From a teen in the U.S.: Hello, I’m a freshman in college struggling with bouts of depression as well as some intense social anxiety. I’;m typically a pretty happy person and I’ve never gone to a specialist mostly because the thought of it makes my skin crawl just thinking about it as does doing a lot of things that involves meeting or speaking to people I don’t know to the point where sometimes I want to cry. Somedays are good and I can communicate with people without a problem but when it’s bad I can barely make eye contact with the people who are talking to me and I’ll fall back into nervous ticks like picking at my nails, rock, and or shaking my foot.
I just feel so uncomfortable and I don’t know what to do. I’ve always had trouble talking to people even when I was a little kid and for the most part I’ve kept to myself my only consistent outlet being softball which I’ve played since I was 6. For a while now I’ve written off my feelings as a part of puberty and something that I’ll grow out of but it only seems to be getting worse. I’m not sure what it is but I’ve always felt like I’m a little off. In high school I never went out and partied with people and I’ve always thought it was dumb to do so. I haven’t done so much as to hold a guy’s hand let alone kiss one. I feel like socially I’m so far behind other people my age. I isolate myself from people when relationships get too intense and I avoid any type of attention positive or negative. I have a very active imagination and I often find myself getting lost in it ignoring the world around me going into autopilot while I’m doing things which helps me cope when I get in uncomfortable situations.
My parents are very supportive and my father has been pushing me to reach out to someone for a long time now. I just don’t want to feel so hopeless anymore. I want to understand what’s going on with me and why I get these feelings.
Thank you for reading this more than likely jumbled mess.
Thank you for writing. Your letter is not a “jumbled mess”. It is an articulate statement of very difficult feelings. Please listen to your dad. I know you know he’s right. You do need to reach out to someone. I also know how difficult that can be. The paradox of mental distress is that just when a person feels so stuck, the way out is to take the first step. In your case, it means making an appointment with a licensed mental health counselor who can help you determine what is wrong and make recommendations about how to become more comfortable in the social world.
Your letter is so well done, it can be a big help. Bring it to the first appointment or ask if you can mail it to the counselor ahead of time. Then you won’t have to explain what’s so painful to you on the first meeting with a stranger and the counselor will know where to start.
My guess is that things have gotten worse since you graduated from high school because the familiar faces and familiar routines helped you feel comfortable. Now that you are in college, you’ve had to start over. Please don’t scold yourself for feeling so distressed. Many people go through some version of the same thing when they have to deal with a new social environment. A positive side to this is that the change highlights the issues enough that someone like yourself faces it and gets the help they need.