Social Anxiety at the University of Wolverhampton: A Student’s Story

The University of Wolverhampton has a diverse population of students – and some face certain mental health challenges.

Social anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders. According to nhs.uk, it is "much more than ‘shyness’. It can be intense fear and anxiety over simple everyday activities.”

This type of disorder can be “complex” and have “a disruptive or disabling impact on a person's life. It can severely affect a person's confidence and self-esteem, interfere with relationships and impair performance at work or school.”

To raise awareness and show support for those with such challenges, I spoke with a student regarding their experience of getting through university with social anxiety:
 

Can you explain a little about what social anxiety is?

Sometimes I find it hard to understand it myself. I think it’s something that can be hard to notice. I find crowds very difficult to deal with, especially small spaces with a lot of people – it feels almost suffocating after a while.

I get nervous a lot when talking with people - find it very hard to feel comfortable or make friends. Even if I want to go to some event sometimes I’ll still avoid it. It sounds silly even to me really. Often I’ll blush at the slightest thing… someone only has to ask me a question and I go red-faced. It’s embarrassing and makes things worse really.
 

When did you realise you had social anxiety?

A few years ago I was struggling a lot with things, and the counsellor I starting talking with told me it was probably an issue of social anxiety. To be honest I pushed it out my mind and stopped seeing counsellors because I didn’t want to accept anything like that. I told myself if I worked hard enough I could feel the same as everyone else and be successful. I suppose really I was just embarrassed, and afraid of what other people would think. I didn’t even tell my parents about it for long time.
 

Has it impacted on your experience at university? If so, how?

I suppose it has. I’m in my 3rd year now, and I often felt like I couldn’t enjoy the same things as everyone else. I wanted to join a society or do a sport but was too nervous the first 2 years. Now I think I could do it, but haven’t got so much time for it, which is ironic, I guess. I kinda regret not joining something earlier.

I’ve found it pretty difficult to make friends too. Being with different people in every lecture and semester makes it difficult since I normally take a long time to get comfortable with someone.
 

What do you find most difficult about social anxiety?

For me, the most frustrating thing about it is always feeling held back by it. There are so many things I want to do or want to enjoy fully but find it hard to. It’s very easy to feel alone, and difficult to break out of it. It can make every day a challenge and affects my physical health too. I often don’t sleep properly. Sometimes I feel weak, and constantly I'm tired. It affects everything really. I worry a lot about the future and how I can hold down a job, support a family and just do normal things.
 

How do you manage with it? Have you sought any help from the Uni’s counselling services?

I push on and get through. I know I’m lucky to have everything I do, and there are many more people with greater challenges.

I thought about using the counselling services at University, but could never quite bring myself to actually talk to someone – I felt silly like I would be wasting their time. I only recently contacted them to arrange something. I haven’t seen anyone yet but I’m planning to.
 

What advice would you give to other students who feel similarly to you?

For anyone that feels similarly at all, I would just say you’re not alone. There are plenty of people that feel just the same. Even people you wouldn’t expect. However, tough things get don’t give up, especially not on yourself. Get the help you need, it’ll make a difference. I wish I had sought out help sooner so don’t put it off as much as me.

Don’t let yourself be afraid like I was about what people would think. I told myself that by not telling anyone about it I wasn’t letting it control my life, but I was. I wasn’t just afraid of what others would think, I was afraid of it myself.

Sometimes we are faced with difficult challenges, and all we can do is fight them, even if we can never move them, as much as we might wish for that… but from my experience with people that I’ve met, those people are often among the most extraordinary… Don’t be afraid to be you.

 

You might not be aware if someone you even already know struggles with such a disorder, or something similar. So be supportive and encouraging to those you’re in contact with. You could really make a difference to someone — taking a little more time to understand a little better, goes a long way.

If you experience similar difficulties yourself, don’t hesitate to contact the University of Wolverhampton Counselling Service or even speak to one of our advisors in our independent advice centre. There are people willing and ready, to listen and help.

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share about this article, or your own personal experiences, feel free to email them to: info.wolvesunion@wlv.ac.uk (all messages and content will remain confidential and not be shared without permission), or comment below.

If you’d like to find out more about social anxiety, visit the NHS site at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-anxiety/Pages/Social-anxiety.aspx

Comments

Sarah Leppington
7:58am on 29 Oct 16 Thanks for this article! I hope it helps others to realise they're not alone, or "being silly". Brave of you and don't "forget" to attend that appointment, Andrew - onwards and upwards!
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