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BBawlight's avatar

How do I overcome my social anxieties?

Asked by BBawlight (2187 points ) April 16th, 2012

I need help becoming more social. I am thirteen years old and am very shy. Usually I sit in my room all day, and only come out only when necessary. I don’t have any friends and can’t relate to any of my peers because of the way I think.
I never understood political correctness and how it works. I don’t know what is and isn’t socially acceptable. I don’t know how to start a conversation. I seem to make people angry when I speak to them. I never understood social behaviors.
I can barely order food at a restaurant, I can’t go up to the counter to ask for condiments, ask questions during a test, ask for anything from my teachers, ask for directions, ask for instructions, or talk to new people. I also have a hard time going to social events like school dances, assemblies, ect. I’d feel like I got the time wrong or something.
I get nauseated and I feel like I will vomit.
I take negative comments to the heart and they will effect me for the longest time, no matter how small the problem.

I need help overcoming this anxiety. Any comments will be stored in my brain for further use on my lifelong quest for knowledge.

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7 Answers

mangeons's avatar

If possible, I’d see a therapist about your problem. They won’t judge you for your less than ideal social skills and they’ll help you come up with strategies to overcome your social anxiety. It might surprise you how much it can help.

If a therapist is too costly, I’d at suggest at least talking to the school counselor about it, they may be able to help as well. Have you discussed the problem with your parents?

dabbler's avatar

@BBawlight My sympathies. You may actually have some kind of disorder, akin to a mild autism. If so maybe you could get some professional advice on the matter. There might be a treatment, but more important, there might some counselling to help you get a handle on how things work for other people so you can understand how to get along.

I recently saw a movie about Temple Grandin, an incredible woman who has autism and luckily has had lots of support from family and teachers. The support came on two fronts, people helped her cultivate the things she can do well (to the point that she is a national expert on cattle handling) and people helped her understand how to try to act ‘normally’, what is expected of her.
Where many of us have instinct she has had to basically memorize how to behave and what people mean by what they say and their expressions.

janbb's avatar

I would suggest counseling or therapy aswell since it seems like your anxiety is severely crippling. Are your parents supportive of you at all?

GoldieAV16's avatar

If you’re going to see a therapist, try to find one that teaches CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s not easy to find ACT therapists, but I think that could be really useful to you in coping with your fears and apprehensions, too.

I sympathize with you. I went through a period of fear of others, following some traumatic events. ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) was a life saver. You ACCEPT your feeling, and COMMIT to acting in spite of them. There are quite a few exercises to help with this, including re-framing your thoughts.

A lot of anxiety is compounded by our attempts to avoid both the situation AND the anxiety created – which typically makes it worse. ACT helps you deal with the anxiety, so you’re in a better position to deal with the social situations. There are quite a few excellent books on the practice, and I’d be happy to share a few titles with you, if you’re interested. A good starter book is The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living, by Dr. Russ Harris. It would definitely help you know if this practice is something that you might be interested in pursuing – either on your own, or with a therapist.

I think you show a lot of courage (and maturity! my goodness, you sound so much older than your years!) to recognize and admit to your problem, and want help with it. I won’t say that I think it’s going to be easy, but then living with fear and anxiety is no walk in the park, either.

Charles's avatar

Lexipro

ETpro's avatar

I think @Charles may mean Lexapro AKA Escitalopram. That might be an answer, but I’d definitely exhaust behavioral changes you can make, books you can read and therapy you can access before turning to drugs.

I was a painfully shy child, and one thing that helped me break out of the shell was advice I took in from reading. I decided to not worry about being popular or what others think of me unless I heard what they said, analysed it, and saw that they were right. It that happened, the simple answer was to apologize to them for my awkwardness, and tell them I’d learn from their criticism and do my best to avoid the same mistake again.

You know what. I believe I genuinely tried to follow that strategy, and yet the times I felt compelled to apologize for being myself, and change who I fundamentally was were few and far between. This is a dog eat dog world and there are plenty of emotional bullies out there using their conquest of those weaker than themselves to make themselves feel superior. The trick is to toughen your exterior to the point that emotional bullies can’t touch you while at the same time remaining open to honest criticism and emotional harm you may actually inflict on others around you. You don’t sound like someone who is looking to build their own ego on the carcasses of your conquests over others; so I bet you can pull it off.

lonelydragon's avatar

You sound very much like me at that age. Unfortunately, you may never be 100% comfortable in social situations, but you can definitely learn to adapt. If you can afford it, try seeing a school counselor or private therapist. Tell the person what you just told us and ask if they can offer social skills training or refer you to another practicioner who does offer it.

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