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So, school started up again today and I realized how impossible this is going to be. I couldn't handle all the people, even in the hallway, so I fled and drove home, missing my first day for two of my classes, and I'm feeling pretty helpless.

Hi. I'm 30 years old and am a full-time student. I've conquered some pretty tough things, including two tours in Iraq during my 6-year stint in the Army, and I can honestly say that conquering myself is something I'm not sure I can do.
I have what I assume is a social anxiety disorder. I've done a lot of research on it, but I've never been diagnosed or been to any therapy.

"The fear", for me, is rather specific.
I get into feedback loops that trigger when I'm in view of a crowd of people I don't know well. Particularly when they're facing me. I'll start shaking and sweating, and tense up... Because these are visible symptoms, my anxiety is heightened further at the prospect of the symptoms being noticed, which intensifies the symptoms.
The fear is of people thinking something is wrong with me, and the symptoms make it obvious.

Speaking in front of a crowd (of people I don't know) is the most intense trigger of these symptoms. Unfortunately, I had to schedule a public speaking class this semester, which I am absent from at the time of this writing. I couldn't even make it through the hallway... I don't expect anything better in the class itself except for a full-blown panic attack, which I have had in that type of situation.

On the other hand, I do well around crowds of people I know and am familiar with. I'm cross-enrolled at a technical college which I have been attending since '09, and I know everyone in my department well. I could do a live speech in front of my entire department in nothing but my boxer shorts (hypothetically speaking) without an ounce of anxiety.

I know "exposure" has a lot to do with that, but I was never required to speak in front of those classes when I was new there. I was able to slowly warm up to people and get to know them until casual friendships were formed and I got comfortable with the place.

Anyway, the community college where I'm taking my general-ed courses is different. It's loads of people I don't know, many of them too young for me to have anything in common with, and I can't see it playing out the way it did for my tech college. On top of that, the scale of the school is a lot larger, and rarely do people appear in the same classes together in subsequent semesters. I can't perform exposure like I did at the other school.

So, what can I do? I really don't want to drop the class. I need the amount of credit hours I'm currently scheduled for, or my VA housing allowance won't be enough to cover my bills. But I know the only way I'll survive that class, and the school itself, is if I showed up drunk. (I have an alcohol problem, btw)

I was reading about Phenibut, and ordered some yesterday, but I feel so weak and helpless that I'm reduced to ordering chemicals off the internet because I can't control my own anxiety. It outrages me that I would prefer the fear of convoying in Iraq or hiding in mortar shelters while mortars are hitting all around me, instead of simply standing in the front of a class room. It enrages me that I have a 3.9 GPA and I'm considering quitting college altogether because I can't get past myself with this.

Sorry to rant, but I'm honestly at the end of my rope.
 

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How many actual speeches do you have to give? I had to take a speech class a year ago, in order to transfer. I took an online speech class but there were still 5 meetings to give the actual speeches. The class was called "interpersonal communication". Felt it would be much more relaxed than "public speaking" or "argumentation and debate".

Anyways, they will tell you to look at the audience blah blah and not read your speech off the 3X5 cards. I can't do that, I just read off the cards. In that speech class and in a couple other classes I've taken, the teacher (perhaps out of pity) gave me an alright grade. I ended up getting an A in that class cause the speeches were only 35% of the grade. Also try to get your name on the top of the list and be one of first to give your speech. I found it's better to get it over with quickly. The longer I sit there listening to the others give their speeches the worse my anxiety gets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Maybe it's ptsd. Have you seen a therapist?
There may be some PTSD influence in there somewhere, but I've had social anxiety prior to joining the military. The only thing I noticed that may be PTSD-related is now I'm pretty much very untrusting of society in general, and its proclivity for violence. I sleep next to a hand-gun and worry about home-intruders more than I ever did prior to being in the military. But it's a clear difference between that and the performance/social anxiety. I can live with thinking I can die at any moment. I have no physical manifestations due to that, nor any mental problems with it... it's harder to not be able to live at all because of social anxiety, where I'm locking myself up and not experiencing life at all because I don't want to break down.

Haven't seen a therapist. No med insurance. But I'm working on that, with the VA stuff.

How many actual speeches do you have to give? I had to take a speech class a year ago, in order to transfer. I took an online speech class but there were still 5 meetings to give the actual speeches. The class was called "interpersonal communication". Felt it would be much more relaxed than "public speaking" or "argumentation and debate".

Anyways, they will tell you to look at the audience blah blah and not read your speech off the 3X5 cards. I can't do that, I just read off the cards. In that speech class and in a couple other classes I've taken, the teacher (perhaps out of pity) gave me an alright grade. I ended up getting an A in that class cause the speeches were only 35% of the grade. Also try to get your name on the top of the list and be one of first to give your speech. I found it's better to get it over with quickly. The longer I sit there listening to the others give their speeches the worse my anxiety gets.
Not sure. This is my first speech class. But I know how I've reacted in the past to simply being in front of a crowd, regardless of whether I had to perform or not. I don't have a problem with looking people in the eyes, and I'm very outgoing with people I know. Cocky even. It's just the unknown crowds, and regardless of whether I'm saying anything or not, just standing up there will reduce me to a violently shaking, sweating mess. Even if I was facing away from them. Just "knowing" they're there, staring at me, thinking, is enough.

I know if I have a few drinks, I'll be good to go. I'd blow it out of the water, in fact. (I'm a fun drunk. hehe) And personally, I'd prefer smelling like a drunk to feeling like I'm dying of fear.
 

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Could you talk with the teacher about your anxiety for speech class. I think that might help in putting some pressure off of yourself. If you think it feels awkward or embarrassing to talk to the teacher, realize that stage fright is probably a topic that the speech instructor is familiar with and recognizes that other students have a problem with it.

As for the hallway, could you maybe just go in the hallway, let your anxiety build up, and if it gets really out of control, just step outside and sit on a bench alone for a while? Afterward, instead of going home, maybe try stepping back into the hallway for a bit of a longer period? That way you could start to get desensitized in a progressive manner.
 

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We have a few things in common which is kind of cool. The only thing I can think of would be to talk to your school's VA rep and see if that person can help you out. I'm probably going to try that since mine is the type that will go above and beyond.
 

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I feel your pain. I hated speech class in college. I was always so nervous and it showed. I even heard classmates whispering about how nervous I was. I luckily made it through it with a C. Luckily, I never had to take another speech class.
 

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I've never had the experiences that you have had in Iraq or anything close to it.



I do understand being much more comfortable with people that you know vs strangers. I'm definitely not one of those "social butterflies" that can make conversation with just about anyone. Usually I end up saying something stupid and awkward that makes people go "oookkaaay..." And then I obsess about it. But with a small group of close-knit friends, my SA almost disappears.



Alcohol definitely eases my anxiety. I'm aware thats not exactly healthy. For the longest time thats the only way I knew how to get to know people...getting drunk. So productive...


Talking to the professor would be worth a shot.. He/She may even be able to offer more advice to help you cope and find something that works just for you. Im sorry that I can't offer more advice but I wish you good luck :)
 
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