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Social Anxiety Has Worsened Among Young People in the Pandemic

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is asking professors to look out for warning signs of a socially anxious student, such as tardiness and disengagement in the classroom, after seeing a 20 percent increase in patients at the student counseling center since 2019.

“If faculty are not aware of social anxiety and its impact, they may assume that students don’t care or that they are disinterested,” said Dr. Angela Stowe, the director of the university’s student counseling services. “Really, it has much more to do with the fear of being called on or being wrong or looking stupid.”

Nanichi Hidalgo-Gonzalez, 21, of Tallahassee said she was nervous about returning to Florida State University for in-person classes this year.

Before the pandemic, she said, she was a “social butterfly who loved talking to people.” Now, she is seeing a therapist for her anxiety. And despite having received a Covid-19 vaccine, she continues to confine herself to home, mostly leaving only for gas and groceries.

“If I go out sometimes, I just feel like I’m in a bubble, and you’re about to pop it,” she said.

At a restaurant with friends for her birthday this year, she felt nauseated and claustrophobic, signs of a panic attack. “I want to live my life; I want to experience this college thing,” she said. “But then I feel like I just want to stay home because I don’t want to go out and get anxious.”

Mr. Winton can relate. He has steadily tried to tame his social anxiety over the summer, doing activities he knows will help like working out and responding to friends’ messages.

On a recent warm night, he received a text from a pal: Was he free to meet up with friends for Taco Tuesday?

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