DEAR AMY: I am pretty sure I have social anxiety disorder. I am definitely an introvert. We moved a lot when I was a kid (seven school districts in four states), so I was always the new girl. I always kept to myself. I did not want to draw attention. I never got attached to people because I figured I'd just be moving again soon. I never attended any after-school event, joined a club or went to a game. The whole college thing seemed like socializing, so I avoided it. Now, fast-forward 20 years; I only socialize with a few people in a limited capacity. If it weren't for my partner, I wouldn't even do that. We haven't gotten married because I can't handle the thought of a "wedding" and being the center of attention. If I agree to go to an event, I just try to make up excuses to not go, even if it is work-related. I can go to a class or seminar but don't see the point of socializing when it just causes me stress. What is wrong with being this way? I am told I should "get out more," but I am not sure why. I am happiest at home with my partner and dog. I don't think I need fixing. --Homebody
DEAR HOMEBODY: There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. Nothing at all.
However, if you have a social anxiety disorder, your anxiety about having to interact with other people will cause you stress and physical reactions related to stress -- your heart will race, and you will feel the strong desire to avoid or flee.
If this anxiety is interfering with living your life the way you want to, then you should try to address it. For instance, if you want to advance in your career and if occasional public events, socializing or networking will help you do your job better, then you should at least try to manage your symptoms.
You can try to do this with deep breathing or meditation techniques. You can build on even small successes.
If you want to get married, get married. A ceremony with only you. your partner and your dog might be the perfect wedding.