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Includes Expert Content
Social Anxiety
grace5842 posted:
I am 18 years old, I'm in my first semester of college, I have a part time job, & have a great family to support me. The only problem is... I have this anxiety I have struggled with my WHOLE entire life. & to be honest, I'm quite exhausted from it. This anxiety is Social Anxiety. I hate it! I have no friends, I feel like there's no hope for me to get married in the future, & I can't hold a conversation with anyone..well for long anyways. I feel like I'm dealing with this all by myself & no one understands.

Yes, my anxiety is a lot less serious that a lot of people with my same problem. I am at least able to speak up for myself at school & work. I participate well in class discussions & I am able to communicate well with my co-workers when doing my job. But, when it comes to making friends, & maintaining some sort of social life... I SUCK. I don't know how to make friends. & I am constantly stressed & depressed about it. I always worry about how people perceive me. Am I boring? weird? annoying? lame? It makes me freak out inside to no end. Some people say this is normal & everyone deals with the same social issues. Yes, that's true... but not this extreme. Sometimes I have panic attacks. I just wish I could flip a switch & not have this issue anymore.

For the past 2 weeks, my depression from this has worsened. First, I think too much about everything regardless if I have something in front of me to busy my mind. Then, I get angry at myself, "WHY can't you just make one friend?! WHY is it so difficult?!." & After that, I get all emotional & cry about it. I feel like I'm crazy or something. I promise I'm not. I just can't kick this fear I have & lack of social skills.

Patricia Farrell, PhD responded:
Yes, social skills are acquired sometimes through good and uncomfortable circumstances, but they can be learned. Just as you want to graduate from college and it takes learning and practice and exams, so it is with social situations; you learn, practice and take "exams." Your exams in social situations will not always be as you would like, but you evaluate and you learn.

Where's a good place to start? How about in something that you enjoy. If you share something that you really enjoy with someone or a group, it's more likely that you'll continue to develop these relationships. So, look for something; a sport, a social activity, a hobby, whatever. Your college must have clubs and you can join one. Since you participate adequately in class, you can do the same in these groups.

I have a chapter in my book "How to Be Your Own Therapist" that encourages people to "make lots of mistakes." What do I mean by that? There are no mistakes, just opportunities to test yourself and see where you are comfortable and where your abilities may lie. Everyone has ability and being highly social isn't something everyone is capable of, but everyone can put themselves into social situations and get something in return.

Sometimes, as you would with your classes, you will have to force yourself to go to something, but you will benefit from this. The more you avoid this, the more difficult it becomes. I always believe that there is someone for everyone, but if you don't look actively, you won't find this person who is looking for you.

No, it's not as simple as flipping a switch, but it is more rewarding and you need to be your own coach here. Give it a try and, if you want, see if your college's counseling office might provide some help.
grace5842 replied to Patricia Farrell, PhD's response:
Thank you so much for replying. I really appreciate it. I think you're exactly right about joining some kind of group or club. I just wish there was someway to knock of the edge. I always get all stressed out when socializing when it doesn't involve school or work. My mind goes a million miles an hour. For an example I think, "Am I saying the right things? Is what I'm talking about even interesting to this person? They definitely think I'm boring. What should I talk about next?" On the outside I keep composure but on the inside I just wanna cry out of frustration.
& yes I can make friends/aquaintances but when hanging out with a person one-on-one my mind goes blank on things to talk about. Maybe I think about it wayyy too much. But it's something I can't control.

Also, where can I buy your book? I'm interested in reading it.
Patricia Farrell, PhD replied to grace5842's response:
I totally understand. When you're with someone one-on-one, you can start a conversation by just asking about something that interests both of you. Or simply say, "So, what have you been into lately?" Then listen, learn to use a little restatement back to them so they know you're listening and just tell yourself to relax. Not relaxing makes it that much tougher, especially if you think you aren't "saying the right thing" as you indicate.

My book is available on Amazon and it's an ebook (the hardcover is out of stock currently last time I looked). There is a chapter on helping you develop better listening/conversational skills, so it might be a good idea to read it. Just pick the parts you feel will address your area of interest in the book and then practice.

I'm currently working on a new Apple iBook which will probably be published around February and I'll put a link to it on myt website when it is ready. This one will deal directly with your concerns and will have videos in it, so I'll be "talking" directly to you. It's one of many new books I will be publishing in the coming year.

Remember what I said; practice. It's a skill and you can learn it.

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