High Social Anxiety

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

First thanks for being out here as I search for a way to find help for my issue.

To truly understand I feel you need a bit of a background of my life. My mother has always been diagnosed with server depression. My life, from what I can remember started off great, for the short time I was in school I had plenty of friends and very little worries, I was also very interested in the sport of hockey. The 4th grade came and my love for the sport grew deeper, as my parents, who were on the line of divorce before I was even born, had their money grow shorter and shorter. The time had come for me to make a life changing decision, at the age of 7 years old. It was either quit the sport I loved, or start working to pay my own way through the expenses. I chose the job. The work hours made it seemingly impossible to be in school, work, and take hockey seriously. Therefore I started homeschooling, and with that decision it seems I lost all touch with anything that didn’t have to do with hockey, work, or school. Dreaming that all my sacrifice would be payed off when I grew up to be the next big star.

This is where things become sour. The friends I had made in my first four years of regular school stayed loyal to me for about a year, but when they started to be abandoned by me to work or go to hockey they just seemed to stop calling, one by one I lost those friends. By the time I was 13 I was playing hockey 3 hours away from home, so having a social life with my teammates was unfeasible, not to mention most of them weren’t interested in the first place. By 14 the question of having friends was out the window and I received an offer to move to the state of Maine, where I could play for free, attend a normal high school and try to regain some of that “normal” lifestyle my heart had been aching for since the loss of my close childhood friends. This great sounding opportunity, however, back fired. I was looked down on as the new kid and made fun of for the most of the 2 and a half years of my high school days. I tried to go somewhere and make something out of my hockey career, it was the only thing I had left. I ended up play a year of semi-pro before I was told that I did not have the size to make it anywhere. I felt cold and alone, though my parents stuck with me through everything I craved something different, that feeling I had back in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. The feeling of friendship and loyalty.

With nothing left to do I moved back to my home town at 18, in hopes of reconnecting with the people I knew years ago to re spark the friendship we had once all shared. I got in contact with a few of them and ended up attempting to “hang out” and that we did 3 or 4 times. The problem was each time we got together I felt I was shoved into a dark corner of sympathy. I could not think of anything to say that would join me in their conversation, since most of what they were talking about is all the “good ol’” times I had missed, confused and full of anxiety I left. Even as I was leaving I did not hear or see one attempt of a farewell gesture.

I have just turned 20 and have been able to reconnect with my closest friend of our used to be circle of friends and we do hang out from time to time and it seems like just a taste of what I had before, however I feel like an annoyance more than a friend, because I know he is still part of some sort of group of friends and when he tries to include me with him, he is simply excluded as well.

I know I have it in me to do or say the right things that will allow me to relieve the social tension, my teachers used to call me the ring leader of our group of friends, before I made my life changing decision, that haunts me everyday. I just can’t seem to think or act once I am in front of them. I stiffen up like a board and I can not blame them for not wanting to spend time with someone who has nothing to do or say.

I need help. Something that can loosen me up. Because I feel that if I could make small steps back into our old circle of friends that I could honestly feel that friendship I had in the past and longed for ever since. I just don’t know how to overcome my blank mindedness when in a crowd of people. For the short time I spent in college I was fascinated with Physiology, therefore I think I understand that its a hybrid of inherited depression and a high social anxiety. But even pinpointing the problem I don’t know how to fix it, which draws me deeper into the darkness, as I am one to find the problem and fix it. I enjoy having things put on my shoulders to take control of, but its as though I am standing in miles of forest with no direction trying to guess where I should put my first step.

Please help me! I have dropped out of college and am unable to hold a job due to lack of friends and my seemingly anti social actions, left a state for the same reason, and feel that my only hope left was to try to reconnect with the only people I had once shared my life with and even that has not been working out. This feeling of emptiness, loneliness, and lack of need is making me feel like less and less of a person each day, some days I question “who would come to my funeral, if I ended it all”. However, I know I can make it through this to reconnect or make new friends, if I knew the steps and ways. I was determined enough to go from someone who had never stepped on an ice rink to playing semi-pro hockey. I just need a “coach” to explain the drills to me.

Please help me, I fear the day I decide there is no help for me, because that is the day I will answer my question of who would come to my funeral.

Thank you in advance.

A. There are several issues to address. The first one is that you believe there may be no help for you. Please recognize that there is help for you. You are not at the point of being unhelpable. In fact, it’s just the opposite. From my perspective you’re an excellent candidate for therapy. For one reason, you recognize that you need help. You talked about wanting to find a “coach” to show you the right path. That is exactly the role a therapist can play. A good therapist attempts to help the client become the person he or she has the potential to be.

The second reason you would be a good candidate for therapy is you recognize that some aspect about your behavior may make it difficult for you to connect with other people. This may or may not be true but if it is, a therapist can help you alter your behavior to have a better relationship experience. The therapist could also objectively analyze your situation and teach you interactional skills. You probably never had the opportunity to develop or practice these skills, possibly because you were home schooled or working. For these reasons and many others, therapy would be a great place to deal with these issues.

I apologize for the digression, but I am curious about the type of work you were doing at the age of seven. It’s rare for children to be sent to work this young, as well as illegal in the United States.

The second area I want to address is related to the fact that you are attempting to contact old friends and rekindle relationships with them. When you attempted to interact with old friends the situation wasn’t as pleasant as you thought it would be. It seemed like it was an awkward and forced interaction on your part and your friends’. That is understandable to me. Even if you had “best friends” during school many of those friendships were probably superficial. That is characteristic of many adolescent friendships. The proof of this is that after high school most people lose contact with the individuals they had been friends with. Most people develop new, longer-lasting friendships. This is where your focus should be. You are attempting to rekindle relationships from the past when you should be focusing on the present.

I think the heart of the issue is that you may not have had the opportunity to have many friends as a youth and this may have inhibited your social skills. The solution is to consider therapy. As I mentioned above, a therapist can help you develop social skills. In addition, a therapist can also help you develop self-confidence in your ability to interact with other people. You could practice the skills in therapy and the therapist can act as a “coach” to guide you through the process. If you would like to search for a therapist in your community please utilize this therapy directory.

One last thing. The desire you feel to connect with other people is very normal and natural. Human beings desire to have relationships with other people. There is nothing abnormal about this. The crux of the issue seems related to the fact that you never had sufficient opportunity to interact with other children or adolescents your age and this has hampered your ability to connect with people in the present. None of this is your fault. This issue is very treatable and social skills can be learned. There is a lot of hope for you. I hope you’re able to find a good “coach.” Thank you for your question.

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Nov 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). High Social Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/11/05/high-social-anxiety/