Shyness, anxiety, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, blushing, trembling hands, dry mouth, panic attacks, difficulty to speak and stuttering are very familiar symptoms to the worldwide community that suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia. The intensity of the symptoms varies from individual to individual with varying degrees of anxiety.
Social Anxiety is triggered by past traumatizing experiences of any nature, to name a few, bullying at school, aggression suffered in childhood and adolescence, prolonged illness or even as a consequence of an economical crisis that generates unemployment thus leading to depressive states and social isolation, among others.
Unease, fear of public speaking, fear of what others may think, of exposing oneself to others, of communicating with others, low self-esteem, the believe that one is different from others, the embarrassment of some unpleasant physical symptoms like blushing, among many other feelings and beliefs, result in deep depression, alienating individuals from all social contact.
We went around Second Life to ask residents How does SL help overcome this anxiety? There we have met people who have refused to speak due to the fear of being stigmatized, fruit of their past experiences. We have also found people willing to make a difference and offer their helping hand.
Selina Greene, founder of Book Island and owner of a support group named Panic Attacks and Anxiety gives us her insight by saying “for those who do suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, SL can be very useful as a distraction tool. The simple and mundane acts of typing and moving one's avatar can help ground oneself back into the body. It's also a great place for people to connect and lean on each other during panic attacks, as well as trying to make sense of them in between attacks. I have learned to control my panic attacks which happen because of physiological rather than psychological reasons, which is why I decided to set up the group, in order to help support those still struggling”. Selina offers support to all in need. Do visit her at the Book Island or contact her through her group or IM.
Book Island SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Book%20Island/171/198/36
Treasure (krissy.sinclair), Founder of S.O.S. Survivors of Suicide Group thinks that SL “allows people to practice their social skills, in a safe place anonymously. They can gain a sense of confidence from positive interactions. Practice makes perfect”. Again you will find a helping hand in Krissy Sinclair. Do contact her or visit her on the location dedicated to the group.
S.O.S. Survivors of Suicide Group SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Schoomere/170/49/23
Our very own Lanai Jarrico agrees with Krissy and says “Yes! Social Anxiety is a disorder that occurs due to a traumatic situation that occurred sometime in someone's life or caused by a severe brain injury that can cause a person to become chemically imbalanced. There are ways to treat this illness with medication but therapy is also very beneficial for overcoming the anxieties. I was in a coma in 1997 and due to the injury I sustained to my brain, it left me pretty shaken up. I had to learn simple tasks that people take for granted every day. Being 21 with a one year old child at the time, I knew I had to make myself better doing whatever I could. I was given a second chance after a 5% chance of survival. Learning to walk again was a challenge, my speech was slurred and delayed and my hand coordination was very bad. Through intense physical and speech therapy 3 times a week at a rehabilitation center helped me grow stronger every day for almost a year, but that was only the physical part of it. Mentally was a whole other story. I had major social anxiety and could not be in crowded places and just building up the courage to approach and speak to someone was terrifying for me. I felt like I would be rejected in social settings or what I was saying to people wouldn’t make any sense. I struggled with this for a long time and it prevented me from going places and doing the things I once loved. I felt like I was hidden from the world for a good 7 years. As I was slowly regaining my life back, my brother introduced me to The SIMS Online. It was the first time in a long time I was able to step out of my shell and meet new people on my own terms. Whenever I felt anxious, I would log out, and try to push myself a little more each time I logged in. Over time I grew comfortable with my group of friends and began sharing little things about myself. I was noticing my spirits were a bit higher and so was my confidence. About a year into the virtual world and learning about the virtual world community, I observed that everyone had a story to tell and it interested me. That is when I came up with the idea to create a little newspaper to share with my circle of friends. Little did I know, it would capture the attention of a greater population. As it grew so did my confidence and voice. The feeling that others were finally listening and actually interested made me grow as a person, shedding those anxieties little by little. Here I am 9 years later and completely freed from social anxiety and the feeling is amazing. I feel empowered and want to help others overcome their fears, follow their heart and jump in feet first and take chances in life. I do not want to look back at regrets and what if's. The first step to recovery is actually taking that step even if it scares you. Once you have done that, the next steps will be much easier”.
An anonymous user wanted to leave us a message saying “I have found it helps me loads; don’t know how I would have done without it. The first time I used SL though and told some friends I had anxiety they were prejudicial and their attitude wasn’t nice. Its discrimination, they thought I was a weirdo and abused of my friendship. A friend who also has social anxiety told me I had the wrong friends and advised me to start over. I got a new account, a fresh restart and kept my mouth shut about my disorder. Being able to communicate with others is a huge step for me”.
We would like to thank all for participating. Have a word to say about this? Do comment on the article by giving us your opinion.