Social anxiety makes you isolate yourself because you feel safer by yourself. When you’re alone, no one is judging you. There’s no pressure. You can relax, loosen your shoulders, and be your unfiltered self.
The problem is, the longer you stay isolated, the harder it is to break the cycle. You don’t want to answer text messages that are two weeks old. You don’t want to explain why you were hibernating and make excuses about why you dropped off the face of the planet – but you don’t want your friends thinking you’ve forgotten about them either. It’s a lose-lose scenario. You want to put off texting them because the thought of any sort of social interaction gives you anxiety. But the thought of them waiting for a text that never comes gives you just as much anxiety. Either way, you’re struggling.
Sometimes, your friends aren’t even the problem. Your lack of friends is the problem. Isolation can convince you that you have no one in your corner. When no one checks in on you, when no one even notices that you’ve been having a hard time, it makes you wonder whether anyone actually cares. It makes you second-guess and doubt yourself. It makes your anxiety snowball bigger and bigger until you’re convinced that you’re completely alone.
One of the worst things about anxiety is that it can cause self-fulfilling prophecies. You feel like you have no friends, so you don’t reach out to friends and end up losing them. Or maybe you want to make new friends and scare yourself into thinking that no one wants you around, so you keep to yourself. You don’t even give yourself the opportunity to meet new people, so you get stuck in the same sucky situation. You hide yourself away, assuming no one would want to hang out with you anyway. You make excuses to stay home alone, and then you feel horrible about staying home alone. But you would feel just as horrible leaving the house since you have so much trouble in crowds.
Anxiety makes you isolate yourself, even when you’re desperate for connection. It convinces you that you’re alone, that no one else is struggling as hard as you are, that no one is able to understand what you’re going through. You scroll through social media and wonder how everyone else socializes so easily, how they’re able to leave witty comments and post pictures at parties with dozens of people. You don’t understand why you have such a hard time striking up a simple conversation, why you can never think of anything clever to say until it’s too late. Instead of focusing on all the friends you’ve made in the past, you focus on the ones you’ve lost. Instead of reminiscing on the fun moments you’ve shared, you dwell on the awkward ones.
It’s not that you don’t want to be around people. It’s that you’re terrified of how they’re going to perceive you. You’re terrified of saying the wrong thing. You’re terrified of being told you are never going to be enough. And no matter how long you’ve been living with anxiety, that fear is hard to overcome.