

"I fell into a core belief that 
I'm fundamentally different and defective
 and that I have nothing in common with 
those I perceive to be 'normal.'"

R2's Story

26-year-old African American woman
Washington, DC

"I was living too much in my head,
instead of being mindful and in the moment in social situations."

J's Story

24-year-old gay man
Washington, DC

"Did I fit in? Was I gay enough?"

T2's Story

29-year-old South Asian man
Washington, DC

"Would people notice my nervousness?
Would I say something dumb?"

Judy's Story

(National Public Radio audio broadcast)
57-year-old white lesbian
Washington, DC

"Now it just seems like the experiments I did in the very beginning look so easy to me,
that I could do it without even thinking or without becoming at all nervous."

Justin's Story

25-year-old white man
Washington, DC

"Just having any person stopping by my cubicle at work
would bring feelings of trembling, blushing, sweating, and extreme tension."

If you have any questions or comments,
please email Larry Cohen, LICSW,
with offices in Washington, DC.

[Larry Cohen, LICSW, does not endorse any of the products or services advertised by others on this website.]

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