Advice on dealing with feelings of loneliness and paranoia
January 22, 2013 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a hard time dealing with feelings of profound loneliness and paranoia about the states of friendships which in turn affect my dreams and my moods (being a vivid dreamer) and I don't like the affect it has on my happiness. Is there any good literature or advice that you can give to help me conquer these feelings and appreciate what I have in my friends or branch out to finding others? Any communication advice to being clear with friends and alleviating my paranoia without insulting them or sounding weird?

I'm a 30 year old single male. I've grown up caught between introversion and extroversion. Many times I can't stand people, but at the same time crave attention and company. I'm caught in a sort of enigma. I typically rely on a very select few friends to help me feel happy in life. Unfortunately that often leads to being "needy" or "overly dependent" and then back to loneliness and then paranoia as to what have I done wrong or have friends moved on. I am on medication for Anxiety (Citalopram) but nothing else. I grew up with anger issues and had counselling when I was younger, but have since avoided seeing a psychiatrist for many reasons. I don't consider that an option. I have very odd trust issues, I know and work them. Basically I've always lived by "trust no one" because of always being burned but I inevitably end up deeply trusting those few people. This compounds into realizing I rely on so few people and feeling then lonely because I only have those few friends. Of course, this leads to paranoia as to where I stand with them at any given time... and the cycle goes on. I fight myself on it daily to avoid going from a fun friend to an annoying pest, but the loneliness and the affect on my mental state takes it toll. Advice, tips, literature or similar experience with results in changing it would be much appreciated!
posted by Recca to Human Relations (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend this book a lot, but your situation is exactly why it was written. This book changed my life in that there was a before, when I suffered many of the same frustrations and disappoinments as you, and an after, in which I am pretty happy with all my social relationships. Here's the book: Beyond Codependency, by Melody Beattie. It's a companion to her Codependent No More.

There is a lot of stuff you'll run across asserting that codependency only applies to specific contexts where there's substance abuse yadda yadda yadda, but the fact is, this book has essays and exercises which, if you do them, help you clearly understand what you can reasonably expect from others, and what you should be giving to yourself and others, no matter what your personal relationship situation. I found this completely reset my entire approach to the social world in ways I'm still grateful for, 10 years later.

I think within about 3 pages you'll realize these books have something to offer you.

I would also urge you to think a lot more about your resistance to therapy. Therapy isn't psychiatry, for starters. It would definitely help in your case. But if you'd rather not go there just now, just get these books out of the library, give yourself a long night, a notebook, and a few hours, and see if anything resonates.
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

I hate talk therapy but dude for real therapists half exist to act as a pressure release valve for all the anxious energy that you KNOW you shouldnt burden your friends with. This is why you pay them - they take some of the shit that is otherwise not reasonable to offload on other humans. Side benefit is they help you get your head screwed on straight in whatever way you define as being beneficial to you.


Instead some rules:
1. Pay attention to how much you are contributing to all your friend interactions and match your input to that of your friends. Make sure you listen (active listening listen) the same amount, share the same amount, stay at the same intensity level. Force this until it feels natural.
2. Try to give yourself permission to feel your feelings seperately from deciding on how you will behave. Resist the impulse to seek validation/over invest.
3. Define yourself without relying on your injuries/past/flaws. Trauma and anxiety when left untreated can manifest as self absorption - everything gets tied back to the inner monologue of personal hurts and experiences until tools are developed that allow for more space for other types of processing strategies.
posted by skrozidile at 8:27 PM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]

Paranoia and this deep loneliness/distrust is a form of anxiety, and since you're already on anxiety medication, I think you have an awareness that this is part of your problem. If you don't want to go the talk therapy route, discuss your anti-anxiety medication with your prescribing physician. It may be that what you're taking isn't handling the issue enough right now.
posted by xingcat at 8:32 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I absolutely second Miko's suggestion above. For my last three years of high school, I went into almost total reclusion, and I had a miserable time trying to come out of it. My years alone had partly to do with anxiety problems, complicated by then-undiagnosed chronic health issues and a couple absent friends during the worst of my scares, and these intruded on my social life with nasty consequences. When I went off to school and started to have meaningful interactions and friendships again, I overthought these new relationships and distrusted my perception of them, their depth and worth. It didn't help, of course, that I was always an introvert anyway. One of my doctors recommended Beattie's book in passing after I responded badly to a couple different anxiety medicines and was about to start (short-lived) therapy, and it was one of the more helpful tools I had. It sounds like it would be a worthwhile read for you as well.

One of the best means to stave off anxiety-induced overthinking (and overthinking-induced anxiety, which always follows closely on the tail) is to force yourself to articulate deliberately and clearly not only how you feel, but how (and what) you are thinking when you're not doing well. This is, of course, the bread and butter of therapy. If you are wholly against seeing a therapist, however, I'd recommend as a supplement to whatever other measures you take, to write down your thoughts in as clear and structured a way as possible. It at least works for me, and I know it is a commonly prescribed practice. Nothing miraculous will happen, but writing gives you something more concrete and definite to work with—especially when you take the time to write as sensibly as you can, as if you were going to hand your work off to someone and wanted to be sure they would understand your current pains by nothing but what you have put down on the page. Then, in place of having only your purling thoughts and feelings to hope against, you have something comprehensible to study: a part of yourself, finally a little more clearly wrought. As therapy does, this allows you not only to see better what it is you have to deal with, but it puts you in the position of a critical, thoughtful observer of your own person and experience. That little step outside your habitual mode of living—particularly when, by repetition, that step becomes itself habitual—can be immensely helpful. Partly this is because you can learn a lot about whatever is hurting you and how. More importantly, though, it allows you to assume a position of control, no longer merely victim to, or prey of, paranoia / anxiety / etc. And finally, while it isn't a practical exercise tailored to your social anxieties (as it wasn't to mine), it could help you figure out or come to better terms with some of your issues before they "show up" or interject themselves when you're among friends. That's one of the reasons it was so helpful to me when I was at my worst: I was no longer nearly bursting with my problems, batting them back down, or worried they would creep up. They were there, but I dealt with them, and did so mainly in my own time. I had more attention to give, then, to the mindless but absolute worth of day-to-day friendships.
posted by mcoo at 9:22 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

I suggest half-trusting everyone at first. Make a conscious effort to only half-trust every one. Its better than trusting no one and it will serve your need for safety. There are benefits to people and getting some of them is better than getting none.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:17 PM on January 22, 2013

Imagine someone had written this:
I'm having a hard time dealing with chest pains. Any advice on how to alleviate them? I am on heart medication, but I'm still having a lot of pain. I have avoided seeing a cardiologist for many reasons. I don't consider that an option. Any thoughts on how to get rid of this pain?
We'd be surrounded by a chorus of "No matter what your past issues are, you need to see a cardiologist. Find one you can trust, and listen to her advice." The reason everyone would say that is that we recognize that chest pain and heart issues are a serious, potentially deadly issue. The problem is that we don't treat psychiatric issues with the same gravity.

You are taking psychiatric medication, but not seeing a psychiatrist. That medication is not working, to the point where it is disrupting your life. You describe serious anxiety and paranoia. You absolutely need to see a doctor who is a specialist in treating those conditions. Seeing a psychiatrist doesn't mean that you need to enter talk therapy, or that you have to consent to any particular treatment. As long as you are mentally competent (and the bar for competence is pretty low), you can't be forced into any treatment you don't want. You can shop around until you find a psychiatrist you can trust. But you absolutely must see one. It's dangerous for you to be taking psychiatric medication that isn't working without the supervision of an expert. And real treatment is likely the only thing that will make your life better.
posted by decathecting at 5:39 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

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