Social Anxiety Help
Larry Cohen, LICSW
29-year-old South Asian man
“Would people notice my nervousness?
Would I say something dumb?”
I realized I suffered from social anxiety early in college. While I was always shy in class and preferred to avoid public speaking as a child, I never thought I was any different than anyone else. When I began college, I started to realize that I acted very differently around people that I knew well and strangers. I think my friends and family would describe me as very outgoing, some would even describe me as an extrovert. When I’m with a group of people I know well, I don’t mind being the center of attention. At the very least I feel very comfortable if someone asked me to do a speech in front of family or friends; I’d jump at the chance.
I started to notice a major gap between my interaction with those close to me and strangers when I started college. I dreaded the first day of class, especially in small classes where we would introduce ourselves. As we went around the room, my anxiety would grow. What would I say? Would people notice my nervousness? Would I say something dumb? As soon as we received our syllabus for a class, I would look through it to find how much participation or presentations counted as a part of the grade. I just wanted a class where we would take exams or write papers, I wanted to avoid presentations at all costs.
I began taking anti-depressants during my senior year of college. Initially it provided me with the relief I needed. I felt more willing to meet more people, and most importantly, I was ready to attack presentations in my classes. My final year in college went smoother than the previous 3 years; I met more people and really enjoyed myself throughout. I finally felt like my true self.
After starting work, I noticed that much of the anxiety I used to have when doing presentations returned. Over the next few years, I went back and forth between using the anti-depressants and not. There would always be a trigger (almost always related to public speaking) that would send me back to them.
I finally decided to address the problem head-on rather than just use medicine to provide a temporary band-aid. I found Social Anxiety Help online and decided to try out CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy). From the moment I began therapy, I knew that CBT could be life-changing. Simply talking to someone about this secret that I was hiding from my closest friends and most of my family gave me a feeling of freedom.
I met individually with Larry every two weeks, and during each meeting we would set up tasks for me carry out over the next few weeks. Carrying out these tasks took a lot of courage but I saw immediate results. Practicing mindfulness while attacking each of the tasks brought me the most relief I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Before I knew it, I was making presentations and speaking in front of my entire company.
While there’s still work for me to do, I now know how to approach situations that may cause anxiety with a logical, effective approach.
More Personal Change Stories
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!”
33-year-old married, white woman Maryland, suburban DC
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(audio & written)
27-year-old Hispanic woman Maryland, suburban DC (immigrant from Peru)
“People are finally starting to see me differently. 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. Social anxiety therapy has really changed my life.”
44-year-old single, female nurse Washington, DC
“My life is different now. I feel like I can be who I always was inside.”
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”
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.”
29-year-old South Asian man Washington, DC
“Would people notice my nervousness? Would I say something dumb?”
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.
Social Anxiety Help is a founding regional clinic of the National Social Anxiety Center (NSAC): nationalsocialanxietycenter.com