My Own Experience With Social Anxiety Disorder
When I was 15 I moved from Iran to Italy. I was living with one of my brothers in Rome, but felt anxious. A year later, my anxiety level rose to the point that I couldn’t concentrate on my studies and suffered from a host of symptoms: I was excessively self-conscious, worried about others judging me and avoided social situations. Whenever I could, I would stay quiet or try to disappear into the background.
In 1979 when I was suffering these symptoms, there wasn’t so any information about anxiety. Most family and friends interpret these symptoms as shyness or insecurity. Needless to say, this interpretation didn’t help me since I thought that something was seriously wrong with me as a person. I didn’t know that I was suffering from anxiety.
Among my symptoms of anxiety was a throbbing headache. I tried many treatments to alleviate the pain. I began with a doctor and then a specialist, an acupuncturist and finally a psychologist. I took prescription drugs for pain, anxiety and depression. Only the psychologist got past the symptoms that caused the pain. After all, I was far from family; I was worried because the Islamic Revolution had erupted in my native land. The revolution meant persecution for my family and other Iranian Baha’is. Soon I began to receive news of Baha’is being imprisoned, tortured and executed for their beliefs.
After telling all this to the psychologist, he diagnosed my condition as “stress”. I became interested in personal growth and psychology. After many years of personal struggle and studying psychology at the University of Western Ontario and University of Waterloo, I learned many coping skills which served as foundation for my first book, “Stress: An Owner’s Manual”.
However, now, 34 years later, I know that it was neither stress nor shyness. My extreme feeling of self-consciousness in everyday social situations was nothing but anxiety or what psychiatrists call it “social anxiety”. Since then I helped people in Canada, Sweden, Czech Republic and Spain overcome their problems.
While I was living in Europe, I did three post graduate studies, furthering my knowledge of psychology. Gradually, after many years of private practice, and after seeing numerous cases of anxiety, phobias and obsessions, I became known as a specialist for complicated cases.