A Day in the Life of a Teenager With Social Anxiety Disorder

Teenage Girl in Empty School Hallway
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An earlier article presented a fictional first-person account of someone with social anxiety disorder (SAD). The goal of that article was to add a personal touch to the informational articles contained on this site. Perhaps the article described someone you know. You may have even experienced some of those symptoms yourself.

As a new addition to this series, here is a day in the life of a teenager with SAD.

Although SAD symptoms in teens are not always different from those experienced by adults, teens may express their anxiety somewhat differently from adults.

In many ways the challenges that they face can be even harder; social and academic pressures can often make social anxiety symptoms worse.

Perhaps you are a teenager with social anxiety and this story sounds a lot like you.

Or, you might be a parent, teacher or other adult who knows a teenager who seems overly fearful, anxious and shy. Will today be the day that you reach out for help or offer it to someone else?

A Teen's Day With SAD

This description is based on stories told by readers of this website, as well as several true stories about teenage social anxiety including "Kirstin's Story: No Place to Stand," "Rae: My True Story of Fear, Anxiety and Social Phobia," and "What You Must Think of Me: A Firsthand Account of One Teenager's Experience of Social Anxiety Disorder."

This is a fictional account and not based on the experiences of any one person.

I climb the steps of my high school grudgingly, knowing what lies ahead.

I have no friends at this school so it is one long day of loneliness. I always arrive early because I am afraid of being late for class. I couldn't stand the thought of walking in late and having everyone look at me.

Since I arrive early, the teachers often pass by me. I keep my head down so that we don't have to say "hi" to each other and the awkwardness that would involve.

I know what they are thinking.

What is wrong with her?

Why doesn't she have anyone to talk to?

I arrive at my first-period class and listen to the chatter around me. Everyone is talking about their weekend. I keep my head down and try not to catch anyone's eye.

I do the same with the teacher in the hopes that he will not ask me a question. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If asked a question, I quickly mutter a response, wishing the floor would just open up and swallow me whole.

During lunch, I usually sit alone or with a group of kids I used to know but have nothing in common with anymore. I know they wonder why I am sitting with them when I never talk. Sometimes one of them will ask me a question. I usually keep my eyes focused on my food and pretend I don't hear them.

I am sure everyone wonders what is wrong with me.

I've tried to schedule classes scheduled my classes to avoid any public speaking. Unfortunately, it can't be totally avoided.

When I have a presentation or speech to give I worry about it months in advance.

If it is in my last period class I can't concentrate for the entire day. When I finally get up to speak my heart is beating so loudly I am sure everyone can hear it. My hands shake and so does my voice. I have trouble catching my breath. I am sure everyone thinks I am crazy or that there is something really wrong with me.

Outside of school I am not really involved in any activities. I don't have a part-time job like most of the other kids because I am too afraid to apply or go for an interview. I spend most nights and weekends at home reading or doing homework.

I haven't talked to anyone about the way I feel because I am

1) too embarrassed, and

2) worried that they will think I am making a mountain out of a molehill.

I should be able to do these things, right? It's just a character flaw that I have such trouble with social situations. If I try really hard I should be able to become more outgoing and able to cope.

My music teacher did try to talk to me once about my anxiety. She could see how anxious I got and asked me what was wrong but I just brushed it off.

I was too embarrassed to talk about the way I was feeling; like she would think I was crazy or something. It is pretty ironic that the reason I can't talk to anybody about being afraid of people is because I am afraid of people!

Sometimes I get really down about the way things are; I think I might even be a little depressed at times. It just wears on you when anxiety is constantly with you.

I am both anxious and hopeful about the future. I am hoping that when I finish high school things will get easier.

Hopefully, I can start fresh somewhere that nobody knows me and work on my fears. Maybe at some point, I will get up the courage to get the help that I probably really do need.

A Word From Verywell

Both medication and therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy) are effective in treating social anxiety disorder (SAD). Much more is known about anxiety disorders now than 20 years ago. If you are living with social anxiety and do choose to seek help, there are many options to get better.

If you or a loved one are struggling with social anxiety disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

In the meantime, continue to make it through each day. Read stories about other teenagers with the same problems as you and participate in online forums about social anxiety.

Perhaps you wish someone would take the time to ask you what is wrong. Maybe, if you could just talk to one person about the way that you feel, you might be able to get past this problem that is consuming every moment of your life. Who will that person be? Choose someone, and make today the day that you share how you are feeling.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Leigh E, Clark DM. Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescents and Improving Treatment Outcomes: Applying the Cognitive Model of Clark and Wells (1995). Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2018;21(3):388-414. doi:10.1007/s10567-018-0258-5

  2. Bandelow B, Michaelis S, Wedekind D. Treatment of Anxiety DisordersDialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017;19(2):93-107. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.2/bbandelow

By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.