Social anxiety takes a turn with the pandemic

Aayushi Datta, News Editor

For people with social anxiety, the pandemic was a blessing. Suddenly, the discomfort of face-to-face interactions all but disappeared. While the deadly virus created its own set of fears, it also offered people with anxiety a chance to relax.

After experiencing isolation, and staying at home for a long time, many people with anxiety started to feel comfortable in an environment without confronting people. Self-isolation, and social distancing placed an ideal life in front of them. 

“For multiple months, I didn’t have to go to school and see many people,” said Johnathan Gibson, a junior at Vista MAST(Moore Alternative School and Treatment) Academy. “I didn’t have to sit beside anyone. I was glad to hide behind a mask.”

However, Zoom made many of these anxious people even more nervous. For some, virtual meetings made them more afraid of participating in class. Jayden Berger, a junior at OHS, said she even had trouble asking her teachers for help.

“Zoom calls were the worst because trying to talk to people I didn’t know was really difficult,” Berger said. “The idea of them not unmuting themselves for answers was even worse.” 

For people who do not suffer from anxiety, the pandemic was still a nightmare.

“Extroverted people had a much harder time coping with the pandemic than introverts,” said Dr. Jamie Dana, a therapist and founder of Elevate Counseling in Phoenix, Arizona. “But now, everyone is having trouble adjusting to the new normal.”

“[Introverts] are having some difficulty readjusting,” Dana said. “But now, even extroverts are feeling insecure about going out and talking to people.” 

Coping with social anxiety can be difficult, but seeking psychological treatment can help. Therapists often experiment with different ways that anxious people can calm their nerves.

“We think about how we handle our stresses,” Dana said. “Some may benefit from talking with friends, while others prefer going out and doing activities together.”

Some people handle their anxiety by avoiding phone calls and sticking to text messages so they don’t have to talk to people.

“Many people benefit by shifting their focus,” Dana said.

But the coming transition back to a new normal can give everyone the jitters. Now, Johnathan Gibson is afraid of what the future holds.

“I get anxious about what [the] next school year’s gonna be like,” Gibson said.

Back to normal will be difficult, as the past year was filled with new changes that people were starting to adapt to. Some people were comfortable with these changes and others were not. For anxious students, going back to a normal school routine is going to be tough.