How Schizophrenia Manifests Itself in Social Settings

Michael Hedrick
January 20, 2016  | Last Updated: January 19, 2016

I’ve taken quite nicely to the term introvert. It’s been a rather large movement in regards to social interaction and though it may not accurately describe the anxiety and paranoia I feel when I’m among a large group of people, introversion is definitely a result.

I didn’t have anxiety in high school. I was popular, well-liked and I could talk to and get along with everyone. College was a different story though, something about my crumbling mental health combined with confines of being in an entirely new situation fueled a ferocious anxiety in me that still remains.


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I think the anxiety of not fitting in helped spark my psychotic break and contributed to an overarching feeling strange.

That’s the thing, I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I feel like a singular unit amongst an alien world. It’s strange but I’ve become accustomed to it.

Schizophrenia causes paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, psychosis and myriad other small symptoms that can be hard to deal with in general but combine them in a social situation like a party and it’s not a good time.

For me the main symptoms that manifest themselves in social settings are the paranoia and anxiety, oftentimes delusions, that things that are different from reality are there too. Usually it starts out with me entering a situation wary and untrustworthy of people and then I’ll be nervous about that. Soon, I’ll overhear laughing or words and twist them around in my head so that inevitably they’re about me in some negative tone, like he laughed weird or he moves weird or the sound of his voice is weird. Think of it like extreme anxiety and because all these things about me are weird people are making judgments about me like I’m stupid or ugly or weak.

This is paranoia, when essentially I feel as if I’m being assaulted simply by being me.

I’m well aware that usually none of this has any basis in reality but it doesn’t hurt any less and if I could stop worrying and stop thinking about all this stuff and just be normal, whatever that means, I would be grateful.

I can remember a dinner with some of my good friends. We were sitting on a patio at a brewery in my hometown, I had had a couple beers and so had the table nearby. Usually in situations like this I’d be relaxed but I heard the other table erupt with laughter and as I was sitting with my back to them and naturally I wondered what they were laughing about. Something in my brain clicked in that moment and I became overwhelmed by the paralyzing fear that they were laughing about the way I was sitting. I shifted in my chair to make them happy but they kept laughing. I strained my ears to hear what they were talking about and caught snippets that I twisted into being about me. My nerves were spiking and I just sat there silent and scared. My mind was reeling. They were thinking and saying things about me and I knew it. Finally, I stood up and walked out of the restaurant and went to my car trying to get a handle on the machinations in my head.

That’s just a singular incident. Imagine some level of that on a day-to-day basis.

Sometimes it’s nothing and I can handle it but sometimes it gets bad. When it gets really bad I’ll start having some psychosis that things mean something different than what they really mean or that there is some hidden meaning to the words people are saying. It’s as if they’re trying to send me messages or something just under the guise of normal operating procedure.

Schizophrenia and social settings don’t mix particularly well.

All that in mind, it’s no wonder why I prefer to be alone or in small groups of people and it’s no wonder I call myself an introvert.

Suffice it to say I know what it’s like to feel like you’re being made fun of, I feel it every day. I fight through it, though. I proceed normally and I fight to be confident and jokey and smiley and happy and relaxed.

Sometimes I do a really good job but sometimes I just need a break. That’s ok, though. It’s ok to be overwhelmed and if anybody can say that with certainty it’s me. 


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