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Avoidance behavior?


GummiBear
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Hey there.

I'm not sure how to start, but here goes...

I have been nervous about hanging out with anyone, and this seems to be a consistant problem.

I first noticed this problem back in highschool... a couple years ago it seemed to taper on and off. But I usually put myself in a spot where I'm alone, and wanting to be with other people. Yet, when I'm with other people, or just talking to them over the phone, I get really nervous and don't sound like myself. I tend to embarass myself a lot. So I isolate myself again.

I'm overly concerned about what people think, but at the same time, it's like I can't stop thinking about how uncomfortable I am. Or how I wish I could stop being so concerned with how worried I am, so that I might devote better attention to everyone else in my life.. So I could get closer to them.

I'm afriad of getting close, afraid of rejection, afraid to clean up the mess of my nervous behavior. I have an all or nothing mentallity. Like if I weird someone out.. it's over. Or it'll be too difficult to restore a relationship, so why bother?

Self-esteem should be bottled one day. If only it were that easy!

(I'm in a relationship where my bf left for the Navy. He's in boot camp right now. I don't feel 'close' with his friends. I'm one-on-one for the most part.

Besides.. Since he left, my sister's best friend overdosed and passed away.. My brother's girlfriend hung herself... And I think telling my bf's buddies wasn't the right move. Guess I reached out to the wrong people and feel sorta awkward.)

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Hey Gummi, welcome to the community!

What you're dealing with sounds like something in the social anxiety spectrum. The good news is that there is useful help for this sort of thing - either in the form of psychotherapy or medication.

You might want to listen to this podcast with Richard Heimberg, Ph.D. who was my teacher when I was in college and a great anxiety researcher. He has spent a large part of his career studying how to help people who have social fears and what he has to say in this interview should be encouraging.

I'm not spending a lot of time on the community recently becuase of some family stuff, but I'll write more next week.

Mark

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Hey GummiBear,

I read your post, and for the most part, I thought "hey that's me". I am really awkward in social situations too. I am able to have serious conversations and basic small talk, but when people start having fun and making jokes I tend to drift further away from the conversation - then start beating myself up for not being funny and confident enough etc. It#s like my mind goes totally blank and I cant for the life of me think of ANYTHING to say, sometimes I go red, sometimes I blush, sometimes I start fidgeting with myself like an awkward kid...all kinds of stuff. Its really difficult!

I think the times when I feel best is when I'm not going into a social interaction with the sole aim of making friends or making people like me, but when I'm doing something for myself, something that interests me, and then it turns out thst someone else shares that interest. Do you have any hobbies/interests that may help you connect to other people more? What things really make you laugh? I find I connect most with people who have a similar sense of humour also.

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Hi, GummiBear. I agree that it sounds like a social anxiety issue. I have some element of social anxiety that I deal with but, in my case, it waxes and wanes. I have some days where I can be interactive and join in conversations and nobody would ever know thats not "normal" for me. But, then I also have days where I can't leave my house.

I also have certain people I live in fear of and avoid at all costs. Doctors, mailman, policemen, bank tellers to name a few. Obviously, I do see a doc when necessary, but I drive 2 hours to see my GP and pdoc because I know and trust them and could never start over with new docs. :)

I am sorry you find yourself in this lonely place. Its amazing what our minds can convince us of. I wish I could give you some deep insight which would change your whole outlook on this but, as I struggle to some degree, also, I think my insight is limited.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Gummibear,

Wow, you have been through a lot. Your boyfriend is in Naval boot camp and some people you know have been through some horrible things. All of this is high on the stress list.

What are you doing to help you cope with your anxiety and your wish to avoid?

Allan

and Lifeless, why do you believe your insight is limited?

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and Lifeless, why do you believe your insight is limited?

Because this issue is something I do not totally understand. When my pdoc first used the word "agoraphobia" I thought "no, I'm not scared of being outside. Its the people I am scared of!" Then, he explained it in terms of social anxiety and I thought "yeah, thats more like me." But, I do not have a full grasp of what causes social anxiety or why I would be afraid/avoidant of certain people. The only thing I can come up with is that these are all people who have some element of "control" in my life and I struggle with control issues- or loss of it! I do know why I fear docs- I had a very bad experience during an admission a few years ago and I no longer trust them. That is why, even though I moved 2 hours away, I stil treat with my original GP and pdoc. I don't think I can trust a new doc. But, beyond that, I do not know why I avoid other people. Or why I have to sit facing the door in a restaurant. Or why I need to identify all of the exits in a room before I am comfortable. There is way too much I don't understand to feel like I could offer true "advice" or "insight" into this problem.

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I totally agree and understand what "lifeless" is saying. I too, suffer with this as well.Were you guys shy as kids? I know that i was extremely shy and it was seen as alright than, but the older I got, the more that was expected from me. I would get low grades because i couldn't do the projects that were to be done in front of the class,and that left me feeling stupid and no good. People, especially women, would think I had an attitude problem, when I was far from that. I believe society makes it very hard for people who aren't outgoing and talkative, like that is the only good trait as a person. I have made myself wish that I could be that and than I get even more frustrated and angry with myself for not being that. There are days that I want to go out and do something,and than I either call it all off or I get that "fight or flee" thing going on. It can be painful at times, because who wants to be this way? Who wants to feel like an idiot all the time? Not me, but what choice do I have? I was born this way. And I think that somewhere down the line, I have to totally accept that, just like an alcoholic has to accept that he is an alcoholic, and than move on to other steps to be a better person. Life is short, even though it can feel long at times! If people in your life that are close to you don't accept that, than it is not in your place to change. Find a job that is enjoyable. I worked in customer service for over 10 years and I dreaded going everyday,not because of the work, but the people. So, now it is important to me to find the job that pleases me in all angles. I don't have to deal with all that anymore. Is this just avoiding the issues...maybe, but it helps me.

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Wow, Jennifer. Thanks for being so open about your story. Mine is different. I did not grow up shy. In fact, I was on the Speech and Debate team, gave public speeches while in college and loved it! Until a couple of years ago, I was an attorney with a successful career in the type of law I practiced. I thrived on the courtroom drama- loved being in the heat of an argument. Now, however, I avoid any and all confrontation. I do not answer the phone unless I know the person calling. I can't go to the bank because i have some bizarre fear that I'll go in one day and they will tell me I have no money (even though I keep enough money in the bank.) I have several personal and financial issues that I need to deal with but avoid them because I know confrontation will ensue. Because I don't deal with them, I am paying money unnecessarily just to avoid dealng with it! I got a a traffic ticket last year which was totally undeserved and I was just going to pay it because I knew I could never go to court and fight it. My brother literally dragged me to the courtroom to fight it. I stood before the judge, told my story, burst into tears and ran out of the courtroom. Just 2 years before I was arguing before judges all over my state! The judge dismissed my ticket but it was the most agonizing thing I have done in some time!

I feel like, in a lot of ways, my old life is gone. I have to use the self check out at the grocery store because I cannot stand in front of a cashier on the off chance that my debit card gets declined or something goes wrong or they think my purchases are weird! Avoidance has become a way of life for me.

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That sounds like my life! Doesn't it suck! So, it probally drives you crazy because you were not like that before. As they seem to say, depression ties into pretty much everything...anxiety,anger,sleep problems,sex issues...the list goes on.I wish there was an answer to this and maybe there is, i know they have anxiety medications now,but I have no idea how that would work. I have a bottle of St.John.s wort here that I never used, because I hate popping pills and I doubt the effects would be worth it. How does a pill make you not be anxious anymore? Sometimes, I believe there is not alway's an answer for everything...God, that is all I can think about...prayers...not about changing, but learning to deal.

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Hi-

Thank all of your for sharing your struggles with Social Anxiety. It sound like you have common experiences and all are feeling a great deal of shame- which is one of the most common responses to Social Anxiety. I have also heard repeatedly from clients who agree with the comment that many societies really work against people who are not "outgoing' and love to be around people.

I want to respond to the question about medication and what it does for anxiety. Basically- the medication is designed to decrease the body symptoms of anxiety (the feeling sick, shaky, racing heart beat, etc). They can work very well for some people and really take the edge of panicky feelings.

However, the medications don't get at the thoughts and behavior that are usually problems as well. So, for instance an anxiety medication isn't going to make you less scared of strangers, or suddenly make you behave like a super outgoing person. Research suggests that one of the best ways to deal with anxiety disorders is to work with a cognitive behavioral therapist. He or she can help you attack core beliefs (i.e., certain types of people are untrustworthy, I am totally incompetent, etc.) that drive your anxiety, as well as teach you new skills (or help you brush up on old ones) that you need to be successful in social situations.

Have any of you tried this form of psychotherapy?

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I was wondering what kinda preoccupations you guys have when your feeling anxious in social situations. I was diagnosed with AvPD a few years ago and my preoccupation is mainly with my appearance to others, namely my aesthetics.

Do you guys have similar thoughts or is there something else that pushes your buttons?

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I have a couple. The biggest is the fear of losing control. I avoid situations in which I will not have control or in which I may lose contorl. As a result, I tend to back down or avoid situations which will involve conflict. I am also "preoccupied" as you put it with my children's appearance, not my own. I think its because I figure people cannot see how you raise your children, they can only see their appearance and, so, if my kids are dirty, stained or dressed improperly, I will look like bad parent. Of course, another reason for my concern with my children's appearance is my fear of dirt and germs. I do not like to see my kids dirty because I associate dirt with germs.

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