College symbolizes independence and freedom and will be for many one of the best times of their lives, but if you were struggling with social anxiety in high school, the transition to college can amplify your difficulties. It will mean leaving your comfort zone, not only mentally but also physically, and for some, it will be the first time that you are away from home and have to look after yourself.
Having social anxiety in college can affect your studies if you are unable to manage the everyday challenges that being a student will represent for you, such as participating in class, joining study groups, giving presentations or talking to your professors. Social phobia in college students can also lead to feeling isolated and in severe cases to alcohol and drug abuse so is imperative that you find ways to cope with it.
You Are Not Alone!
Many campuses have on-site therapists of counselors to whom you will have access as a student and they will be a good support system while you find your feet. Even if you feel that you are the only person in the world suffering from social anxiety, remember that you are not, as about 15% of students in the US use those facilities.
Social Life at College
Many life-long friendships and romantic relationships are started in college. But what if you suffer from social anxiety disorder? How do you cope with social anxiety at college?
While it takes a lot of courage to walk up to a stranger at a party, studying together provides you with easy ice breakers. You can initiate contact by making comments about classes, assignments, exams, etc… Likewise, sharing activities in clubs and student organizations can help you meet people while taking off the pressure of finding topics of conversation.
As you are no doubt aware, body language matters as much as what you are saying, if not more, so remember to smile and make eye contact. Don’t worry if you blush, chances are you are the only one who notices it, and you won’t be the only student with social anxiety, or who simply finds all those new experiences overwhelming.
Very few people can honestly say that getting up in front of an audience to speak doesn’t affect them at all. Even seasoned CEOs and world-famous movie stars admit to dreading it, so if the thought of presenting your work in front of your peers gets cold sweat running down your back, rest assured that you are part of a very, very large club!
A lot of the anxiety coming from public speaking stems from perceiving your audience as a faceless, unwelcoming entity, so try to find a few friendly faces and make eye-contact with them once in a while, and it will become a group of people just like you. Encouraging questions and debate also humanizes a group and will take some of the pressure off you.
Last, although it may seem terribly mundane, remember to eat regularly and healthily, exercise, and get a reasonable amount of sleep. While it may not cure your social anxiety as such, being hungry and exhausted will definitely make it more difficult to cope with stressful situations.