Scared of Living?
February 14, 2010 4:02 PM   Subscribe

I'm not sure what to call this but there's something off with me and I don't know what it is. I've always had a hard time with my social relationships.

Typically, I'll make a few friends and stay very close with one or two people. This is enough to satisfy me from a friends perspective. From an academic perspective, I'd say that I'm not that bright, but I know how to work pretty hard. In high school, I survived by going to my professor's office hours to get through my classes. College, was more of the same stuff, I had to work very hard, but I got through it.

About two years ago I started seeing a therapist and we went through some psychological testing and some other assessments. Up until that time, I'd always thought that I was a little slow, but nothing to be too alarmed at. The results of my tests came back and there wasn't too much out of the ordinary. My iq was around 112 and the tests showed that I had a hard time understanding cause and effect in social situations. I also have some self-defeating personality traits, (i.e. that is I imagine that their are problems where no problems actually exist). I started doing some readings in psychology and I was convinced that I had Asperger's Syndrome, but my therapist thought otherwise. After meeting some individuals with Aspergers Syndrome, I no longer believed that to be what I have.

How do I describe my daily frustrations? Things take me a lot longer to understand than most people. I tend to be rather unobservant of certain things and then to have an intense habit of hyperfocusing on other things. I have a propensity to over-analyze things. I also have a tendency to avoid unpleasant tasks. I get extremely frustrated with myself when I don't seem to understand what I'm doing (e.g. reading graduate school journal articles). I always feel like there's something just not quite right. I have a tendency to be very literal. Sometimes I wake up from pretty intense nightmares, and I usually think that it's my subconscious trying to alert me to something that I'm unaware of while awake.

My biggest fear is that there is something really off with me. My therapist doesn't believe that there is any such thing. He understands that I can struggle socially in certain situations, but he is convinced that most of my problems are just the result of me thinking too much. I've had some major anxiety issues since I was a little kid, and I always feel like something unpleasant is about to happen. I don't know, I could go into more specifics, but does anyone feel a kind of constant apprehension about something being off with themselves? I'm afraid to relax and believe in myself, it seems like the moment I start to relax, something inevitably goes wrong or I find out that I've missed another detail from my life.
posted by Garden to Human Relations (37 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why isn't anxiety an acceptable diagnosis? It sounds about right to me.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 4:11 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not sure what your actual question is. It sounds like maybe you have ADD. Also, you may not be bright enough for graduate school -- 112 IQ is 79th percentile, whereas less than 10% of the population gets graduate degrees. Although there are other factors required for graduate school success than just raw brainpower, you're trying to compete in a system set up for the top 10% when you're not a top 10% person. So yeah, it's probably going to take you a lot longer to understand stuff than it takes your classmates -- whether or not you can compensate for that depends on how hard you work and how organized you are with your study habits.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:13 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I were your therapist I would be trying to help you with these issues and not worry about defining them. I don't think there's any particular one definition for your problems. You have a lot of anxiety. You feel there's something wrong with you, and that danger is around the corner (maybe danger is too strong a word). That insecurity is what I'd be dealing with.

Where did it come from? What is its danger, in greater detail? What are you afraid of, both in yourself and outside yourself? etc.

But I'm an exploring, "psychodynamically-oriented" therapist, as opposed to, say, a cognitive-behavioral therapist. (not to get into all that now)

But that's what I'd want to know much, much more about. The premise here is that you developed these fears and insecurities and even those semi-blindnesses (e.g. to social situations); they are not intrinsic to you in some way. They are "defenses" that arose from the relationship between your personality and the world and the people in it. (in my opinion).
And the secondary premise is that, once you experience more deeply what all this stuff is about, within a relationship with somebody else (the therapist), you can continue your development in a way that will benefit you and allow you to feel better than you do now.

(by the way, IQ isn't some sort of static "thing" -- it's highly influenced by emotional and personality factors, and clinical psychologists use IQ test results to talk about a person's emotional make-up as much as their cognitive capacities.)
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:14 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


but does anyone feel a kind of constant apprehension about something being off with themselves?

Ah....then, yes. I guess I was just looking for maybe a little more clarification from the previous versions of this question that the OP has asked.
posted by meerkatty at 4:15 PM on February 14, 2010


you may not be bright enough for graduate school -- 112 IQ is 79th percentile, whereas less than 10% of the population gets graduate degrees.

This statement describes two different distributions and so is incoherent and rather meaningless.

It may be true that less than 10% of the population gets graduate degrees, but it doesn't follow that that 10% is within the top 10% of the IQ distribution. There are lots of very bright people who don't pursue graduate education. There are also a lot of graduate programs that don't require IQs a couple of standard deviations from the mean.
posted by dfriedman at 4:19 PM on February 14, 2010 [41 favorites]


Honestly, you got good answers to your previous questions, and I don't think you'll get very many new and helpful responses here.

But to answer your general question, yes, people do often feel apprehension about something being "off" with themselves. This is, however, an issue that you should take up with your therapist, since it's not something AskMe can answer adequately.
posted by pecknpah at 4:22 PM on February 14, 2010


It sounds to me like there are two things going on. One is your major anxiety issues since childhood. That would explain most of your worry, fear and over-thinking as well as the difficulty in relaxing and being comfortable in yourself. You have been working with your therapist for two years. Have things gotten better? If there is not much change then you should look for a different therapist - each one has their own style and chemistry is a very important factor. Also, you might consider a trial of an anti-anxiety medication. I know people who have found that a little help rebalancing their brain chemistry has made a huge difference in their ability to get out of their own way.

Second, it sounds like you have a very specific pattern of strengths and weaknesses, especially around social and academic learning. "Normal" includes a very wide range of strengths and weaknesses on many different dimensions. I don't know of any particular name for your profile but it sounds like you have actually done a good job of using your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses. When you have less anxiety and are more comfortable with who you are, then you will be more accepting when you are doing something that you know is going to be hard (like reading journal articles). In other words, it sounds like the rest of this is just the quirks that make you, you. You can accept them, change them or compensate for them but it is no more (although different) than the rest of us have to cope with.
posted by metahawk at 4:28 PM on February 14, 2010


Also, you may not be bright enough for graduate school -- 112 IQ is 79th percentile, whereas less than 10% of the population gets graduate degrees.

This is bunk. Don't buy into crap like that. IQ is a useful predictor for other measures that assess specific kinds of cognitive function, but it is not as useful a predictor for success in grad school.

Everyone thinks there's something "off" with themselves sometimes. More confident folks tend to think it less often than those who aren't so confident, but it's not something to worry about. Feeling that there's something off isn't something to dwell on. Instead, maybe try to address the specific circumstances that are making you feel uncomfortable rather than attributing discrete problems to some sort of global "glitch."
posted by solipsophistocracy at 4:28 PM on February 14, 2010 [8 favorites]


Ah....then, yes. I guess I was just looking for maybe a little more clarification from the previous versions of this question that the OP has asked.

Well, yes. But I'm usually the one telling the OP that they have asked this question before and gotten good answers then, so I thought I'd let someone else do that. But sure:

Garden: What do you hope to get out of this question that you didn't get the other times you asked variations on the same question? You keep asking the same basic thing and getting the same basic answers. What are you hoping for?
posted by Justinian at 4:30 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, here, I'll pitch something out there: You've been seeing a therapist for years and you still feel like this? Maybe you should consider medication. Xanax is very helpful for generalized anxiety disorders. I don't say that lightly 'cause benzos are hardcore. But you really sound like you need some additional support beyond whatever you're doing now.
posted by Justinian at 4:36 PM on February 14, 2010


I'm certainly no therapist and its good that you're seeing one to work out your situation. However, you sound a lot like I used to feel: Always feeling inferior, like there was something not quite right with me, and not very bright, none of which was true.

Were you raised by an extremely over-controlling person? Everything I did was over-analyzed, placed under a microscope and scrutinized (and determined to be wrong), treated like I was an idiot, and I had no right to any boundaries (most especially PRIVACY). The end result was feeling exactly like you currently feel. I went out into the adult world and was shocked when people seemed to like me, seemed to think I was bright enough, and didn't seem to have any issues with me. I thought there must be something wrong with THEM.

These feelings didn't go away until I ended up when I was 30 cutting ties with this person and that act alone has a made a world of difference in the last 11 years.

I'm just telling you my experience with these feelings. I may not be understanding your personal situation at all.
posted by Annashouse at 4:51 PM on February 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


Oh and the nightmares you mention, I used to have also, and awoke with the same feeling you mention of feeling like my subconscious was trying to tell me something. Once I cut the offending parent out of my life, all of that stopped.
posted by Annashouse at 4:54 PM on February 14, 2010


Just about everyone who goes to grad school freaks out about whether they are good enough or not. This is is often exacerbate by obsessively comparing yourself to others and concluding that you are not as smart as you really are. Don't do that.

I know it's probably not good to hand out a specific diagnosis over the internet and I am not a mental health professional but it seems pretty clear that all your problems are caused by anxiety.

Things take me a lot longer to understand than most people.

This can be a symptom of anxiety. If you get anxious about trying to understand something you end up not understanding it because you are anxious. It's a vicious cycle.

I tend to be rather unobservant of certain things and then to have an intense habit of hyperfocusing on other things.

This can be caused by anxiety and various unhealthy methods of dealing with it.


I also have a tendency to avoid unpleasant tasks.


This can be caused by anxiety.

I get extremely frustrated with myself when I don't seem to understand what I'm doing (e.g. reading graduate school journal articles).


This can be caused by anxiety.

I started doing some readings in psychology and I was convinced that I had Asperger's Syndrome, but my therapist thought otherwise.

This happens to a lot of people who have problems with anxiety, including myself.

I always feel like there's something just not quite right. I have a tendency to be very literal.


This can be caused by anxiety.

Sometimes I wake up from pretty intense nightmares, and I usually think that it's my subconscious trying to alert me to something that I'm unaware of while awake.

This can be caused by anxiety.


There really is not mystery diagnosis needed. Anxiety sucks and it presents its self in many different and annoying ways. It really sounds like you need to get a grasp on how you perceive yourself and the world around you. This may require some anti anxiety meds that give you a chance to not be anxious. An SSRI worked for me, you should talk to your therapist about it. If you are already on meds then they aren't working and you should ask about changing dosage or trying some different medication.
posted by Procloeon at 5:27 PM on February 14, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've read a few of your other posts and you really strike me as sounding just like me when I was in my 20's (and all of my life really, prior to age 30). Particularly in another post you mention feeling like you've always been oblivious and the feeling of just "waking up". I really relate to that *unbelievably* well. The social discomfort, high levels of general anxiety, etc. The fact that you keep asking basically the same question suggests you're not finding the answer, which again, sounds just like I used to sound :-)

I was raised by someone who I've come to realize is a most likely a narcissist. Is there any chance that is what is going on in your life?
posted by Annashouse at 6:08 PM on February 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


does anyone feel a kind of constant apprehension about something being off with themselves?

Garden, I've felt this way in varying degrees since childhood. I suffer from general/social anxiety and mild OCD. I also had panic attacks for a while. Some people are just prone to these things....

There have been times in my life where things have flared up to an extent that it disrupted my day-to-day functioning, and every single time, when I went on an anti-anxiety med it was like a fog lifted and I could see clearly that most of my fears were non-existent.....like waking up from a bad dream.

Medication really does help. And you don't have to stay on it forever.
posted by cottonswab at 6:36 PM on February 14, 2010


IANAPsychologist or a psychiatrist etc. but it sounds somewhat similar to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it's a constant worry, a constant feeling on the edge.

And, yes I do recommend you try another therapist out. If it's in college/on campus, ask to see another therapist. If you feel that's too much at least try out a session or two at an outside therapist but do arrange the money as well.

Things take me a lot longer to understand than most people. I tend to be rather unobservant of certain things and then to have an intense habit of hyperfocusing on other things.

The intense habit of hyperfocusing seems representative of you hitting a stage of flow or you possibly having ADHD.

The cause and effect of social situation is also well represented by adhd because adhd folks have a hard time processing facial or body cues from another person.

Maybe it's a combination of ADHD and GAD.

"I have a tendency to be very literal."

That's something you may have to work on if you do not want to be literal. It just seems that you are a concrete person, who finds it easier to think in either / or? If that's the case, thinking in shades of grey may involve CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).


Sometimes I wake up from pretty intense nightmares, and I usually think that it's my subconscious trying to alert me to something that I'm unaware of while awake.


About your subconscious, I would want to say it's what you want to believe. Sometimes it's a twitchy feeling about that dream and you just want to somehow connect it with your own life. Truth is you do not have to, that's just an urge.

Maybe watch a couple of videos of GAD from the NIMH website or something like that?
posted by iNfo.Pump at 6:42 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


About the slowness in processing, did the testing yield slower cognitive processing? If that's the case, it may just be the norm for things to get to you. In that case, study different approaches to things and maybe that might help.

There's also this link for how to work with journal articles.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 6:45 PM on February 14, 2010


Finally, there's also social anxiety disorder that I forgot to mention.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 6:49 PM on February 14, 2010


[few comments removed - further IQ derail probably needs to go to metatalk or email, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:19 PM on February 14, 2010


Wow, there is a crazy amount of diagnosis dropping and medication recommending going on in this thread that I think is really not cool considering that it's not possible to either diagnose or make competent medication recommendations based on information presented on an Internet forum even for appropriately trained professionals, which I don't believe anyone here is. I also can't imagine why a therapist (if DMelanogaster is in fact a therapist, it's not possible to verify any credentials by looking his/her profile here on the site) would be comfortable making a clinical decision such telling this person what type of therapy would be most beneficial for them based on the couple hundred words of text presented here.
posted by The Straightener at 7:37 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hello. I am a psychologist. I absolutely did not diagnose. And I didn't say what kind of therapy would be most beneficial, either. I just said how I work and how I'd work with somebody who presented herself with the problems as stated by the OP. Just to give her some new thoughts, some new ways to think about things. That's all.

I actually find it pretty surprising (I'm pretty new to MeFi, just a couple of months, I think) that so many people DO diagnose and "prescribe" (types of therapy) here. "This sounds like GAD" "this may be Aspergers" etc. (not in this particular thread, but in others), "You should take SSRIs", "CBT is the best treatment for your disorder," etc.

My approach to people's difficulties tends to be much more phenomenological-subjective and not very DSM-ish, and that's what I was trying to convey in my answer to this person.
posted by DMelanogaster at 8:02 PM on February 14, 2010


The DSM isn't very DSM-ish these days... it's a compendium for trained professionals who went to school and took hands-on training in diagnosis and treatment. What a lay-person thinks is a disorder as defined by the DSM just isn't, unless a whole host of other criteria are met that may or may not be covered by "the manual", but is common knowledge for professional practitioners. (And the pros these days tend to be a lot more flexible and real-world oriented.)

So, assuming the question isn't a professional journalist trolling for "gotcha!" quotes, the answer is, "See a therapist who specializes in motivational issues, and follow his/her advice." Even if you've got nothing listed in the DSM, the fact that you're uncomfortable with yourself the way you are and that you can't change it on your own means that someone to talk to who isn't socially connected to you but sympathetic and understanding may very well be beneficial.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:16 PM on February 14, 2010


My sympathies. But what you asked above is quite big and complicated. As a thought experiment, you might want to try to pick out three (no more than three) very specific concerns, and then research ways to improve upon each aspect. It helps to write or type these down. Take it in small steps.

Also, if you haven't seen other therapists or counselors in the last 2 years, it may helpful to meet some new ones.
posted by polymodus at 11:41 PM on February 14, 2010


Can you try a short acting anti-anxiety med, like Xanax, and see how you feel? See if you can concentrate better, if things are less frustrating, if you feel easier? If your therapists can't write prescriptions, GPs do all the time. That might give you an indication of what anxiety does--experiencing its absence.

Secondly, depression and anxiety influence cognitive function. There is no way I would take that IQ test seriously, if I were you. You over-think things, you were depressed, you already thought you were dumb -- there are too many external factors going on in that test to make the big deal out of it you seem to have made.

Also if your question is, am I a weirdo? The answer is probably. Many of the best people are. It gets easier as you get older, develop some more social skills, get perspective, find some people who can joke you out of yourself a little, maybe take some meds, work on your career, fall in love, etc. etc. So try to take a longer view of things.

And, you've been seeing this therapist for two years? You might want to take stock of that experience. Some of this stuff (sending you for IQ and psychological testing) seems like it would reinforce some of your underlying fears, and doing this while at the same time saying he doesn't believe people can be 'off' seems contradictory.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:54 AM on February 15, 2010


Hello. I am a psychologist.

If you are going to be advising people on AskMetafilter of what you would do "if I were your therapist" then put your real name, your credentials and your contact info in your profile so that those you are forming clinical relationships with online can contact the local ethical body governing your practice should they feel the need to do so. Are you willing to do that? I didn't think you were. So you should not be telling people what you would do with them "if I were your therapist" on AskMetafilter.
posted by The Straightener at 5:34 AM on February 15, 2010


Can you try a short acting anti-anxiety med, like Xanax, and see how you feel?

Dude, stop. Did you seriously just recommend someone take Xanax based on some text you read on the Internet? Do you have a medical background? Are you a psychiatrist? What the hell happened in this thread? This is the worst mental health related AskMe I have ever read on this site.
posted by The Straightener at 5:40 AM on February 15, 2010


Did you seriously just recommend someone take Xanax based on some text you read on the Internet?

I didn't give him a prescription, tell him to get it from a friend, tell him to lie to his physician, or offer to send it through the mail. I suggested he talk with his GP about it. I'm genuinely sorry that you find that irresponsible, but it's, to my mind, a reasonable response to his question, which is primarily centered on anxiety. Suggesting exploring the option of anti-anxiety drug to someone saying they suffer from anxiety seems like a pragmatic suggestion to me if the question is going to be posted at all. Otherwise it's a nearly-unanswerable question.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:56 AM on February 15, 2010


Meta
posted by The Straightener at 6:39 AM on February 15, 2010


My husband had asperger's symdrome.
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger_syndrome )

I suggest you take an online quiz

( http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/autism.htm)

to see if you may have it too. You seem to deal with similar issues as he does.

Hope this will help.
posted by shortbus at 7:36 AM on February 15, 2010


>> feel free to message me if you have more questions
posted by shortbus at 7:37 AM on February 15, 2010


I have similar frustrations wrt reading, hyperfocusing sometimes and drifting off at other times. Some trouble with social skills. I have ADHD (inattentive) sometimes just called ADD. Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction are great books about ADHD. It can contribute to anxiety. There is no definitive test as far as I know, there is a diagnostic questionnaire though. There are a lot of resources on askme if you want to check them out.

You never have to agree with your shrink. If you feel like it's more than anxiety, there's nothing wrong with getting a second opinion.

I've only taken xanax for panic disorder (hate it). If you take it all the time, like for GAD, it stops working but you do get to keep the intense physical dependency. I did that, I hated the "feel" of it but it still took me two months to taper off of it. That's why it has a nasty reputation as an addict's drug (not to say that everyone who takes it is an addict).

I am not any kind of shrink or pharmacist. If you want to talk more, feel free to memail me
posted by kathrineg at 8:26 AM on February 15, 2010


How long having you been seeing your therapist? If you're not seeing results, it might be worth it to switch it up.

It also might be worth it to see a different kind of therapist, for example, if you are seeing a psychiatrist now, try a psychologist or MSW, or vice versa.

To me, your symptoms sound like an anxiety disorder. It might be worth it to seek out a therapist who specializes in anxiety.
posted by sid at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2010


OP, keep in mind that online quizzes are NOT to be considered accurate diagnoses of any sort.
posted by so_gracefully at 2:20 PM on February 15, 2010


I would print out this question, take it to your next therapy session, and ask to spend the session discussing it and its implications for your treatment. Are you and your therapist of one mind about what the problem is? Do you agree about how to treat the problem? I'm concerned that you say your therapist "thinks most of my problems are the result of me thinking too much," as that would be a huge problem for me, but maybe that's helpful to you. Regardless, if you decide to continue with this therapist (or therapy in general), I think that for your peace of mind, the issue of what it is that's "off" with you needs to be directly addressed.
posted by epj at 3:03 PM on February 15, 2010


I am almost exactly the same person as the person that you are describing yourself to be. Interesting.

Similarities:

Only 1 or 2 friends? Check.
Socially awkward, trouble understanding social situations? Check.
Extremely detail-oriented? Check.
Take a long time to do anything because I focus on and analyze things so much? Check!
Had to work really hard to get through college? Check.
Frequently anxious that I may have missed some detail somewhere in my life? Check.

Differences:

Despite feeling anxious sometimes, I'm pretty self-confident, having graduated and quit grad school. You might consider that. Now I work at a comfy government job and make pretty good money. You might consider that too.

I have a high IQ. I doubt whether that really matters, though. In fact, I'm fairly sure it doesn't. Plenty of smart people are anxious and plenty of average people are successful, and vice versa. Don't let that bother you. I think your issue is more just a personality trait (and it's a trait that really isn't all bad -- industry likes detail-oriented people).

Questions:

What's your major? Some are more stressful than others.

Are you asexual (like me)? Or if you're not, could the status of your love life be any part of the issue?
posted by Xezlec at 7:45 PM on February 15, 2010


Whoops -- didn't mean to contrast "anxious" with "successful". Actually, those two things correlate pretty well in certain areas.
posted by Xezlec at 7:50 PM on February 15, 2010


I appreciate all the comments from everyone. There seems to be a lot of conflict going on with regards to my post. There isn't any need for anyone to get that worked up about what has been written here. Just because some people have recommended medications, different therapists, or opinions on what they believe to be the issue is fine. The whole purpose of writing a question like this is to hear various ideas and opinions. I'm not about to self-diagnose myself with a specific disorder or to start taking a particular medication just because someone suggested it. This is a wonderful website to openly discuss your concerns and to get some feedback from others. Reading all of the various suggestions and ideas is helpful as it provides me with a multitude of choices to consider.

Seriously, I thank all of you for writing what you have.

For the mental health professionals out there, don't worry about me taking what you have written as the gospel. It's very interesting to read what you have written as you have a different perspective than my Adlerian therapist.

I addressed my concerns regarding things taking quite a while to sink in during a session earlier this week. I was told that it is a combination of three factors. Anxiety, perfectionistic thinking and something called processing speed disorder.

Again, thank you all for your comments and suggestions. It is wonderful to be able to read about similar experiences from others and to consider different options.
posted by Garden at 12:54 PM on February 19, 2010


« Older cream cheese conundrum   |   It Takes Two Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.