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-luna-
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Hi, I'm new and I didn't really see a forum that fits what I want to talk about, so I put my thread here. Feel free to move it if you think it should go somewhere else.

I'm here because I ran across mentalhelp.net when looking for some ideas on how to cope with some recurring problems I've been having. I thought the site had some really helpful information so I decided to see what the community here is like.

I'm female and in my twenties and have struggled since I was a teenager with depression and social anxiety. I feel that over the last few years I've made a lot of progress with learning how to deal with my depression and achieving a lot of goals that I've set for myself. I have a lot more hope for my future than I ever would have thought possible, but my issues with social anxiety still feel completely hopeless and like I will never overcome them. I have never gone to therapy for it and I'm wondering if I should and if it would really help. The purpose of this first post is to vent a little bit and see if anyone out there can relate to what I'm going through and give me some advice on what to do. At this point in my life I feel that it's really the last stumbling block that I need to get over to be a happy and healthy person.

Basically, I have a lot of difficulty making and keeping friends and I don't date at all out of a fear of it. I feel inadequate and like I am too ugly and boring to deserve to date and have friends. On top of that, I tend to be a person who can be pretty unpleasant and difficult to get to know. I'm trying to change, but it's hard. I'm okay with not having a huge social life, but I'm pretty sure that the way I'm living is pathological. I think much of the reason that I am depressed is because I get very lonely because I have no one in my life to share anything with - good and bad.

I have never had many friends, but I always at least had some until recently. Over the past few years I have slowly lost contact with or alienated all of my social contacts. I have gotten to the point where I have no personal relationships and it is very upsetting. I have no friends and am no longer close with any of my family either. I have no idea where to begin. I realize that a problem like this is only going to respond to action and not me talking about it. That's fine. I'd like to get out there and meet people but I have a pretty crippling lack of self confidence and social skills that really get in the way. I don't know where to go to meet people, and even if I did, I'm usually pretty unsuccessful in making friends.

My particular problem might not seem serious to some people, but it is very frustrating because I think know how to fix it, I just can't do it. I see myself five years from now still not dating, still not having friends, and still not enjoying life because I find social situations too traumatic to get past the initial awkwardness of meeting people. It is really getting in the way because in most other ways, my life is really starting to come together, personally and professionally, but my issues with socializing are holding me back and creating tension between people I interact with. My lack of social skills has gotten me fired from a job and driven people away from me. I know that I'm a nice person so why can't I just figure out how to act?

This post is too long so I'll stop here.

Edited by -luna-
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I can totally relate to you, its sooo weird, like you seriously are describing me in ur post, I have had social anxiety my whole life and it has effected my ability to communicate with people affetcing relationships and pretty mucch screwed my dating life, i myslef have never really been able to deal with it,i mean therapy and medications will def help but i dont think they will solve the problem, my honest opinion is.......go smoke some weed and let it inspire you, it is truly the best anxiety reliever that I have come upon, like i am totally afraid of crowds and meeting new ppl but wen i smoke it does wonders for me:),if ur totally opposed to that its cool

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Hi -luna-, hi Stephen, and welcome to our community. High social anxiety is an extremely good reason to seek help from a therapist. Social interaction is one of the most difficult things that humans do, and a big part of our development and our satisfaction with being alive hinges on our ability to have successful interactions. That ability can be underdeveloped or skewed for many reasons, and it can often be out of the power of the person to do anything constructive about it. That's where alcohol and drugs come in for some, right Stephen? Of course the obvious about that is you haven't really learned any skills and you can become drug dependent. It is a very good idea to seek help in this area so that you can start interacting with people in a more positive way. You might find yourself interacting with yourself in a more positve way too. Speaking for myself, I absolutely had to have help to be able to do that.:)

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Guest ASchwartz

Stephen,

my honest opinion is.......go smoke some weed and let it inspire you, it is truly the best anxiety reliever that I have come upon

In my opinion it is irresponsible to give this kind of advice and I can only hope that Luna will ignore it. In actuality, marijuana can have the opposite effect on some people than what you suggest. It can actually, in some cases, increase anxiety even to the point of panic. In addition, research has clearly demonstrated that those who are depressed will only experience increased depression as a result of marijuana. Sorry, but your advice is neither wise nor helpful.:mad:

Luna:

I suggest that you go into therapy with a clinical psychologist who does cognitive behavioral psychotherapy. CBT works well with the types of symptoms you are describing. I strongly suspect that your social anxiety has always worked against you to the point that you have very low self esteem. Learning how to lower that anxiety and learning how to aquire social skills will help you function and feel much better. There are also many self help books on social anxiety and how to build social skills. I can tell you from treating people with the kind of issues you are describing that cbt really works quite well. :)

Allan

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I have heard of CBT and thought it would help me, but I didn't end up going due to a lack of insurance. Now I am insured but I still have the issue of fitting it into my schedule - I work 40+ hours a week and attend college classes. I'm happy that I'm able to maintain a high level of functioning but it doesn't leave much time to take care of myself.

I also have to admit that I feel some embarrassment over needing help with something that most other people seem to "get" so naturally. I realize that this isn't really true and everyone has some degree of difficulty with socializing, and there are a lot of people like me. It's a problem I've always kind of pushed to the side, telling myself it wasn't important enough to worry about and I would "figure it out" somewhere along the way. I'm beginning to understand that social skills are something you develop over time with practice in situations that are conducive to learning that kind of thing. The problem is, although I understand that, I find socializing so unpleasant most of the time that it's difficult if not impossible to get myself to do it.

In short, I think both of you are right - it's likely not a problem that is going to go away or that I can solve without outside help. As for Stephen's post, I think he was just trying to help. I'm not much of a substance user - yet another thing that seems to alienate me from most of my peers - and I wouldn't consider this as an option. I've occasionally had a drink or two to take the edge off in social situations, but that's as far as I go with that.

Thanks for your responses, I will definitely look into CBT and try to find a way to start going. I don't feel like I should postpone dealing with this any longer than I already have.

Edited by -luna-
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I really shouldnt' have advised drug use, Im sorry for that :), what you have to ultimately do is let go of your anxiety and pretend its not there, don't let it hold you back because there are ppl out there who can't take advantage of of their lives such as the mentally handicapped and those whose lives who have been ruined by war, there is an oppurtuntiy waiting for you, you just don't know it yet, a good way to fight social anxeity is definetly by finding a random person and just getting into a conversation, if you can talk to them you can talk to anyone, as well you could use the method my therapist gave me, make a list of goals that you want to achieve for a week so you can move gradually towards your goal, eye contact is a big part, look ppl in the eyes, if anything else comes to me I'll tell u

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey this isn't a professional observation or anything like that but you may want to 1: Get a therapist, he/she would probably tell you there is no reason for you to be afraid or who cares what people think. You'll say that doesn't work for me you'll get into a bigger conversation, they can keep getting deeper and find the problem.

2: Ask them about Aspergers syndrome, look it up online and see if it applies to you. I have it myself and the biggest thing about it is social awkwardness. If I'm right and you have it you may be able to connect things in your life with aspergers and figure out some things about yourself.

Its a 50:50 guess and I'm probably only mentioning it because I have it but you might as well take a shot in the dark.

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Hi Luna-

I am also new to the site, this is my first post. Reading your post was comforting for me because our problems are so similar. I also suffer from low self esteem and social anxiety, sometimes to the point of inducing panic attacks. Social anxiety has also kept me from developing intimate relationships and I now fear that (in my mid 20s) it may be too late to learn the skills I need to initiate and maintain intimacy. Low self esteem eventually led to self medication with pot and alcohol. I have since given up pot but I still struggle with my drinking problem. I do have a few close friends but I find it nearly impossible to meet any new people, although my professional job requires me to meet and speak to new people frequently. My anxiety makes me seem mean and aloof when truthfully I just don't have the tools to understand how to connect with people. I am afraid that my problem will eventually cause me to become an alcoholic hermit. For several years I ran away from my problems, literally. I moved through 3 states in 5 years. Believe me, that does NOT work! I have been making efforts to improve my self image and have had some luck by trying to be more positive and initiating conversations with co-workers who seem nice, even though my heart is beating so fast I feel like it might explode. I have begun to read a book on self hypnosis. I am trying out some auto suggestion but I haven't seen any results yet. Sorry I spent so much time talking about myself but I just wanted you to know that there are other people out here who have the same or similar problems. BF

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Thanks for your responses. Trust me when I say they are all appreciated.

Ob1one: I think it's entirely possible I have Asperger's Syndrome. I've looked into it and it sounds a lot like me. The only thing that makes me think that I don't have it is that people with Aspergers (at least to my understanding) usually do not get lonely and desire to have more relationships. Instead, they have a hard time grasping why others value relationships and have difficulty empathizing with them. This is at least my understanding from what I've learned about it. While I wouldn't disagree with a previous poster's comment that I probably have low self esteem, I can say that I'm quite comfortable with who I am and the way I want to live my life, I just wish that I had a few more people to share it with. If I were to have Aspergers then I would learn to cope with it as best I could I suppose.

beautifully flawed: I'm glad to hear your story and that I'm not the only one. We do sound pretty similar. You didn't mention your gender but I assume you are female. I think that at least part of our problem is a lack of avenues to meet people rather than it being us completely to blame. I, like you, interact successfully with people (coworkers and strangers) at work on a regular basis. I would actually consider myself quite skilled at being professional at work. The problem is when I go home at night to an empty house and don't know what to do with myself or where I could possibly go to meet people. I live in a rural area and unless I want to go to a bar there isn't much to do. I have thought many times about trying online dating but the whole concept makes me really nervous, from being judged and "chosen" from a profile to meeting a stranger and immediately trying to determine whether there is any romantic connection/attraction. Things like that seem way too fast and scary to me. I would prefer to make friends with someone and let things develop naturally, but that is difficult when you can't meet people to begin with. I know that most people consider dating enjoyable and normal, but with my lack of intimate relationships I'm quite uncomfortable with it. Anyway, it's nice to hear that someone has a similar experience (although it isn't nice that you also have to suffer with this type of problem), and if you would like to talk to me over PM about it please do. :)

I have not tried to seek out a therapist yet beyond looking in the phone book. What happens with me is that I start feeling better and I forget about it for a while. Months go by and then I realize I still haven't addressed my problem. I really need to get a start but money and time are tight right now and I haven't made it a priority.

Edited by -luna-
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You guessed right, I am female. It's nice to know that someone else is afraid of something as common place as socializing. Just as you described, I begin to feel better for a period of time and then someone will make a comment (or some other completely innocent action ) that was not meant to offend and my cheeks will start to burn and my heart race. This is usually the time when the panic starts to set in. In these sorts of situations I feel the overwhelming urge to run away. I have actually done that a few times and it only makes things worse. Other times I will completely ignore people because of the thought of actually speaking with them is unbearable. After something like this occurs I am kept awake at night by my feelings of embarrassment for my behavior. I wonder what people must think of me. I must seem so strange. I have also considered dating websites but they seem desperate and removed from reality. I grew up in a rural area too and I understand the limitations of isolation. You are right by saying that lack of opportunities to meet people can be a barrier nearly impossible to penetrate, but don't stop trying. The friends I have been able to keep came from the same area I grew up in. BF

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I realize that a problem like this is only going to respond to action and not me talking about it. That's fine. I'd like to get out there and meet people but I have a pretty crippling lack of self confidence and social skills that really get in the way.

Lisa11

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Lisa11 and Beautifullyflawed,

You are really talking about social anxiety and it is true that the best way to deal with it is action. There are many self help books for this including the one on our site. I am not a hypnotism enthusiast for this type of thing because I prefer behavioral types of therapy, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Behavior Modification. Again, if you cannot afford a therapist, escpecially a psychologist for this, then, there are lots of self help stuff availabe in the stores and on this site.

Allan

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I would also say that my fear is crippling, but I don't stop trying. There must be hundreds of people in the world that have thought, " Wow, that girl is too weird". I haven't stopped my "curse" yet, but I have made some improvements through perseverance. Learning how to socialize is awkward. I realize that many people I have met in social situations don't care for me because I either seem unapproachable or my behavior scares them away. I keep trying. Some people will pick up on your problem and be kind, others will not. The people who make the effort are hard to find but worth it when you do. I am getting better. I hope you do too.

P.S. Where is Luna?

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Sorry everyone, I forgot to check the thread for a few days.

One thing that I was thinking about today was how grateful I am for the relationships I have had that DID go well. While I have not always been the most social person, I have been lucky enough to have several very close friendships with people who genuinely cared about me. They were very intense friendships where I felt comfortable telling them anything or talking to them about anything. Those relationships taught me a lot about how to socialize and how to be a good friend to someone. I hope that you all have been able to have this sort of relationship with someone because it will make you more confident and affirm your belief in your ability to form close relationships with people. You all sound like intelligent, well spoken people who can certainly improve your social skills with practice (like I hope to do myself).

The only suggestion that I can make to everyone with this problem that I think is really effective is to just take social anxiety one day at a time. Get up in the morning and do the best you can, and if you make a mistake just put it behind you and try again with the next person you speak to. People have short memories and will not remember that you said something embarrassing a year later. They will be more likely to remember the good conversations they had with you. This is what I try to remind myself of every time I have a "bad" conversation and I am convinced the person thinks I'm a total spaz. One secret of people who socialize well are that they don't consider socializing a big deal. They just walk up to people and talk to them politely and don't worry much about what the other person thinks of them. I think they naturally exude confidence and since they are not nervous they don't blurt out weird things or get self conscious like we do.

You might never be able to make the anxious feelings go away completely, but if I could get to a point where it is at least not frightening anymore that would be enough for me.

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