Can anyone help me with a character with social anxiety / depression

Hi guys! My story “In Apnoea” aims at representing the struggles teens go through in order for all readers to identify theirselves in someone. I thought it would be a good idea to have one character face mental health issues since it is a really important topic, unfortunately it is quite frequent and it is a good way to raise awareness.
I am planning to add a character with depressions and social anxiety but I really have got no clue what that feels like, can you help me?
I was thinking of having her have a period of time where she is feeling sad with no real reason and kind of freaks out whenever she needs to hang out with people (with no reason she doesn’t feel comfortable going or wants to straight away go home). Does this sound realistic?
What else can I add?
Should I also add her therapy sessions?
Should I have her officially diagnosed with these things?
How do people in real life get out of these issues so that I can also make her overcome it!

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My take based on my own mental health struggles

Whenever I’ve had instances of really bad social anxiety it’s something that comes on like an attack. I’ll be fine one moment and then become really overwhelmed.

I would say that this is pretty reasonable, depending on what the character is like. If they’re someone who is going to therapy and is trying to get better, maybe you could show them nervous about going and trying the social situation and then them having some kind of anxiety attack? For me at least part of the experience is feeling really pathetic and stupid for not making progress, and I think that learning curve could be good to show. As for depression, it looks different for everyone so I would say it depends. Is this character going through something that is triggering their depression, or are they having more of a depressive episode?

Adding therapy sessions could be interesting as a way of giving them an inner monologue without using thought bubbles, so I think that would be pretty neat. I would also say that having her diagnosed is probably a good idea just because there’s a huge difference between being sad sometimes and full on depression.

As for your last question, a lot of people don’t ever really “get out” of having these problems. Regular therapy and medication helps, but I’ve had relapses and panic attacks despite those things. For the journey, I think the hardest and most important thing is to show the character finally reaching out to a doctor/therapist/parent after struggling. I went though these problems for years before I finally realized I needed to do something. Depression and anxiety are really emotionally draining, and I think it’s great that you want to put representation in your story! Good luck :blush:

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Thank you for your advice and for taking your time to reply to me!
The character in the story is just starting with her problems so I think I’ll wait a while till she goes to therapy I think. I wasn’t thinking of having a specific event or circumstance to start the issue but just a general mental health problem. I’m thinking of doing this to show that it happens without an actual reason sometimes.

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In my case of social anxiety, it’s so hard for me to reach out to other people. I can’t start a conversation with others (via text or even in person) because I think what if the other person don’t want to talk to me, what if I make fun of myself. I have to read the message I wrote multiple time to check if I wrote it correctly and if someone can interpret it different. I tend to overthing everything.
I don’t know if I have depression but I’ll try to give examples of things I’ve heard from others. You lose interest in things you loved doing, it’s hard to even get up from bed. Doing a simple task can be overwhelming, your room becomes a mess. Forgetting to eat or eating too much.

Therapy sessions is a great idea. You can show how the character evolves. Like at first they don’t listen to the therapist or something like that. Then later they slowly start to work on these things.

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I think this is a great idea, I’m not diagnosed with social anxiety but i am with depression. However, I went through a period of time last year where I didn’t leave the house at all, because it just scared the crap out of me. It can feel really isolating obviously, and also most of the time you feel proper stupid for being so anxious. I think in terms of her being scared to go out, the social anxiety will play a part, but the low mood makes things really hard to enjoy. Depression sort of strips the joy out of everything you do.
I think the period of time where she’s depressed is a good idea, the conflict of feeling really stupid for having no reason for being depressed yet not being able to get yourself out of the depression could be something you could use.
As for the diagnosis, I don’t know where this story is set, but receiving a diagnoses is often incredibly difficult, and takes years. I wasn’t diagnosed until my 5th visit to the doctors, and they only put me on meds because the waiting time for therapy is so long. Im british so if your story is set in another country, id research what its like in terms of getting a diagnosis. But I know its equally as hard in a lot of places. Showing the struggle of getting a diagnosis and being taken seriously could add smth rly good to the story in my opinion, because people always say go to the doctors, get help, but it’s almost never that simple. A lot of people with mental illness feel like they don’t have it as bad as others, so they dont want to take up a therapy slot, or take someone worse off anti depressants.
I think adding therapy sessions would be good, if you want to go down the road of her getting a diagnosis.
As for how we get out of these issues, most of the time it doesnt work like that. Therapies and medications are great and they help a lot but mental illnesses are life long illnesses a lot of the time. You can have good days for months and then have a bad day for no reason at all, and its showing how the character deals with that that will be important I think.

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Thanks for your advice! I hope my story will reflect what you said to make it as realistic as possible

Thank you for helping I will try to depict all you said, including the diagnosis. It’s sad how hard it is to deal with these things, I hope my story shows that correctly.
Do you think her being part of the swimming team contradicts her depression and social anxiety? Should I make her quit the team?

Summary

I love when authors write about those. As for me, I haven’t been to a doctor or had therapy sessions.
I stopped going out (most of the time spending time in my room), interacting with my family and friends. I couldn’t talk with anyone about my problems, I stopped trusting people.

My parents even took me to my favorite places and the places I always wanted to visit (You lose interest in doing the things u use to love)
I just simply lost interest in everything, little/big… While little things would make me happy.

You also get overwhelmed getting little stuffs done. Some also stop eating/ eating too much.

Also, I think adding therapy session would be great. But it takes a lot of …sometimes you think you have recovered but suddenly you feel down.

There must be a reason she’s feeling like this maybe you can add anything like- Family problems, loved one’s death, betrayal, breakup etc.

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Thanks for sharing your experience! I hope my story will depict these issues rightfully.

I wasn’t planning on giving her an actual reason but just losing interest in everything in general because I know a person to which this has happened.
Could losing your virginity to a jerk that used you be a cause in your opinion (I could add this, but I wouldn’t want to add someone’s death since it happens to another character)

no, the swimming team could be something that does make her feel better, you could maybe show a decline in her performance or she misses practice while shes going through it, but i think its important to show she has smth that is good

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I have anxiety, most likely social anxiety as well. It’s probably not as bad as others tho.

For me I’ll overthink everything I say to people, and tend to worry about their reactions and making them upset.

I also get really anxious leaving my house (not including school, I’m fine with school).

My anxiety is more strongly rooted around other things but I wanted to comment because of my experience with anxiety!

Before therapy and medication, my anxiety would tend to peak in social situations. I’d worry about burdening others, embarrassing myself, making a scene…
And then those thoughts would make my heart race, my stomach churn and make me feel dizzy and lightheaded. Even sometimes when I could walk away I was paralyzed because of the social contexts. Like if I’m at a dinner or with a group of people I can’t just leave and I can’t tell people I’m anxious.

Also if I could say one thing for you to avoid—is other people pitying your character. There was once this story of this girl who had anxiety, and all the characters around her were trying to help her and while that’s great and all it made me feel weird, like it was exaggerated. Also I didn’t like that she was almost being forced into treatment.

For me, anxiety has always been an invisible thing. It’s hard to catch and unless I said something you’d never know I was having an anxiety attack. So I don’t like when people write it as if the character is about to faint or something. Or acting as though it’s rare. Too many people I know have it.

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Thanks! I’ll 100% do this

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Hi! Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate.
So I made my character cry during a party just randomly to kind of let the readers know (she is not the MC). When she explained to the MC the situation I made MC answer that she was sorry etc and that she hopes she gets better but she wasn’t like over - reacting I hope (maybe I can send you that part of the script???). The tematic will be covered better on and on with chapters.
I made her cry at a party because I knew a person with social anxiety that did that all the time but lmk if you think normally it’s not like that (keep in mind she’s also depressed)

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Oh yeah, no crying is okay.

Sometimes when my anxiety would build up the only release I could do was cry.

I’d probably have a problem with a character fainting randomly or something, but I think that crying is realistic!

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I have social anxiety for one reason and one reason only. 3 years ago I was almost kidnapped literally two blocks away from my house when walking a friend of mine back home. I was paranoid for a while to leave the house, to this day I still am.
I don’t do well in crowded areas for the same reason, I get random panic attacks just thinking about that day

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Okay great thanks!

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I’m so sorry to hear this

Social anxiety has different levels of intensity.

Some people with social anxiety can’t even get out of their houses for multiple days because of this problem.

Most people with social anxiety don’t completely isolate themselves, but think too much about what to say and end up saying 1/3 of what they would like to say. It’s an internal battle for someone with this problem to get enough courage to start a conversation. Even going up to a stranger to ask “Where is the nearest supermarket?” is hard.

Since your character has both social anxiety and depression it will be really hard for them to open up to others (even their own friends) about how they feel.

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I think the most important thing to remember when writing these kinds of things, is that it’s not a “one size fits all” condition. There are many people who are rendered housebound through such issues surrounding their social anxiety, and there are some who can tolerate small amounts of interaction. Some will be triggered by certain things such as others’ emotions and behaviours, but are still able to maintain a normal existence etc.
Same with depression. There are some people who can’t get out of bed in the morning, who shut themselves away from the world and can’t bring themselves to interact or put effort into normal day-to-day life etc, and there are some who face the world and hide their struggle behind a smile. Just because someone suffers with depression, doesn’t mean everyone around them knows, or even notices. There are many instances where people suffer in silence and then people are stunned to learn the truth of what’s been going on. Also, not everyone takes medication, no matter how, for lack of a better term, severe, their condition is. Medication doesn’t always help everyone, they may not agree with the patient, or may not provide the right kind of help for that person. Some also just prefer not to use pills to attempt an emotional balance.
Another thing to remember is that there’s no scale to measure these conditions. A person’s pain and struggle is unique to them. It’s not something that can be measured in ways of who is more depressed/anxious as we all have our limits and there are some things one person struggles more with, than others.

To write your character with such difficulties, do not just put in what you think is correct representation, because honestly, there’s no such thing as a correct representation for something which is so unique to each individual. So long as you’re sensitive to the topic, you would do better to create your character from scratch, with her own reasons for why she struggles with these issues, and how she chooses/is able to cope.

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