Depression or Anxiety?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I naturally have a quiet nature, but over the past few years it’s become more extreme. I experience a lot of difficulty to make new friends and the friends I had, mostly from high school, have gradually lost contact. I think most people see me as a really awkward guy to be around. I’ve never had a girlfriend and am going on 22 years of age. I get paranoid about friends not keeping in contact or when I find out they didn’t invite me out which adds to my anti-social behaviour. I feel uncomfortable around new people, especially when they start asking questions about my personal life and if I have a girlfriend so I tend to not get close with new people. Being of young age I feel outgoing, but never have company to go out with. I’m scared of going out on a limb and trying to make new friends because it seems everytime I made an effort I ended up getting knocked back and it hurts getting your hopes up for nothing. I’m thinking of joining a christian discussion group at the church my family used to attend to potentially meet new people and maybe to find advice in the discussions but I’m afraid that even they won’t take kindly to me and they’ll find me really awkward too and won’t talk to me. One thing I noticed and I’ve unsuccessfully tried to change is my habit to expect people to talk to me first. I’ve grown my hair long to cover my face so when I go out and see someone I used to know I can just look down and they shouldn’t recognise me and as I’m working in food and beverage at the moment and I’m getting in trouble because it breaches health and safety laws. Also I’m an accounting graduate and I can’t find work which doesn’t help my situation. The stereotype you always see is like a guy who isn’t good with girls, but has a successful job and is wealthy, but I have neither. Back in high school I thought I would’ve been doing well but it’s like even the kids who took drugs in high school and failed their subjects are fairing much better than I am in life, and I know it’s not a race but I can’t help but compare myself. I still don’t know where I went wrong, sometimes I ponder if I was absent from school the day they taught everyone how play this game we call life. Then other days I think “wow I think wayy to much” and try not to think about anything at all… nothing seems to work though.

A. I think you may be on to something when you wrote “I ponder if I was absent from school the day they taught everyone how play this game we call life.” What you’re saying in essence is that maybe you never learned how to socialize. It could be that you never learned appropriate social skills. Maybe no one ever taught you. If you are correct then the good news is that even if you’re not skilled at interacting with people you can develop these skills.

I would strongly suggest counseling for this issue. These are three main reasons for this. The first reason is that your social anxiety seems to be increasing. You’re at the point where socializing is so uncomfortable for you that you’re now disguising yourself to avoid being recognized. From my perspective this behavior indicates an escalation in your social anxiety symptoms. This would indicate that this problem is getting worse not better.

The second reason is that counseling could greatly benefit you. If it’s true that you never learned social skills then correcting this problem may simply be a matter of learning a new set of socialization skills.

Finally, the third reason you should consider counseling is that you said that you’ve tried to correct this problem but where unsuccessful in your attempts. What you did not detail in this letter is what you did to try to solve your problem. It would have been helpful to know what interventions you’ve tried. A therapist can analyze what you’ve tried and point out what you could have done differently.

Since you’re at the point where the problem is intensifying and you can’t seem to solve it on your own then it’s time to seek professional help. If you had a severe neck pain that you couldn’t get rid of on your own and it compromised the quality of your life and caused you constant pain, I’d advise you to see a neck specialist. The same logic applies to this social anxiety problem. It’s caused you pain and distress since high school and it’s only getting worse. Don’t you think it’s time to see a professional? I hope you consider therapy.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Mar 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Depression or Anxiety?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/03/09/depression-or-anxiety/