I have done a lot of research, over the years, about this. I too suffer from the "condition"...it started slowly when I was about 14 and it progressively made itself dominant in my life the older I got. (apparently that is common, so i've read) I'm 27 now. yea....good times :/ I too contemplated and plotted suicide, but realized that I'm more afraid of God than I am of people. God has a purpose for my life. His word tells us that suicide is wrong. Therefore, I have forced myself to endure this and overcome it.
There are many other websites/forums/blogs where people are coming forward about this. I read one book in particular about a woman who suffered from severe anxiety and social phobia. Her story is much more extreme than mine and probably many of yours but she digs into the science of what happens in the brain to cause certain behaviors. She, apparently, would have extreme nervous breakdowns. I don't recommend buying it. I skimmed through a lot of it because she rambles and it's disorganized. the book is titled "A Spider in the Palace" by Jeanne Pricer. It's not the easiest book to follow but I was desperate for any answers. Here is what I have learned so far and what I plan to do about it:
Basically, this is something we have trained our brains and eyes to do. After the first time it happened, a memory was recorded in our brains of that moment. (I can remember specifically the first few times it happened to me and all the other times, as i'm sure most of you can) Due to the awkwardness of the situation, embarrassment and fear, we we're doomed to recall that incident the next time we were in a social situation, causing us to panic and repeat the behavior. It probably only took one or two incidents for us to create what is called "MUSCLE MEMORY". Each time you are forced to speak to someone, your brain recalls what happened and repeats the behavior. It's like a reflex. I and others i've read about, recognize that it is "out of our control" and there are no other thoughts besides "DON'T DO IT" going on in our heads during each encounter. The wonderful thing about muscle memory is that it can be trained to do something new! I read on another website similar to this one that someone had found a way to slowly overcome it....
She said she read a book that gave an exercise to practice daily in order to learn maintaining eye contact. She wrote that the book said to find someone you trust or someone you can at least talk to about this and ask them if they would be willing to sit down with you each day and have a "staring contest". lol Well, kinda. You sit directly across from this person, and look into their eyes WITHOUT looking away for 5-15 minutes. While you are looking in their eyes, put your mind at ease that there is nothing to be paranoid about. Make it fun and enjoyable, train your brain to recognize social interaction as something POSITIVE, not something to be feared. Even if you look away, immediately regain eye contact and tell yourself thats its ok to break eye contact once in awhile.
After a few days of sitting in silence, try holding a conversation with them without breaking the eye contact. Practicing listening to them instead of thinking too much. Ultimately that is what we do to ourselves to worsen our condition. Do what works for you until you feel comfortable. Knowing that you can trust this person not to judge you will help to eliminate the fear. Also keep in mind that this is only to be practiced with someone who understands why you are not breaking eye contact (basically, don't do it without their consent). In a normal social setting, it's perfectly acceptable to only look someone in the eye occasionally. People who never break eye contact are over achievers in my mind and make me very uncomfortable. lol.
I am lucky enough to have my husband to console about this. He's the only one that I have ever shared it with. Never mentioned it to my counselor but I would recommend a counselor to anyone who doesn't have someone they can trust. There are some in churches and schools that are free. Look online too. My insurance covers mine. If anything, try using a camera or mirror until you find someone to tell.
Talking to someone about it is very embarrassing, i know, but being alone in this is unhealthy. Maybe ask someone on here that shares the same condition to do it through skype or w/e....They definitely could help and wont judge!!
My counselor said it takes 90 days of consistent new thoughts to re train your brain and about 3-4 weeks to retrain muscles. So if you do this exercise daily (at least try to) and also keep a journal of positive thinking (each morning or before going to bed, write down positive thoughts about yourself and what you've been blessed with) you will see a difference. Pray that God will help you overcome this! Stay positive.
if you have trouble staying positive, an excellent book to read is "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. She is a FANTASTIC author and it's her #1 seller.
I have made tremendous strides!! and I have accepted this as something i will probably struggle with from time to time...like an alcoholic or someone with bipolar disease. It should comfort you knowing you are not alone. It's much easier to walk through something when you know you aren't alone. I am determined and confident that this...thing...will not keep me down. I strongly believe God has asked me to endure this for a reason. As with any other trial a person must endure, we will be stronger because of it. A quote from joyce meyer that has given me strength and hope is:
"Courage is not the absence of fear, it's action in the presence of it".
Each time you face your fear and speak to someone (regardless of what happens during the conversation) you are living proof of true courage. Let that be your inspiration and hope. Continue seeking advice and help from others. You are not a freak!!! I used to say that to myself constantly. It's not true!! You are perfect in God's eyes and he loves you! and that is all that matters!
Good luck and God bless.