Social Anxiety. All in your head? or All in your world?
August 29, 2006 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Can one fix social anxiety disorders or other socially-related disorders by becoming better at being well-liked?

Two commonly suggested remedies for social anxiety disorders are medication, such as Paxil, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

But can social anxiety be alleviated by improving one's social standing? I've heard anecdotes of people doing wonderous transformations of themselves in high school, going from the shy geek to the extroverted popular one by actively reforming themselves: improving the way they dress, fitting in, and being a nicer more compatible person.

Anxiety is usually felt when we don't feel competant. But the literature I've read on Social Anxiety Disorder usually focuses on the idea that "it's all in your head" rather than on fixing your competency.

Alternatively, can one cure social anxiety disorders by learning to be more reclusive: i.e. focus on trying to only have a few friends and learning to keep to yourself at work and in public.
posted by philosophistry to Human Relations (25 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's very hard to become competent when you're terrified. Social anxiety is often a vicious circle: you're terrified in a certain social situation, therefore you're awkward in the situation, and you sense your own awkwardness and become more terrified. I think that CBT and medication are helpful in that they help you to stop being terrified... which in turn helps you focus on people other than yourself for long enough to improve the way you interact in social settings.

I suspect there's a wide spectrum between people who are wired to be anxious no matter how other people perceive them, for whom it truly is all in their heads, and people who are anxious in social settings because of their lack of competence. But even for those on the latter extreme, it's hard to fix the competence while anxiety's getting in the way.
posted by Jeanne at 6:50 PM on August 29, 2006


Improving your social standing will lower your stress over whether people love or hate you. However, social chit chat is a skill that can be learned. Mostly it involves finding what the other person wants to talk about and asking enough questions to get them going. They will love you for it, and then reciprocate. Learning this skill will lower your anxiety, and also make you more well liked.
posted by caddis at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2006


I don't think so. I had tried to force myself to learn small-talk techniques and do other little tricks to become less socially awkward, but my anxiety in social situations prevented me from making any long term progress. Sure, I would make small talk with a stranger, and it might start out ok, but the anxiety would take over, make me over-analyze what I had said, read too much into the other person's reactions, and jump to conclusions & worst-case scenarios that were not rational.

I think what you might be missing is that social anxiety like a lot of anxiety disorders are about having anxiety about things that really aren't that rational. A person can be attractive and competent, but still jump to conclusions & what-if's that when broken down might not make sense, but to that person are a very real possibility.

I also wouldn't say that social anxiety is usually about feeling competent. It can sometimes be more that the anxious person is "mind-reading" the people they are having a conversation with, and drawing incorrect conclusions.

Additionally, choosing to be reclusive is irrelevant compared to treating social anxiety. You can choose not to go to bars and instead to hang out with your close friends at home, but that doesn't change any irrational symptoms of anxiety when in social situations. All you'd be doing by becoming a recluse is by removing the source of anxiety to an extent. Someone terrified of spiders isn't over there fear just because they move to an area without spiders.
posted by tastybrains at 7:18 PM on August 29, 2006


Having been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder in the past, my opinion is that you're looking at the issue backwards. At one time, I was severely socially inhibited. It got to the point where I couldn't be in places with lots of people (example: the grocery store) without inducing a kind of panic attack. I was also terribly depressed at the time. A few years later, i'm a reasonably well-adjusted person. I'm married, and professionally and socially successful. I did this not by changing other's opinions of me, but by changing my opinion of myself. I felt incredibly self-conscious, inadequate, and socially inept when I suffered from social anxiety. When i was able to address my depression and other issues that were bothering me, I no longer felt paranoid and uncomfortable in public. I think part of (my) social anxiety actually stemmed from being too conscious of how others might perceive me -- from worrying too much about being liked and acceptable. That's why i feel you should do the exact opposite of your hypothetical question. Focus on yourself. You'll feel more confident in social settings. YMMV.
posted by theantikitty at 7:19 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


In retrospect, I think my response was a little rambling and disjointed. But basically, I think the OP doesn't really get what social anxiety disorder is.

The idea that during adolescence some people go from ugly little ducklings to graceful little swans has little to do with social anxiety, but more to do with growing up and learning about interacting in society to act normal. But a person who is a graceful little swan can still be terrified underneath, and have irrational fears of social situations. Likewise, an awkward little duck can feel perfectly comfortable in a social situation, even where he or she may not be as accepted as the afore mentioned swan.

Social acceptance just has very little to do with social anxiety. Social anxiety isn't even really the same thing as shyness. I suggest picking up the Social Anxiety & Phobia Workbook to read a bit more about the disorder and the sort of thinking that goes along with it.

And on preview, I totally agree with theantikitty.
posted by tastybrains at 7:27 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


Can one fix social anxiety disorders or other socially-related disorders by becoming better at being well-liked?

No. It's the worrying too much about how much people like you, the microanalysis of every offhand comment, things of that nature, that cause social anxiety disorder.

As mentioned above, you can be very popular and socially graceful and still find parties absolutely terrifying.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:39 PM on August 29, 2006


Social acceptance has very little to do with social anxiety. People with SA believe that the person next to them is going to kill them for some irrarional reason and their bodies go into fight or flight mode causing anxiety or even a panic attack. Its these false beliefs therapy attacks and medication takes the edge off the anxiety. Recovery takes years. You can't just make three more friends and think you're cured.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:51 PM on August 29, 2006


An acquaintance took note of my social reluctance and recommended I read "How To Win Friends and Influence People." I did. Cover to cover. Much of it is about becoming more amiable while retaining sincerity, and convincing people you care about what they do--which I think would make one better liked. However, what struck me sour was the prerequisite that you have to genuinely like interacting with loads of people. This limits the book, and in my opinion, the validity of the idea, to people already having latent extrovert tendencies.

If you really want to be more social, but there's fear involved, then I think consciously changing the superficial body language involved would get better responses from people. That, in turn, would encourage one's fears to dissipate, feeding the cycle in a positive direction. But I would stress that you'd have to genuinely want that result, rather than feel obliged to it. There's no trick to make yourself like it, though one can become a better actor.

Speaking for myself, I'm not disposed to crowds or ingratiating myself to others. It's a drain on me, and probably a genetic thing (looking at my mother's side of the family).
posted by evil holiday magic at 8:07 PM on August 29, 2006


You can gain a lot of social points without having to worry over every little detail about how you're being percieved.

For example, if you were raised with good principles, and continue to believe in good principles as you get older, such as:
- be a good listener
- don't whine
- don't speak on things you're not an expert about
- criticize, but do so constructively
- courtesy goes a long way

Then you will do well socially, and that'll make you feel more confident. You can focus on adhering to those things, and in effect be "focusing on yourself" and "being better socially"

I just don't see the evolutionary point of having anxiety unless it's designed to have us correct things in our world. The perspective that you just need to boost your self-esteem with positive statements about yourself creates a distrust of our emotions--we start to believe that our emotions and instincts are disconected from reality.

Perhaps, then, I'm not talking about SA. SA being a disorder where people's anxieties are NOT at all grounded in reality. And perhaps, I'm just talking about being ordinary socially desperation.
posted by philosophistry at 8:15 PM on August 29, 2006


You're right philosophistry, what you are talking about is absolutely not social anxiety disorder. You're talking about being socially awkward or socially ignorant or ... impolite.

There are a lot of mental illnesses (not to mention other illnesses) that don't seem to have an evolutionary point, e.g. depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.

I feel like you're trying to act as though a very real mental disorder is just a simple issue of not being taught how to act around others. And that is both ignorant and offensive, because - while, yes, some people who are just a little shy might have gotten a bogus "social anxiety" diagnosis from a rx-happy doctor - a lot of people suffer from a very real disorder and have enough problems without know-it-alls who have no firsthand knowledge of the disease theorizing on what their REAL problem is and how simple it would be to fix it.
posted by tastybrains at 8:46 PM on August 29, 2006


yeah, sorry for being insensitive. I recognize there are plenty of disorders that aren't a matter of people just needing to get in line.

I'm more just frustrated because I look at the typical S.A.D. remedies, and they don't seem to apply to me. And yet, I'm have a lot of socially-associated dysphoria.
posted by philosophistry at 8:57 PM on August 29, 2006


In my experience: one can have social problems that have external causes/components, and those issues are not the same as social anxiety disorder. For example, I had no real friends throughought middle & high school, in part because I was socially very oblivious when I arrived at my school [K-12] in 6th grade, and the impressions I made on people then [and the ways I responded to others] weren't something I could manage to change while in the same environment. However, those social problems didn't exist in other environments - I was able to make friends at camps and in college, when I had a chance to present myself in a different way. I was able to consciously decide to present myself as a different person in some key ways, and I slowly became comfortable being that new person. So yes, in that regard, one can make conscious decisions regarding self-presentation or changes in environment that can address situational and environmental social problems.

Beyond that, however, I also have issues with social anxiety. Those are irrational, and those issues have not changed, no matter what environment I am in or how I present myself. Panic attacks related to groups of people or social events, vicious cycles of embarassment and increasingly clumsy social behaviour, problems with small talk, etc. are things that I am apparently stuck with. They're a problem regardless of the quantity and quality of friendships and acquaintanceships. These sorts of things are chronic problems, in other words, and not nearly so simple to address. Nothing will eliminate them completely.
posted by ubersturm at 11:32 PM on August 29, 2006


You're not entirely off base. The CBT for social phobia is to gradually increase exposure to anxiety-producing events, while examining the automatic thoughts ("I can't talk to this person normally") that go along with them. The idea is, over time, you can re-train your brain to react differently to a social stimulus.

So, if there are external roadblocks that are compounding the problem (bad hygiene, etc.) and you think you're able to clear some of them away now before you start addressing the real issue (your automatic reactions), then hey, knock yourself out.
posted by the jam at 12:54 AM on August 30, 2006


Hmmm, if your struggle with anxiety is anything like my struggle with anxiety, it seems like you're overthinking this and trying to find the Star Trek "just reverse the polarity" perfect intellectual solution.

The problem is: You're a unique person and you will find your own unique solution. In fact, you'll find lots and lots of solutions to throw in your toolkit to bring out here and there to organically, imperfectly, tweak your situation as it occurs. It's not a puzzle. It's cooking without a cookbook and a rack full of unlabelled spices that you've never heard of before. It's not Star Trek. It's Iron Chef.
The perspective that you just need to boost your self-esteem with positive statements about yourself creates a distrust of our emotions--we start to believe that our emotions and instincts are disconnected from reality.
I think part of your problem might be that you've got the purpose of CBT all wrong. CBT is not about self-esteem and positive statements. Philosophically, to me anyway, cognitive therapy posits that there is no One True Way To See the World. Your emotions and instincts may very well be true. Coworker Steve may very well be avoiding looking you in the eye because he believes that you are an ugly son of a bitch. It might also be true that Coworker Steve has astigmatism, or he sees an interesting bug on the wall or maybe he just does that to everyone. You don't know. You can't know, because no one has access to the theater of anyone else's mind. When faced with many equally possible realities, CBT tells us to pick the reality that is most useful. I will be able to best perform towards my goals in my life if I believe that Coworker Steve holds no ill will towards me. Furthermore, I don't have any objective reason to believe that he dislikes me, so I'd be just as much in error to believe that anyway.

CBT is about giving yourself, and the rest of the world, the benefit of a doubt.

I think this was a major epiphany point for me: The relevance and importance of a (subjective) thought does not depend on its "truthfulness." The importance of a thought depends on its usefulness. This sounds a lot like sophistry, actually, but I don't think anyone believes that emotions and instincts are objective truth. They're subjective and often wrong. Evolution takes millions upon millions of years, plus it's totally random, directionless and purposeless. Civilization's been around less than 10,000 years. We're not built for this stuff. Instincts and emotions are just suggestions that our body makes. Sometimes they're good and sometimes they're not.

A really good red flag (but certainly not the only one) for me that shows when I need to pull out the CBT piece of my toolkit is when I'm caught in a piece of circular reasoning that leads to non-action. Here's a real piece of circular reasoning that I used to struggle with: "People don't want to be near me because I lack confidence. I could become confident, but that would require people to want to be near me. It's hopeless. It's a Catch-22. My only hope is that someone will take pity on me and save me, or maybe I can go off to an out-of-state university and magically start all over again."

When you're stuck in this type of reasoning, CBT says you should look at your base assumptions and try to determine if there are any other ways to explain your situation. In this case, I don't know that people don't want to be near me. I don't have the ticket to the theater of another mind. It is just as likely that people are busy living their own life and they just haven't noticed me. Furthermore, I assumed that confidence flows from other people, when, in fact, self-efficacy flows from doing. So, you go, you do, you build mastery experiences by creating an equally logically sound counter-voice to the voice of doubt. People here don't like you? Maybe they just are cautious because they don't know you yet. The girl you were crushing on never returned your phone call? Maybe she never got it. When you asked her in person, she explained that she wasn't interested? People have a right to choose their own acquaintances and that doesn't reflect on my self-worth at all. Successful daters are rejected almost all the time, they just ask more often. I'm one rejection closer to finding a partner.
When you're rejected, use the principle of chutzpah: If the kite you built doesn't fly, it wasn't the kite. It was the wind. Building a repertoire of mastery experiences requires having success, but rejection can help too. Rejection and failure are just signs that you're pushing your boundaries.
Superman isn't brave [...] He's smart, handsome, even decent. But he's not brave. No, listen to me. Superman is indestructible, and you can't be brave if you're indestructible. It's people like you and your mother. People who are different, and can be crushed and know it. Yet they keep on going out there every time.
-- Angus

The "good principles" that you list above are certainly polite, but are they really useful in all situations in your life? I can certainly think of situations where these principles are not useful to a person with Social Anxiety. There are situations (perhaps rare, perhaps not) where perfectly logical and ethical reasoning could lead to breaking these principles. Instead, try to find the assumptions that underlie your behaviors and decide if any of them are hindering your ability to grow socially. For instance, I'm not convinced that "good principles" lead to good social standing.
posted by Skwirl at 2:02 AM on August 30, 2006 [8 favorites]


I think so, yes to an extent, if I am interpreting your question correctly. I have a very deep history of depression and social anxiety disorder and throughout my childhood and adolescence was a miserable wallflower and had few social skills. I dressed slobbily and was overweight (still am) and didn't fit in with any groups. This was just an outward manifestation of my low self-esteem, but they were the ones people picked up on.

During college and more significantly in the past few years being in the workforce, my environment has changed dramatically from the overly spiteful one of childhood to one where people respect my talent and skills, and with that came a stronger sense of self-worth. To bolster this, I worked hard on changing my wardrobe and my general appearance, as well as improving my presentation and communication skills.

Even though I'll never be the life of the party, I can mingle and enjoy myself in most social interactions because I've changed how I think of myself. This has not come on my own, as I've been in therapy and on medication sporadically throughout my life, but I think putting a concentrated effort into improving yourself and overcoming limitations imposed by your disorder is worthwhile.

Certainly I was an ugly duckling and though I am not a beautiful swan, I am able to handle the world a lot better now. A rude word or harsh treatment won't send me in a tailspin, and I know enough about social interaction to not be obviously awkward. No attention was better than negative attention when I was in the lowest depths of my depression and anxiety problems. Now I have enough confidence to see that every little issue is not a judgment against my self-worth.
posted by lychee at 2:36 AM on August 30, 2006


What is "social standing?" I never thought that such a thing could be quantified beyond middle school. I am sure others could evaluate my own social standing, but I'm not in a position to do it myself. Perhaps a disavowment of this concept will go a long way to reducing the stress of social situations.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:46 AM on August 30, 2006


Saucy Intruder, that seems hopelessly naive. This is America, and last time I checked we frown highly upon meritocracies.

I didn't read all the comments because I just want to share my experience. Personally, I don't find medications useful. I've learned that I'm less social than many people, and that is ok, and I get by when I do my own thing. If you focus on your own hobbies and your own life, when you step into the world you have something to talk about. And when you have interests, it's much easier to be intrigued by what the people around you are up to.

I think you need to realize that you will never fix an obsessive train of thought by focusing more energy at it (IE your plan to become determined to have a few friends and avoid everyone else). This will merely cause more obsessive thoughts and more anxiety. And there are cognitive therapists out there who focus solely on this kind of mental retraining. You cannot make a plan for how others are to receive you--it's just not how life works. Also, normal people don't like to know that you've worked out a careful strategy for acquiring them. You really do have to learn to treat people like people, and not like some kind of predator .. the first step, methinks, is becoming a person yourself.
posted by shownomercy at 7:16 AM on August 30, 2006


I agree with theantikitty.

I had a lot of social anxiety last year because I felt I wasn't measuring up to some invisible standard. I almost couldn't leave the house because I was worried that I wasn't fitting in right with the world. For the past few months, though, I've been enjoying the time I spend with myself at home instead of feeling like a loser about it. I have been a bit of a recluse, but I've had an absolute ball exploring my hobbies and such. Now, when I do get together with friends (or even meet strangers), I feel a lot less anxious about it. I now realize that I used to be worried about fitting in because I didn't know where I fit. I felt like I was falling behind everyone else, to boot. Now that I've taken time to get to know myself without other people around to distract me, I know that I fit fine within my life and the rest of my world will fall into place based on me -- and not the other way around.

So, IANAPsychiatrist, but I know that my personal social anxiety was caused by a mild identity crisis. Figuring out who I am, and liking that person, has given me a ton of confidence.
posted by phatkitten at 9:48 AM on August 30, 2006


Since someone posted a eloquent, moving message for CBT, let me interject my clumsy argument against:

CBT is the McDonald's of psychotherapy. It's quick, fast, ultimately unhealthy and highly corporate. Most cases of SAD produces profound levels of suffering. Not even close to what a simple three letter acronym might suggest. People's entires lives are eaten by it. So it's understandable I suppose that someone might choose the easy options (CBT and drugs) to get from underneath the crushing load. But doesn't the idea of learning to distrust and perhaps suppress your own emotions and reasoning set off even a few alarm bells in anyone's heads? Whose agenda are you living out when you reconcile yourself to society and marry and hold down a stable job? Is it really your own?

SAD is often caused by identity crises as Phatkitten noted. And I feel, it's the exploration of that through more in depth psychology that is what can really help a person, while still retaining in that person any real reason to be alive in the first place.
posted by Clock Attention Issues at 11:36 AM on August 30, 2006


But doesn't the idea of learning to distrust and perhaps suppress your own emotions and reasoning set off even a few alarm bells in anyone's heads?

I am not sure you understand real CBT. CBT is more about learning about your thinking patterns and analyzing what triggers you to think the way you think, and look more carefully at your responses.

Also, thank you, Tom Cruise, for pointing out how drugs are the quick & easy way out. Most antidepressants take at least 2 months to have any effect whatsoever, and are used to correct an imbalance of chemicals in one's brain that are causing the illness.

Also, thanks for saying that anyone who uses CBT or ADs has lost what is worth living for in their lives to begin with.
posted by tastybrains at 1:06 PM on August 30, 2006


Two people mentioned something about identity crisis. I'd be interested if you could elaborate more on that. That's something I've explored that helped me understand why I've been so flaky and indecisive with work choices (to the point of persistent dysphoria).

I believe that not everybody is "meant" to be really social. A lot of recluses develop fulfilling roles in society. For me personally, I'm probably in the middle when it comes to how I socialize: some friends, good family, some intimacy, intermediate social skills.

And yet, I have this immense social desperation, and intense social dysphoria. According to identity crisis theory, perhaps I'm not living out my true social potential.
posted by philosophistry at 1:50 PM on August 30, 2006


Philosophistry - I think you are right, some people are just less social than others. And that's ok, if you're ok with it.

Can you describe your feelings a bit further, maybe giving some examples of what you mean by feeling social desperation & intense social dysphoria? I think being more direct about your specific problems might allow the hive mind to understand better where you're coming from and make more appropriate suggestions.

I also noticed from your personal website that you're 24...I have found that with my group of friends, there is some level of social difficulty once getting past the whole college / grad school stage of life. University life is almost inherently social, and most people don't need to think about being social or put TOO much effort in. But once you're out of that stage and into the adult working world, it seems a lot harder to fit into already established social groups at work, and there are less "extracurricular" activities to join to get some face time with other people. Granted, these opportunities are there, it's just a lot more work than most people have previously experienced, because in a school setting, most people are also looking to meet people, and there are built in social events for people of all interests.

So...I'm not sure if it might just be adapting to this new stage of life. I know this is an issue for many people...maybe somewhat related to an "identity crisis".
posted by tastybrains at 3:31 PM on August 30, 2006


thanks for the extra concern tastybrains. I'm already drafting a Q for next week, but you're welcome to take a swing at it:

I have some serious socially-related dysphoria. However, I can't classify it as social anxiety disorder. Let me tell you the symptoms, you tell me what I may have...

Symptoms:

- I make a faux pas in front of someone who I percieve to be cool (or part of the in-crowd), and then the next day, or even later that day, I won't be able to get the regret out of my head.

- When I meet people who are especially tolerant and willing to listen, I start talking profusely, about grandiose ideas, almost like I have logorrhea.

- When I'm put in a leadership role of some sort, and I have to tell people what to do, problems arise. For example, if I tell or ask people to do something, and they won't do it, then I want to kill them. This happens particularly with people who I know that if I fired or got mad at, they wouldn't give a rats ass about me or the decision.

- I expend way too much energy trying to maintain loose acquaintances that are meaningless. For example, alumni from my school have reunions, and I'll force myself to go out and get extremely tense in the conversations. When I go home, I have to spend hours unwinding from the irritation and anxiety from those events. And I keep coming back to these events, despite me telling myself they're meaningless.

- There are certain people with whom I become excessively obsequious with. And when they make fun of me, I don't get hurt initially, but then I can't get the comment and slight out of my head. The comment recurs in my head for inordinate amounts of time, like maybe two days or so, and then I go mad when I try to get rid of it. I don't take the slights personally, at least not intellectually--I can recognize that the person was either just in a bad mood or joking. But while I can acknowledge that rationally, emotionally it feels like a personal blow, and I am dragged down.

- I'm often over-enthusiastic with relationship activity to the point of obnoxiousness. For example, I'm with a friend, and I want us to go to the movies, have dessert, get drunk, spend the night at each other's houses, tell each other our life stories, go on adventures the next day etc. It gets to the point where I look like I'm clobbering the person.



I don't get nervous when I'm in social settings. I don't feel nervous talking to people--I can approach generally anybody I want to. I will, though, feel a bit of anxiety, for example, if I'm talking to a beautiful stranger, but still, nothing like what I read about in Social Anxiety Disorder. I don't fear all social encounters.

I also don't feel like I'm insecure. I feel very confident about myself. I esteem myself well (maybe over-confidence plays in things).

I do have a big ego, but I also don't think that factors in either. I'm a great listener, and I don't play folly to typical ego-like behaviors. For example, I don't feel the need to overly amplify myself... and I'm not really defensive either, or at least don't feel like I'm defending myself all the time.

What characterizes this mostly is a pressure to socialize combined with feelings of social desperation. I've tried, I feel, a lot of self-help that focuses on correcting bad ideas and pessimistic thinking to no avail. Also, imperatives to "not take things seriously," "don't worry so much," and "don't take it personally" may temporarily relieve some dysphoria, but ultimately invoking those words loses its power.

There may be something chemical or genetic, but I don't have a lot of the other associated symptoms related to some deficiency in a neurotransmitter. The only thing I can think of is an OCD-style mindset, in particular Pure-O (Pure Obsession), which I've developed strategies to counter.

I know on the surface I'm socially adept. My communication skills are high. But I have so much of a backstory going on in me that when I try to get close to people, I eventually tire from all the associated over-analysis and stewing.

If I solve this problem, I will gain about a total of two working days worth of extra productivity per week--that's how much I'm plagued by social issues.
posted by philosophistry at 5:15 PM on August 30, 2006


I think I understand the feeling you're describing, but maybe I'm off base. It sounds like in social settings, you are almost hyper in terms of talking a lot, interacting with people, and maybe going above & beyond what a regular extrovert might do. Then afterwards, you tend to obsess & dwell on what you did, and whether you were inappropriate, disliked, made a fool of yourself, etc. Is that in a nutshell what you're saying?

Note that I'm in NO WAY a psychologist...I'm just a 26 year old who has done a lot of reading because I have dealt with major anxiety issues & depression, especially in the last few years. But I know it helps to talk to people ... there have been some really great people on AskMe who have given me advice, so hopefully you'll get the same.

Anyway, if what I wrote sounds like it rings true, I can say that it sounds like you are anxious during social situations and that you adapt by working to talk fast, make sure you are doing your best to fit in, work yourself into conversations, etc. Is that social anxiety? Maybe maybe not. It's not really the same thing I dealt with. But it sounds like what you might need to work on are ways to sort of chill out while in a social setting, taking the time to think out what you say, etc, so that you have less to dwell on later. And if dwelling on what you said after the fact is really eating away at you, I do suggest checking out the Social Anxiety & Phobia workbook. It *is* a CBT workbook, and some of it may not apply to you, but there are some great exercises that might help you see if you identify with that sort of social anxiety or not.

At any rate, you sound like a smart & nice guy, and I'm sure that you will be able to find a way to get to where you want to be socially. The best thing is that you are aware that something is making you uncomfortable, and once you work through finding out exactly what is wrong, you can start working on taking steps to get to where you want to be.
posted by tastybrains at 5:40 PM on August 30, 2006


I'm a popular person with a history of social anxiety. I think the secret is down to desensitising yourself around people, then finding people like yourself, or who share your interests.

Likeability = a relaxed protagonist. If you learn to relax first, they will come (eventually).
posted by unmusic at 5:36 AM on September 6, 2006


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