I’ve been intensely fearful of other people for as long as I can remember.
I’m afraid to talk on the phone and I am too afraid to let anyone close. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 5 years and I just opened up to him about how crippling my fear has been lately. He told me exactly the same thing that my parents and my school counselors (in both high school and college) told me. That I’m being melodramatic. They all said that if I just walk up to people and start talking then people won’t be scary. But every time I’ve tried that, I start shaking and my brain freezes up, which makes me even more nervous and it continues like that until I end up freaking out and hiding until I can get back in control.
I don’t want to feel like this anymore but I don’t have anyone else to turn to. My boyfriend and I are currently living with my parents and I don’t know how to get help without angering everyone around me. I’ve thought about getting them all together to talk to them about it, but I can’t imagine a way that that would end well. It would be like jumping into the proverbial lion’s den: three vs. me in the battle of my mental health and I’ll be on the losing side. I am financially unable to move out and support myself if things go horribly. I’m in so much emotional pain and I can’t even make them see that. I thought about seeking help without their knowledge, but I can’t even brave picking up the phone and calling a professional. I don’t even know if I’ll end up sending this in. I’m just sitting here, my heart pounding over the thought of send in this anonymous letter.
Am I just being ridiculous and melodramatic, like everyone around me suggests? Should I try to reach out again? I don’t think I could take being told to suck it up again.
If I do reach out again, how do I talk to them about this secret that I’ve been hiding from them for years? How can I lay it all out on the table when I can’t even bring it up in passing without getting chewed out?
I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time, but I don’t know what else to do.Am I Just Being Ridiculous?
Am I Just Being Ridiculous?
You are doing the right thing by asking for help. The fact that you sent this letter, despite your fear, is a victory. You were frightened, but you sent it anyway. Generally speaking, this is precisely how one overcomes their fears.
You are not being ridiculous or melodramatic. You seem to have a phobia. Phobias are very real. If you could help yourself, you would have done so. You’re not doing this on purpose.
Phobias are irrational fears that can become more intense over time. Each time you encounter a frightful situation and retreat, you are inadvertently reinforcing your phobia. When a behavior is reinforced, it increases in the future.
For instance, if your child receives an A on his or her report card and you buy him or her a new toy, the toy should be reinforcing. Expect more A’s. If your child receives an F on his or her report card and you buy him or her a new toy, expect more F’s.
I would not recommend getting your family together to talk about this problem. You already know their stance.
I would recommend seeing a mental health professional. There are specific treatments designed for phobias that are highly effective. You might think making that call will be frightening but you will see that it is not. Therapists are there to help you and know how to make their clients feel comfortable and safe. In fact, making that call will probably make you feel a great deal of relief.
What you share in therapy is confidential. If you choose to tell your family about therapy (should you decide to go), you don’t have to tell them what you don’t want them to know. Your therapist can help you evaluate what would be appropriate to discuss with your family.
I hope that you will consult a therapist. Choose a therapist who specializes in phobias. If you find a competent therapist and stick with treatment, you can expect positive results. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle