I am twenty-one years old and a law student. Since childhood I have always been timid…. I have not had a girlfriend because I am not very sociable. I don’t like to fight or argue, and I always try to overlook others’ offenses…. Ever since the fifth semester of my program they began to require that I speak more, and I have tried hard to do that. However, I think that so much pressure has caused me to be depressed.

Right now, I am taking a course called Legal Consulting in which I am supposed to ask a lot of questions and have considerable responsibility. I would greatly appreciate some advice.

Dear Friend,

Congratulations on your academic success! You have kept progressing, in spite of difficulties, and are on track for a rewarding career.

You may be timid, as you say, and if that is the case, then we suggest that you read and follow the suggestions of Case 69. However, it sounds like your difficulties are more severe than mere timidity. We think that you would benefit from seeing a doctor who can evaluate you for a social anxiety disorder. No matter whether the problem is timidity or something else, a professional diagnosis is extremely important.

In the same way that a person can be shy and not have a social anxiety disorder, a person can also have a social anxiety disorder and not be shy. That is because it is not the behavior that is the determining factor, but rather what is going on in the person’s mind.

Do you avoid situations where you will have to interact with others? Does that anxiety interfere with the normal routines of life? Do you fear being humiliated or embarrassed? Do you think that others are judging you, or that you are inferior to others? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you need to share your fears with a doctor. Those kinds of anxious and recurring thoughts are not likely to go away by themselves, and professional help will hasten your recovery.

In the meantime, write down the fearful thoughts that keep repeating themselves. Then consider each of those fears and the likelihood that what you fear will actually happen. Write down your conclusions about the fear. When the same thought comes again, go back to what you have written and remind yourself what you concluded before. If you have anything else to add, write it down too. Bringing your fears out of your mind and into the light can be very helpful.

Most helpful of all is the understanding that God loves and accepts you just the way you are. He doesn’t judge or condemn you for your anxious thoughts, but He does want you to reach out to Him as He reaches out to you. He wants to give you the strength to examine your irrational fears and to let Him help you change the way you think. God’s love for you has the power to go to war against your fears.(1) Ask Him to help you deal with each fear and to give you peace of mind. Only He is powerful enough to do that, but it is a process that will take time and effort.

Don’t give up!

1 1 Jn 4:18a