Most of us have felt awkward or embarrassed at some point in our lives — the flushed cheeks, the rapid heart palpitations, the desire to bolt out the door.

For 8.7 per cent of Canadians, they go through these feelings everyday. An estimated three million Canadians live with some form of generalized anxiety disorder. The most common form is social anxiety, according to a Statistics Canada report.

Steven Strauch was formally diagnosed with social anxiety disorder when he was in junior high. Strauch, now a recovery trainer at Canadian Mental Health Association in Calgary, says society tends to overlook the condition.

“It feels like there [are] more conversations about it, definitely more resources out there,” Strauch says, but he adds, “I don’t know if the meaningful conversations about it are happening.”

For the socially anxious, life can be severely debilitating. It goes beyond being a shy or introverted person. Multiple sources, including the Canadian Community Health Survey, describe the symptoms as a near-constant, irrational fear of overstepping imagined boundaries, the persisting unease in accomplishing day-to-day tasks and the fear of social consequences.

Sam nar edit(Left to right) Steven Strauch, a recovery trainer with the Calgary Canadian Mental Health Association, alongside Mount Royal University students Kim Mallari and Bill Atwood get ready to share their experiences with social anxiety, as part of the Calgary Journal’s mental health podcast series.  Photo by Sam Nar

For Mount Royal University (MRU) broadcasting student Kim Mallari, the condition became dangerously isolating. While Mallari hasn’t been formally diagnosed, he says his psychiatrist suspects he has the disorder.

“I would not go outside for fear of just interacting with someone,” he says, adding, “I would even try to avoid my friends and … family in any social setting.”

In this Calgary Journal podcast, three Calgarians share their experiences of living with social anxiety.

In partnership with the Calgary Canadian Mental Health Association, we’re publishing a series of podcasts and news stories about mental health issues in our city. Track these stories using #CalgaryJournalHealth.

Credit: music courtesy of Spyro Vapes/SoundCloud

Editor: Amber McLinden |

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