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I Have Cured My Anxiety, But Not in My Own Native Language

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From the UK: I’m 22. About 2 years ago I had really bad social anxiety, about as worse as they come. This was accompanied with a stutter I have always had which made it even more challenging.

It was about 2 years ago when I stood up and had to temporarily cut ties with my abusive parents, which was possible only because I live and study in a different country to where I was raised and where they live. Doing this somehow gave me the strength to also combat my social anxiety by constantly exposing myself to things I was horrified of doing – starting from ordering food at restaurants myself, to eventually giving whole presentations and organizing interactive workshops at events! People applaud my communication skills and tell me how charismatic, confident and likable I come across as.

CBT also helped me tremendously. For the past 8-10 months I have been a brand new person, stutter is 99% gone, I am calm and funny and assertive (I try to be) when speaking to people, it is such a liberating effect and all the hardships I had to go through are well worth it.

I am now in contact with my parents again, we even met up once. Now comes the huge problem – it almost sounds fictional but somehow, when I speak in my own language my anxiety is still there. I still speak very quickly and nervously, I still have the stutter, I am still worried what I say and feel very self-conscious. This is humiliating because this is my own language, and I don’t understand how I can be those two different people when I speak the two languages.

I know it just seems like I am still scared of my parents (which I probably am) and this is why I feel anxious speaking to them, but the truth is when I meet someone from my country while I’m here, first I am so happy to speak my language, and then I realize I have this lump in my throat, mental blockage, stutter – as if I haven’t overcome any anxiety at all, but I have, and I worked so hard to get here!

I want to come back to my home country at some point and see friends and family, but I am horrified of going through this all over again.

I Have Cured My Anxiety, But Not in My Own Native Language

Answered by on -

A.

You’ve done impressive work conquering your anxiety. I hope you give yourself lots of credit for that.

The situation you describe does make a kind of sense. You successfully compartmentalized your anxiety into the part of yourself that speaks your native language. When you shift into English, it’s as if you liberate yourself from old negative experiences and the behaviors that were a result.

I want you to know that this isn’t unusual. Many people happen on this technique as a way to make significant changes. It’s as if speaking a different language provides psychological permission to be different.

Now it’s time to generalize all you’ve learned to your native language. You’ve already had success with CBT. I suggest that you go back to the therapist and discuss how best to do that.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

I Have Cured My Anxiety, But Not in My Own Native Language

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). I Have Cured My Anxiety, But Not in My Own Native Language. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/09/03/i-have-cured-my-anxiety-but-not-in-my-own-native-language/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.