With the roadmap in place for the lifting of lockdown, many people can’t wait to hug family and friends, go to the pub for a post-work treat and see each other without a mask.
However, the easing of the restrictions has different implications for people with social anxiety. Many have said they are nervous to be in social situations outside the comfort of their own home.
This can result in agoraphobia which is usually more common in older generations but has been seen in younger people with social anxiety.
We have spoken to young people in York who are struggling with the prospect of a return to ‘normal life’ again.
York student Liam Daly, 21, has been experiencing social anxiety since high school. So he’s enjoyed some aspects of being at home in lockdown.
“Usually when I am really socially anxious, I fade to the background of a conversation and don’t really speak,” he told YorkMix.
“My social anxiety has significantly reduced over the last few years since joining university. However it is still an issue I deal with.”
When asked how it has felt to have minimal contact with people over the last year, Liam said “I have secretly enjoyed it. I am a pretty comfortable person in my own space, but I do really enjoy social interaction.
“Over this third lockdown it has been the hardest to maintain productivity and stay happy, so now that lockdown will be coming to an end, it will give me a more drive in my career and be able to actual look forward to things.”
Olivia Jessuk is a 20 year old who studying English Literature and working at a Covid testing centre. She started experiencing social anxiety from a very young age in primary school.
“During university my anxiety worsened a great deal and I’ve been in CBT therapy since July 2020 and I’ve been prescribed an anti-depressant to help cope with the symptoms.
“Also talking to people such as my housemates has helped me deal with negative thinking patterns. If it wasn’t for lockdown I think I would never have sought out therapy or medication to help with my mental health.”
Working at the test centre “I’ve taught myself how to be more social and accept my anxiety more and I’m able to have more open discussions with colleagues and friends about mental health which has had a really positive impact on me.”
Olivia said: “I’m quite worried about lockdown coming to an end. I don’t know what to make of everyone mixing again and after the lockdown in winter, you never really know if we’re actually going to be free from restrictions permanently or not.
“I have to prepare myself mentally to go back to normality as we’ve all become so accustomed to socially distance and avoid meeting people.
“I feel it’s going to cause quite a culture shock when society is mixing again. However, I have a great support bubble to keep me at ease on going back to normal.”
Excited – but worried
Elliot Johnson is 23 years old and works in the street food industry. He has been dealing with anxiety for almost four years.
His social anxiety has meant that like Olivia, he has often found comfort being at home but has mixed feelings about the end of lockdown.
“At the moment, I find it easier to stay at home and avoid any contact because everything feels alien when we aren’t allowed to socialise or even see family.
“I am very excited for lockdown to be over but when I think about socialising again I usually get a horrible feeling in my stomach – I guess I’m not looking forward to it as much as I should because I worry a lot.
“I am dealing with my anxiety by making myself go on walks or even just listening to music but it’s hard not being able to see anyone I’m close to.”
It seems that many are hoping lockdown will come to an end gradually, so we as a society can be reaccustomed to everyday life as it used to be pre-covid. Some will find this harder than others and it may take them longer but there is a common theme of excitement despite their social anxiety.
If you are struggling with any of these problems, please visit the NHS website about ways to cope and who to contact.