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Is this social anxiety? If yes, how can I beat it?(19 Posts)
I feel increasingly uncomfortable and challenged when I am in semi-familiar social situations such as with colleagues at work, waiting around with the school-run mums, college seminar group etc.
Maybe I am an introvert but I'm not sure. I do love socialising with people and having either easy, non-committal chats about the weather and such as well as more meaningful conversations. But I get exhausted by it all quickly and am very happy to retreat home
into my shell to be with my family.
Strangely I feel ok if it's a party where I don't know anyone and am happy to talk with strangers, who I won't have regular contact with. I had plenty of friends in primary school but was an outsider (luckily with a great best-friend) during secondary school.
Due to moving a couple of times I have had a few good friends but lost touch with most. Recently a very close friend turned out to be a super gossipy backstabbing kind of person and I have no more contact with her. I have also had to combat fertility issues, birth trauma etc. in the last few years and wonder if this is why I feel sensitive and vulnerable around people, wanting to avoid too close contact.
Anyways, I just feel really uncomfortable and stressed when I have to engage with people whom I don't know very well or don't have much in common with (like at work etc.). I fret over things I said or did and feel constantly tense.
With the school mums, I often don't know what to say so I compensate by smiling
a lot at people, trying to chat and be friendly but get the impression that people 'don't like' me. This hurts me and I feel really quite miserable about it.
My confidence is so very low at the moment. I had planned to return to study a post graduate diploma but feel like chickening out due to my fear of groups. I am afraid of people gossiping about me and having a low opinion of me . This is so strange as I didn't use to be quite this sensitive.
Very long post, sorry. So what do I do? Therapy? CBT? Yoga? A reality check? What else?
If you has read this, to you! I would very much appreciate some wise words .
CBT might work. Maybe your infertility and birth trauma has affected you much more than you know. Its difficult because you say you are quite confident with people generally and at parties so it doesn't sound like 'normal' social anxiety.
CBT will help you by giving you strategies and techniques to deal with the stress you describe here:
"I just feel really uncomfortable and stressed when I have to engage with people whom I don't know very well or don't have much in common with (like at work etc.). I fret over things I said or did and feel constantly tense. "
It sounds like it is beginning to impact your life if you are considering not going to go on your panned post grad course. That is an avoidance strategy which is quite common in people who have anxiety or phobia.
CBT therapy is a talking therapy rather than drugs. I have had CBT (misdiagnosed as I had a real physical illness) but found it interesting as I to some extent recognise your feelings as I am not very socially confident in 'school gate' type settings.
I usually just don't talk to anyone and leave as soon as DCs appear unless someone speaks to me. I found that 'deliberately just not caring' what others think really helps.
Hi Midmorningblues. I think the level of detail you have given about your perceptions makes this a difficult one to answer in a short answer.
I think you're not necessarily an introvert so much as private. I think you have been hurt by somebody you believed you could trust (and thought you were close to) and now you have possible trust issues. I think you probably care far too much about what (seemingly inconsequential) folk think about you, when in reality, they are probably just not thinking that much about passing, social chit chat.
I also think this is all quite normal based upon what you have described. We all react our own way, based upon past history.
Perhaps stop being so very over-analytical and down on yourself and just relax a bit and see how that goes for a couple of days.
That's far too simplistic a response though, considering how big this seems to be for you. Perhaps just make it not so big in your head is a good starting point.
I'm almost certain that if you're making the effort to smile and engage without launching into deeply personal/overtly gossipy nonsense, that people probably think you're perfectly personable. I hope that makes some sense
No real advice on solving it, sorry, but I can really identify with much of what you have written.
I am a classic 'introvert', and as much as I enjoy meeting up with friends, I can feel overwhelmed from too much interaction with people, and as I've got older I recognise this and know that I just need time to recharge, so to speak.
I have always had fairly low self-esteem and confidence issues, thanks in part to hyper-critical parents, but managed to get myself into a good job and made a lot of friends. But I've been a SAHM for over four years now, and my self-esteem has taken a complete battering. I feel really anxious about speaking to people, and don't know what to say, which means I haven't got many friends - and I agonise over every conversation that I have. I've put a lot of this down to spending all my time with two young children, but I have no idea how to improve things. So I'll watch this thread with interest...
X-post with MoreBeta...love that final sentence.
If you do have social anxiety, it is an illness and not a failing to 'beat'. CBT can indeed help manage it. Please see your GP!
Do the diploma.
Sorry to be blunt and just jump in with that but so much of what you wrote struck a chord.
I was exactly the same, so much shit in such a short period of time, uncomfortable around strangers, anxious, nervous, unhappy, felt people didn't like me.
I got the opportunity to do something I always wanted to do, further study. I almost turned it down, I stressed about it so much, was so nervous on the actual day that I was sick but I wanted it so much I kept going even when my stomach was in knots.
Six months on I am so happy, the nerves are almost gone, my confidence and self esteem are sky high and I can talk to people. I am proud of myself.
I am an introvert and I know exactly how much social interaction I can take before I need time to recover. I can now manage more interaction which is fabulous.
Looking back i think it was situational depression, low self esteem, stress and mismanaged expectations of myself especially re the introversion. I had some therapy which helped a bit with some of my issues, to get me to the point where I could start to fight some of my demons a bit more. I also had to have a breakdown to get to that point.
I am so glad I pushed myself towards that study, it was something I had dreamed of for years and told myself I was too stupid/ill/weird to do. It was really shit for the first few weeks but it's pretty awesome now. It was also a chance to start again, to construct a new me without other peoples expectations and memories of me. I got to be a new person, to reinvent myself.
Sorry, wittered on rather overexcitedly, but seriously, what you wrote was almost word for word what I wrote on here about a year ago.
Good morning, thank you for all the lovely insightful responses. I will read them again and reply after a up of coffee . Thank you!
morebeta, I agree this stressing about is having a real tangible and negative impact now. Whereas in the past I might have felt slighted or left out at times, I felt 'strong' and could brush it off. Now I feel worthless when it happens.
I will actively try not to worry whether others 'like' me (whatever that means anyway) but will most likely need to do some CBT to support this. I did five sessions of CBT during my pregnancy and found it very promising.
2Retts, I am not sure if I am an introvert I am sort of extrovert- and intro if that makes any sense at all. I seek out company, enjoy being with people but tie of it all very easily, let's say after a couple of hours. Then I need to be alone or just with my closest family where I can effortlessly be myself.
It's really strange but the friendship I had with this woman who was extremely manipulative, gossipy and very complicated and 'power hungry' really threw me off track. I am in my mid thirties and, although I have lost friends before due to disagreements or whatever, this 'friendship' has really thrown me. Because I had to work with her for several years I couldn't escape her influence, sadly. I now feel that some of her negativity and screwed way of seeing the world has made me a tiny bit like her, if that makes sense. I am now more suspicious about people (as she is).
Also, I actually think that I a school-mum setting I am quickly overly familiar! sharing very personal things and opening up way too quickly. However, I also feel that this behaviours is almost expected amongst mums, where people, who don't know each other apart from school gates
share quite personal details for examples about their birth experiences, children's behaviour or even their family issues. I participate in this but always kick myself for having revealed too much to people, who are not my friends. .
I find it very difficult to have better boundaries in this respect.
twisted, I agree that being at home with the dc without having designated time to 'be your own' person as it were can undermine confidence. Maternity leave definitely had that impact on me. It was really nice to read that you managed to make such good friends whilst you were working though. Do you think you could create yourself some 'me-time' (sorry odd word) maybe through volunteering or a hobby that is your own?
wanderinguterus. (love your name ). Thank you so much for sharing your experience it really means something to me and is. Rey encouraging. I totally get what you are saying and can already feel a bit more excitd about my plans regarding the diploma. Thank you x
Oh, sorry for those typos... I hope it all makes sense regardless..
Midmorningblues - this doesn't sound like 'normal' social anxiety at all really.
It sounds like you are actually quite desperate to be liked by people. I don't mean that to be judgmental. It sounds like you aren't avoiding people but actually trying far too hard to be liked and then exhausted after that intense period of social interaction and sat over analysing everything afterwards.
Its almost like the 'burn out' that sales people get. If you are selling all the time and trying to get people to like you and 'buy into you' all the time you will be exhausted.
With your family you don't have to 'sell yourself' you can be you.
Interesting with a party where you are unlikely to ever meet people again you don't feel the need to try too hard. Its just in situations where you are very likely to meet the same person again you feel that you need to make them like you (eg school gate mums or fellow students on a graduate course).
My social anxiety is a bit different. A party is a lot of hard work for me. I can do it now. I have learned techniques to 'work a room' as they say. I am older. I have stopped caring. I can start conversations. You don't have problems with any of that situation.
For you, it sounds like the fear of meeting people again and again and wanting them to like you. It's the fear of not being liked - is that it?
I think you need to find out what has caused that and it has very possibly been with you since childhood. Your recent infertility and subsequent birth problems have made you feel even less secure, perhaps isolated you from people for a while and you lost your confidence. A lot of women feel less confident after giving birth. I wonder if it has caused your underlying anxiety to emerge again.
morebeta, I believe that you might have hit the nail on the head. Your post made me quite emotional and I do believe that these 'issues' have been there since childhood. Only now I feel frazzled and tired from some of the difficult experiences in the last couple of years and less able to brush them off.
Would CBT still be good or do I need look into therapy? If therapy, what kind of? I haven't got the funds to do anything long term though.
I have no idea where these insecurities stem from. My parents have always been loving and supportive. Maybe it's just me, genetics or something .
I do know that since about the age of 5/6 I have felt embarrassed
ashamed because of part of my family background. Can't say exactly why as it might out me but it's got to do with immigrating from another (very poor and looked down upon) country. Df is lovely and loving but never assimilated to his new country and has always stood out like a 'sore thumb' when he picked me up from school for example. My name is very foreign to the point of unpronounceable and I have to always, always explain myself and my background even in passing with complete strangers. I have always been self conscious about all of this.
I thought that deep seated angst stems from being neglected at home but my dp certainly loved and respected me and still do. So I am not sure where any of this is rooted. But writing about it makes me feel quite anxious .
Immigrants always feel very anxious about being accepted in another country. You feel a deep sense of 'otherness' which almost certainly stems from the fact that you arrived here as a child. An adult might have dealt with it better/differently than a child.
Sorry I didn't understand the bit about being 'negelected'. Did you feel neglected or unsupported by your parents or not? It sounds like they insulated themselves from the UK and stayed in their own community and had strong links to 'back home' but as a child you pretty much had to assimilate into the UK on your own. Do you have siblings that feel this way? Do you live in a cosmopolitan area like London or is that you live in an area of provincial monocultural 'British white middle class'. That might magnify your feelings.
I am not sure actually that CBT will help with the root cause of this anxiety but might help overcoming the feeling of stress and panic when entering new situations.
Do you have a partner you can talk to and have you explained it to them? Sometimes people with deep seated feelings like this hide them from even their closest friends and loved ones.
Morebeta, you are very insightful and kind .
My parents were/are loving and supportive. However, Df (not so much dm) seemed always a bit out of place and in extension I felt that way iykwim.
So if the root cause of my social anxiety is possibly a deep seated feeling of 'otherness' (which it very well might be) and CBT could mainly help with managing my stress, what type of therapy could help me feel better about myself? I have heard of Emotional. Freedom Technique or NLP but don't know much about either. Maybe hypnotherapy?
I really don't want this stress and tension to prevent me from doing the things I love (like studying); also I don't want to pass any of this on to my own children in some way. I just want to feel a bit less tense.
I can talk openly about all of this with both dh and dm but feel that talking doesn't change the way I feel. I am estranged from my sibling who lives in another country.
How long ago was your baby born? Its just I wonder if you might be suffering PND or something like depression. Before embarking on a complicated and expensive therapy just wondering if a more mundane explanation might be behind why all this has suddenly got worse?
My mother suffered depression for many years and tended to want to avoid contact with people as she worried about what people would think of her. She was also quite intelligent and was really under utilising her intellect. I think she would really have benefitted from some kind of college course. What you said just reminded me of it.
Apart from seeing your GP if you think you might be depressed, therapies are a bit hit and miss. I wondered if you might like to start with a book called 'Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway' by Susan Jeffers. It is easy to get from your local library and has been reprinted many times in the last 25 years. It might help you work out what is the real issue and in any case might give you confidence to do that post grad course. I think starting something new will help you move on from the bad time you have had in the last few years. Change your focus, get you meeting people, giving you a new interest. I know its hard to do that but so is going up a hill - its the free wheeling down the other side that's fun!
The introvert/extrovert thing is often misunderstood Mismorningblues, and for this reason, I wouldn't pay it too much attention at this point.
The fact that you say you feel you do become overly familiar at the school gates and then regret it, kind of lends support to the theory that you're quite a private person as opposed to introvert. For the record, I also believe it's quite normal to share some strange personal stuff at the gates; if it's in keeping and at a level everybody else is sharing, please don't reflect on it too much and certainly don't beat yourself up about it.
I have come away from plenty of situations where others have said 'I can't believe you said that!', but the receiver has been very cool and welcomed my honesty. I used to sweat that stuff and have learned that I have enough (eventual) positive feedback from
oversharing that I now think nothing of it (and I am also accused of being ridiculously private). This is probably why I suggested you take a day off from over-analysing what you THINK others MIGHT be thinking.
I am absolutely loving the advice and insights (as you so eloquently put it) of MoreBeta and can only echo everything that's been offered. The thing that I think will particularly ring true for you is ^She was also quite intelligent and was really under utilising her intellect. I think she would really have benefitted from some kind of college course.^
This insight will support TheWanderingUterus's advice which supports the final paragraph of MoreBeta's last post.
As I said to my DD this evening, starting out somewhere new is the perfect opportunity to be whoever you want to be...your colleagues on this new course will only see what you want them to see. Who do you want to be? Their understanding that this is who you are, will support your eforts and bring you closer to being the 'you' that you know you are capable of being.
I really hope you do the course and will kiss goodbye to the over-analytical/paranoid/suspicious ex-friend forever.
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