Why am I always uncomfortable around people?
July 15, 2012 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Why am I always uncomfortable around people? What the hell is wrong with me, mentally? *Warning* LONG LONG LONG READ, but probably interesting?*

There is not a single person with whom I'm 100% comfortable with. Even with my parents and older brothers and sisters, I sometimes feel awkward and uncomfortable around them (not to the point of unpleasantness, as it's a spectrum of uncomfortableness).

I'm just going to bullet-point some key things to hopefully help you guys figure out how the fuck my mind operates:

- I'm not easily excitable; very few things make me go OMG or even a slight bit aroused (not in the sexual way)
- I'm highly self conscious and take criticism VERY poorly; it hurts and spikes my anxiety
- I'm highly inhibited around people I don't know too well
- I am ridiculously poor at articulating my thoughts into coherent sentences
- Whenever I speak, it's not engaging at all and I see people lose interest in what I say within seconds (i.e. eye contact goes away and they focus on other things)
- People often cut me off when I speak because I'll have intermittent gaps (this relates to my trouble with articulating thoughts into speech)
- Most things that people talk about I genuinely do not care about, unless what they're talking about is related to me or impacts me somehow (e.g., I don't care where you went for vacation or anything.. it just doesn't excite me at all, etc)
- I'm pessimistic and complain a lot (not vocally, most of the time, because I know people hate debbie downers/complainers)
- Conversations with me can get quite awkward but not all of them do; I find that most people who don't know me very well have a lot of trouble knowing what to say to me
- I have a great deal of difficulty concentrating on things that don't interest me; as a result, I procrastinated a lot in college and just got tested for ADD last week but it was a negative
- I've taken SSRIs for depression/anxiety but they didn't do anything for me so I stopped taking them
- Back in college, whenever I partied and got drunk, all my anxieties and inhibitions went away.. I felt free and alive and could talk to anyone successfully.. now that I've been working a couple years and don't know many people very well, when I am drunk, I actually am still anxious and almost the same person.. it's so fucking weird

The crux of my issue is that I feel uncomfortable all the time. As a result, I'm inhibited in my mannerisms around everyone, I'm boring, lack an interesting personality, and am so bad at forming new relationships. I'm sexually inexperienced compared to my peers. I'm so scared of getting rejected by people so I always reject them first, somehow. I've never had a significant other despite being 25 and the longest I've dated a girl was a month or so.

I'm pretty sure I have social anxiety, or maybe even avoidant personality disorder. Dysthymia is a possibility as well. I WANT so bad to be interested in people. I WANT to have deep, meaningful relationships with people.

I can't remember the last time I woke up and was like 'I'm gonna conquer this day!' Everyday is just like okay I'm gonna wake up and go to work and just get through the day. That being said, I'm never sad, really. Everything is just neutral.

I'm in my mid-20s and have an amazing job that pays very, very well so I make an above-average income for my peer group. Despite my social shortcomings, I went to a top school and landed a top job and got decent grades in college (not stellar). I'm also very tall for my ethnicity (Indian) and can objectively say I am considered very attractive. I know most of you will probably think I'm being vain or narcissistic, but it's honestly true. All the successes I've had with women were a result of their approaching me. I frequently get drinks bought for me by girls at the bars and clubs (yes, non-Indian women as well as Indian).

As silly as this sounds, I sometimes feel like I intimidate other people, especially other non-Indian males whom I'm taller/more successful/attractive than. I dress very well and have a good sense of style.

So outwardly, I come across as the exact opposite of how I am internally. I come off as someone who looks confident and full of swagger, but it's when people start to finally get to know me that they realize something's 'off,' essentially killing any development in the relationship.

I also smoke a lot of weed at night before I go to bed and watch videos/moves/tv shows and listen to music. I find that it makes everything so much more interesting. I think I use weed as a crux to counter how uninteresting I find everything/everyone, normally.

I think my consistent weed usage may affect my anxiety, because when I go a week or two without smoking, I find that I get this amazing mental clarity, a bit of confidence, diminished anxiety, and my conversations with people are more lively and I just feel better. It's weird.. almost like a light flicks on. Then after a week or two of that feel goodness, I return to my normal boring, awkward, uninteresting self.

I'm considering therapy and medication again, but I absolutely detest the idea of having to take a pill everyday to feel 'normal.' Further, my pessimistic brain thinks that even if medication were to be successful, I'd eventually revert to my current self once I try to wean off of it (like I said, don't want to have to take medication for the rest of my life). So what's the point, almost? I'm not suicidal at all.

I don't know what to do anymore.. if I keep this up, I'll end up being single for the rest of my life and unhappy.

Can anyone relate to me?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I'm considering therapy and medication again, but I absolutely detest the idea of having to take a pill everyday to feel 'normal.'

You're using weed every day and it makes you feel awful; why not take something every day that makes you feel good? I wouldn't get too wrapped up right now in thinking about the "rest of your life"; take things one step at a time. Try out therapy, and some medication if the doctor suggests it, and see how things go for awhile. The voices telling you you'll always feel bad and there's no point to feeling good even for a little while are a part of the problem; don't give them power to make your decisions for you. Good luck dear!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:50 PM on July 15, 2012 [17 favorites]

I'm considering therapy and medication again, but I absolutely detest the idea of having to take a pill everyday to feel 'normal.'

And yet you're smoking weed all the time to 'feel something'. Think about that.

I don't know what to do anymore.. if I keep this up, I'll end up being single for the rest of my life and unhappy.

Then after a week or two of that feel goodness, I return to my normal boring, awkward, uninteresting self.

This is pretty extremist thinking - CBT is good for reworking things like that.

The things that you're telling yourself are not helping you - therapy is a good way to get out of that destructive thought cycle.
posted by heyjude at 1:59 PM on July 15, 2012

Others are going to address the person to person stuff, so I'll take a different direction.
It sounds like you have a lot going for you in areas other than human interaction. It also sounds like you're not fully engaging this. You got the nice job, but in your time off, you zone yourself out to TV and weed.

You've got brains, talent, money. But instead of going all Tony Stark and applying those things to things that interest you, instead at the end of the week you've done... nothing.

Spend less time doing nothing / living vicariously. Work on making something that has never been made before, something that stimulates you. This is something you can happily do alone, but over the long term, your projects will likely also bring you in contact with people who are more like you, and more interested in things that you do find stimulating. (Having a passion will also make you more attractive as a date.)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:02 PM on July 15, 2012 [17 favorites]

I honestly don't think the problem is that you intimidate other people because you're taller than average or better dressed than average or handsomer than average or whatever, though all of those things may well be true. You sound like you aren't a good listener or conversationalist, perhaps in part because of your mood and anxiety issues, but also because you just don't seem interested in other people.

Agree with -harlequin- that finding something more active and engaging to do in your spare time might help you connect more with people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:10 PM on July 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes, find out what really interests you, start doing it and then find like minded people who are just as interested in that thing. The commonality of your interest will help get you interested in them. If you are passionate about jumping out of planes, for example, then the other people who are passionate about jumping out of planes will excite you, as they have the same interest in the shared topic of conversation.

Also, ask people questions. If they are talking about their vacation, try to find something interesting in there that you can extrapolate on. If they went to Italy, start thinking of things that Italy reminds you of, the language, history, wine, some old war, etc., then ask them about that particular topic.
posted by Vaike at 2:18 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cut down or quit the marijuana use. Daily marijuana use can make a person dull. You have already noted this.

People with low self-esteem, depression, substance abusers, etc. are self-absorbed. It's the nature of the illness. Have you ever been interested in others?

I think you need to seek therapy with a qualified counselor. You're not okay with being you. Therapy can help with that. Good luck to you.
posted by Fairchild at 2:28 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to answer for sure it professional help, go see a therapist. But I'd like to also say one thing that helped me was setting a goal, a list of features I want to have and then a plan to pursue them. So I want to be a good conversationalist, w special interest in politics and experience triathlons. I cut out a lot of the "dead, wasted" time in my life like playing video games and smoking and redirected my time and energy trying to reach my goals. I think this strategy may also work for you?
posted by xicana63 at 2:36 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Good for getting off the SSRIs. Now get off the weed. Completely, not just cutting down. You answered your own question when you described how you feel when you stop the weed. It's still there for a special occasion, but having it every day is ruining you. Don't take anything else until you stop.

Read the standard classic "How To Win Friends And Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. Then, in that week or two period after stopping, put some of that book's timeless principles into use. I don't think you'll need to go back to daily weed use.
posted by caclwmr4 at 3:03 PM on July 15, 2012

What's interesting to me is you don't talk about anything interesting in this post. You are very concerned about your height, looks, clothes, financial status, job, and other superficial indicators of your success. You don't mention hobbies, things you like to do (aside from smoke weed), or anything that portrays you as an interesting person. Perhaps that's why you have trouble talking to people. Perhaps you have nothing to talk about and are focused on the superficial indicators, so you find yourself talking to similarly-superficial people.

Maybe you need to find some interesting hobbies or otherwise develop yourself as a person.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:04 PM on July 15, 2012 [23 favorites]

I agree with Ghostride The Whip. I used to be this way in college, but once I started to take up hobbies, it made what other people did so interesting.

I think this happens for two reasons. First, you start to develop yourself into a more complete person. Secondly, and more importantly, you can relate to people better. It's difficult for me to relate to someone who can only talk to me based on superficial things. This forum is a perfect example, I can share my xyz experiences with others, but I can't really share that I'm tall and successful and expect any answer.

I'd say you take the advice here and find things you love to do. You'll get interested and have questions, seek answers from others and in the future be able to share with others. All of these promote conversations. Criticism and failure are the best way to know what does and doesn't work on your path to your goal. In these kinds of situations, the worst action is inaction because the result is where you are now, and you don't sound happy here.
posted by neveroddoreven at 3:27 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

CAN you get off the weed? For a week, a month, several months?

There are a lot of people who tend to become very passive when they frequently use the weed.

I second Ghostride. People who are engaged with life are interesting to talk to. People who are interested in other people (or who feign interest well) have good conversations. Once you get to know someone, they become more interesting to you rather than less.

I find that most people who don't know me very well have a lot of trouble knowing what to say to me

You're not interested in what people have to say, and I'm sure they pick up on it, so it's understandable that they would have trouble knowing what to say to you. You have to meet someone halfway.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:45 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, nthing you cut out the weed, at least for a while. Weed can make you paranoid, at least it does me, and if I smoke every day for a month or so, I think it does take a toll on my social life.

I have noticed that some people can smoke weed 3 times a day and be highly functional. But I think that's just some lucky quirk of brain chemistry or something; for most of us weed does have a price, especially if you do it everyday. Cut out the weed for a week, a month, and see how you feel.
posted by zardoz at 4:21 PM on July 15, 2012

I have similar social anxieties, and trouble with speaking, including long pauses, and I'm also intuitive enough to see people lose interest. SSRIs would probably help the anxiety, but make you even less interested in things than you already are. I agree with most of what's been said, especially finding hobbies and making sure you're finding non-superficial people. However, I think one of the things you must work on is speaking. Join a club for debate or speech making and you'll find your speaking even in conversation is completely transformed. The more you use it, on spite of your discomfort, the easier it gets. Search old threads for advice on public speaking...there are at least several that I know of.

You have to act interested in people, whether you are or not. Give yourself homework. Talk to two new people a week, and ask them two personal questions AND respond to what they tell you. Plan the type of questions you might ask beforehand. Rehearse.

Stop smoking so much pot. To be interested in life is never a problem I've had, and I think it's because I've always tried out different hobbies, learned things constantly, and asked questions. You don't have to develop a grand passion. (not many people find the guy who talks about model trains for hours very interesting), but you do need to talk a little bit about a lot of things, be astute about what kinds of things might interest a person you're talking to, and ask thoughtful questions that get them talking.

I wish there were a magic pill, but there isn't, and you will always feel. Bit more awkward than other people. But you can improve your social life.
posted by thelastcamel at 4:46 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Argh, stupid phone typos. You get the idea.
posted by thelastcamel at 4:46 PM on July 15, 2012

You are self-medicating with weed. Dump the weed, get treated for anxiety and/or depression, join Toastmasters even if you think it's stupid.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:45 PM on July 15, 2012

Others have brought up some important choices you can make; I'll just add that given how severe your situation sounds, I'd also consider speaking with a nutritionist about issues of diet and such. Beyond the smoking, which has some pretty clear physical effects, there are other, often powerful potential influences as well, such as what you're eating. Part of being young means that you may not directly notice the effects of poor diet but the symptoms can still wreak havoc. If you're going to take action on any of the good suggestions above for changing your social life, you'll want/need to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. Getting your diet in order serve as a vital first step.
posted by 5Q7 at 6:51 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Join Toastmasters or a similar group where you practice speaking in front of a group. You will learn how to present your ideas and hold the interest of the listeners, all skill that easily translate to non-public speaking.

Do try some volunteer work, even if you are not interested. Going through the motions should get you out of your rut.
posted by francesca too at 7:12 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider going back to therapy, cutting the weed, and trying antidepressants again. It sounds like weed is making things worse - plus it sounds like you're using it to avoid relating to people and doing more interesting things. However, if you want to be happier/more content/more engaged in other people's lives, taking antidepressants is something that has been successful for many, many people. Yes, the idea of taking a pill every day for the rest of your life can be intimidating, but would you tell your diabetic friend to wean himself off insulin? Depression is a physical condition, and if an antidepressant is helping, then you use it. Maybe you won't always need to use it, but maybe you will. Either way is fine. And plenty of people have to try different kinds before finding the kind that works.

Next, you aren't interested in people, but want to be? Do it. When someone starts telling you about the funny thing her cat did, or the movie he saw, think to yourself, what makes this interesting to this person? Could I empathize with what this person is telling me? Fake it till you make it. There is something to be said about pretending to be the person you want to be until you actually are that person.
posted by violetish at 9:28 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to suggest a different idea altogether: get yourself tested for allergies. They don't always cause the symptoms most people think of (sneezing, hives, etc.) I have several food allergies, and when I eat certain things I'm allergic to, I have trouble articulating, and I get some anxiety and depression.

And yeah, stop self medicating with weed. That's most likely contributing to the problems.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:55 AM on July 16, 2012

Going to nth getting off weed. It doesn't sound like you're getting anything positive out of it.

Get to a therapist/doctor to sort out any possible brain chemistry issues.

Volunteer. Find something you enjoy doing and help other people. You come off as kind of self-absorbed and stand-offish, as though you're better than anyone else. The way you describe your problem is that you have nothing to say and are boring, but you believe that the people are intimidated by you because you are taller, handsomer and richer than other people your age. You can see how that doesn't really scan.

If you don't find others interesting, why should they find you interesting?

The best way to come out of all of this is to help other people. Be selfless instead of selfish for a change. Don't worry so much about how you come across to others, just become involved in helping someone out.

I think Habitat for Humanity is a great place to start. You get out in the fresh air, you swing a hammer and learn some useful skills. You can see something grow out of nothing, in that you're building a house!

A community garden is another good way of communing with nature and forming a bond with other like-minded folks.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:08 AM on July 16, 2012

My first thought is, rather than seeking comfort, you might want to practice becoming comfortable with ambiguity, because we are all surrounded by ambiguity.

The one thing smoking weed seems to do for people is let them predict how they're going to feel after smoking it. That's why it helps with anxiety. (for me, I get that predictability by watching tv -- because the stories are predictable).

Find a way to be curious about what's going to happen next and stop thinking that you need to feel completely comfortable. I think discomfort can be your friend.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:36 AM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds like pretty standard dysthymia and anxiety to me, to be honest. I strongly suggest therapy, with or without medication (or weed.)

Basically problems like pessimism and self-consciousness stem from certain habitual patterns of thought that you can learn to recognize and then, over time, defuse. I can also recommend the book Feeling Good, which teaches you how to do this on your own.
posted by callmejay at 9:31 AM on July 16, 2012

You have social anxiety. The only way to fix it is to attack it, through empowering yourself with knowledge, medication and therapy or at least self-therapy through reading.

I am quite sure, because you basically described me when you described yourself.

The reason weed and alcohol seem effective and meds do not is that weed and alcohol are potent short term solutions and meds are subtle long term solutions. You can get along for awhile that way, it's true. But that depends on your level of use. Frequent alcohol use to curb anxiety is a blast for a short while and then it is a quick, businesslike detour to depression. It is a depressant, that's what it does in the long term. Weed can be a godsend, but usually only at first if your intake escalates. There comes a point when you realize its limitations.

I didn't write an askme when I felt like you do, but I was constantly asking myself the same questions, raising my fists to the heavens and asking, really raging in my mind against everything and everyone because I was so upset and lost and unable to understand what to do about it.

In hindsight I can see that I was really only asking two very simple questions, and ultimately so are you:

1. Do I have to feel this way?

No. No you do not.

2. Am I really going to have to break myself down, fully come to terms with my fears, struggle against all the (understandable, yet) unhealthy coping mechanisms I have foolishly reinforced my whole life, am I going to have to constantly monitor my emotions and have discipline enough to keep moving forward in the face of failure, and a million other things that scared the shit out of me?

Yes, yes you are.

That's the score. The unfortunate chemical unbalances in your brain are not your fault, not in any way. But even if every person who lived in your city's number one priority was fixing that for you they would still fail, because its not their problem to fix.

The answer to #2 is scary because it means you have to step outside of yourself and search and open up in ways that make you uncomfortable, true. But it sounds like staying inside yourself is currently not satisfying, otherwise you wouldn't have asked this question.

You can't start too soon. Lose your fetters and you may be shocked to find that you really are the person you always wished you could be but were unable to find.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:44 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

I feel like I could have written this post. The dysthymia, the social anxiety, the lack of hobbies and interests, the self-medication with weed. All down to a T.

Getting better is a hard road and I may be only a few steps further down it than you are. I sought out therapy and have had two sessions, where we've started to identify some of the irrational thoughts and assumptions I have about myself and other people. You've probably made some assumptions about yourself and others that you don't even realize you've made. It's painful and difficult to really look at yourself and to examine your thinking. But it needs to be done.

That said, I'd love if people here could expand a little bit on finding a hobby or interest. It's something that I still really struggle with.
posted by allseeingabstract at 2:56 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to echo what others have said - find what truly does interest you and make efforts to include those things in your life, every day, even if you are alone.

"No matter how isolated you are or how lonely you feel, if you do your work, truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you." - Carl G Jung

Lastly, I actually recommend against going on medication; try holistic health practices like Ayurveda instead. Find a practitioner you like and trust and work with them. So much easier on your body long term, and actually offer real solutions, not just covering up symptoms. Psychotherapy combined with Ayurveda will change your life.
posted by dolce_voce at 8:16 PM on July 24, 2012

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