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17 Feb 2003

Social Anxiety Disorder
I know that I have social anxiety disorder - but I hide it really well from people. It does however mean that I never have any close friends and that I can only relate in situations where I can 'hide' behind my work. I've never had a boyfriend and have no close friends - although people often seem to want to be with me (until they find out how shy and withdrawn I am). I'm trying to find a job at present - but struggle to keep up the 'act' when speaking to people. I also struggle with doctors, mature men and even the hairdresser makes me anxious (so I can't have my hair cut!) I get a upset-stomach and my heart-races. I also go completely dumb - and can't say a word. I struggle to eat around people I'm not used to. ETC.
Anyway - it's very disruptive to live your life this way - and I'm still young and really want to live my life and be the person that I sometimes allow people to see for a few minutes. I want to joke and laugh and go out and experience life - not always hide behind something.

Do I have to go to a shrink or take medication? I've done both about 4 years ago - but didn't know what was wrong with me then. With the two shrinks I saw - I couldn't cope with them (allthough one of them is one of the best shrinks in S.A.) and just acted / played dumb. I can't help it. The medication (Zoluft) helped alot making me really get out there and say things, etc. etc. - but it made me feel embarassed for the perception of talking too much, laughing too loud, etc.

Well, I've been off the meds for 2 months now - and the problem seems worst than ever. I struggle to even go into church - because I feel so anxious.

Is there any other way of curing this than going to a shrink or taking medication? Will it, like depression, go away after a while?

Thanks for your input!
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Dear Puppylove,
This certainly does sound like Social Phobia / Social Anxiety Disorder. And you describe perfectly how enormously limiting it can be --- and why you deserve to be freed from it, so you can both enjoy life far more, and allow other people to enjoy the nice and interesting person you are.
Ideally, treatment should include the use of medications like Zoloft or some of its relatives, combined with psyuchological therapy, especially, if available, Cognitive-Behaviour therapy, to help you improve your self-confidence, your social skills, and to shift from the negative ways of thinking about yourself in any social situation, which have become automaic for you, towads more fruitful and positive ways of thinking about yourself, and more positive expectations.
Clearly, any consultation will be most useful the more you are able to frankly and in detail, tell the shrink exactly what has been happening, and how it is affecting you. Maybe you can write down a clear desciption of all the main points, both as a guide to yourself when discussing it with the shrink, and something you can leave with him / her, to ensure they can undersand the situation.
From the sound of it you responded quite well to Zoloft ; maybe some psychological counselling at the same time could have helped you to get the volume right in conversations, and not to so negatively evaluate your own social performance. Its likely that you evaluated your own behavior in social settings far, far, more negatively than did anyone else. Having less experience of being lively in company, you were not in the best position to evaluate yourself, perhaps.
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