I think I have avoidant personality disorder. I've never actually been diagnosed, but when you look at the behaviors and symptoms, there's really no question about it. What is my question is, can I fix it? Can I deal with it? What do I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I honestly just want to be able to say to people, "Look, it's not that I think I am too good for you guys. It's not that don't like you guys. It's not that I am building bombs in my basement instead of going out. I just have social anxiety." I am sure they think it's those other things and I wish people knew that I do like them and want to connect with them, but I get really nervous. Telling people you have social anxiety only makes things more awkward, I would think. But the thing is, it's really limiting my life.
I just started this new job and I have skipped every single social gathering offered. Our top boss at my office boss (like, dude you will never see or talk to because he's really important) threw a happy hour to thank our department for performing so well and I skipped it. If anything, it would've been a huge networking opportunity for my career. Birthdays, goodbyes, whatever, I skip them all. I either have an excuse or I simply don't go. My social network for my career is tiny and if I ever went through any sort of personal crisis or hardship, I would only have my immediate family (parent, siblings) and that is it. I'm in a new city with zero friends and yet I feel so much more comfortable and in harmony when I'm by myself, communicating with "friends" online where I share common interests. I feel relieved when I get back to my apartment -- which is why I think I've never dealt with my disorder before, because all I need to do is go home and be by myself and then it feels fixed. But I do not have a girlfriend and I haven't dated in years (my social anxiety only exacerbating the limiting fact that I am gay) and I don't see how I will ever meet someone.
The example today illustrates it perfectly: I was invited to go hang out in my office and watch the opening ceremonies with this department I am part of, but don't actually sit with because of organizational structure, and the thought of walking over there (other side of the office) into their area terrified me. I see them for meetings, but I barely interact with them direct and it's almost always for work. Like, walking into a situation where there's a bunch of people who are friends who I barely know was too much. In reality, it might've been slightly awkward or just not that fun at worst, but in my mind it just scared me to go over there. I wouldn't know what to say or how to act, I'd look uncomfortable and I'd make an ass of myself is what I thought. (Everything seems worse than it probably is. Logically, I know this, but it doesn't matter. Once I went to a work happy hour a few years ago and I felt awkward and unable to get a good conversation going with anyone -- when I got home I cried my eyes out.) Anyway, today my coworkers messaged me over email and told me to come over and I said I would after I finished working on something, and instead after a while I just went home. I kept looking up worried someone would approach me and ask me why I didn't come over.
Part of it I think is confidence. I don't take care of myself and I need to make working out and eating healthy part of my life. The only times I did date in my life were when I was also working out like everyday or making some sort of effort to feel confident. But beyond that, I don't know what to do. It's not like working out totally fixed my anxiety.
Can a doctor help me with this? Are personality disorders immutable? Like 10 years ago as a teenager I suffered depression and social anxiety. It manifested itself in me being "avoidant" -- I started skipping school completely because the thought of walking down the hall and having someone say hello to me terrified me. I did therapy for a couple years and eventually took anti-depressants and an anti-anxiety medication, which worked enough to make me functional and have me do the rest of the work in getting me in a good place. I came out of the depression and anxiety doing pretty well -- it was shortly after that time, in college, when I was dating and I even lived with a roommate at one point.
I live a transient life, moving from place to place for my job. And that makes it all OK, because I tell myself it's OK I don't have any friends because I am new wherever I go. And some places are better than others, so if it sucks I know I get to leave soon. And if it doesn't and I find myself having somewhat of a social life, then that's awesome and I can enjoy it while it lasts (because it can't last with my job). The truth is, I have no friends. My best friends are people I don't see much and can communicate with mostly over email and text. In fact, I've had people I communicated via email and chat for work and we hit off great, but once things changed and we were in the same location and could hang out in person, the friendship stopped because I would get out of seeing them or when I did, I'd feel nervous and awkward.
I've resigned myself to a life alone, but it's not what I want. Anyone with avoidant personality disorder ever gotten treatment or found anything that helps? Help for a lonely, awkward, scared person?