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Social Anxiety(?)

I've suffered a great deal in social settings for many years now, completely unable to make new friends or reconnect with my old ones and too scared of large groups to go back to college or seek employment. I think it stems from the bullying I experienced when I was in grade school. I would panic all day because I was usually picked on by a group of kids and would only relax when I was finally back home and in my room. I understand that repeated stress over long periods of time rewires the brain, causing me to avoid situations that could possibly cause the stress again. What can I do to start changing my ways? I want to go out and enjoy my life with others.. but I just can't...
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366811 tn?1217422672
No question about the fact that our brains do some adjusting to the environment, and sometimes in the manner in which you describe. But know this: the fact that you retreated from the nasty kids ALSO portrays something about the way your brain was wired up -someone else might have chosen to fight (even because it felt good to fight) and someone else might have called the cops -or someone else might have started a gang, or gotten hold of a weapon -or whatEVER. And those choices, made at early ages, may themselves have been the result of still earlier encounters and mental adjustments to them AS WELL AS the predispositions with which we are born -the gene pool we were swimming in. The answer is -it is ALL of it. It really is not as though someone is brave and someone else is "chicken." Those are characterizations which come from our culture -society's attempt to push and prod its members into certain behaviors. There is no "bravery" gene, no "chicken" gene.

So, where to now? If there are no more bullies out there, you may see data that says you are probably safe. Even so, once any of us reaches a certain tipping point, even though actual environmental conditions no longer support our original response, the brain ITSELF supplies the stimulous in the ways it interprets damn near everything.

I am guessing that, were you to seek professional treatment, your psych would start you on some meds to sort of steady your nerves a bit, and a course of therapy, whose purpose is to switch some of those wires around. You do it conceptually, so your intellect "knows" that there is no more than average risk, then you do it experimentally in actual exposures to situations you might nomally avoid, until, eventually, you are prettty functional and have your freedom back.

THAT SAID, there's a "gotcha," here -MAYBE. If our defensive behaviors have also created conditions we very much like and need (attention from a parent, for example) we not only have aversion on the one hand pushing us away from the thing we fear, but we also have a growing compulsion to be near the thing we crave, and THAT can be as strong an influence on how we go along (and grow along) as the original fear. And still, we "grow," intellectually and physically and feel compelled to affiliate with our peers and participate in all the activities we see others doing -or risk being left behind. A "Catch 2,222" as it were. This is how our behaviors and perceptions act as a hidden hand on the wheel. Of course, at the time, we can't be aware of the dynamic for what it is. It just seems to be the way life IS. Somewhere, somehow, the circuit must be interrupted -so we learn new ways of adpating to life -and we succeed with them. That's the job of therapy.

The news is not all bad, because once you see and accept what has happened, you are now in a position to change it. And, you can change any little old part of it -anything at all, to begin advancing the agenda you want for yourself. Your therapist can be a helpful guide in the process, both as to validating changes that take place and plotting out strategies to continue your program.

So, I encourage you to get a consult with a psych to start the process -and to hang out here on the forum to learn from others what has worked for them, share your story -and be a help to others.

Thanks for a great post.
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Avatar universal
Just what I needed to hear Mr. Geare, thanks. I have access to a behavioral health clinic and I'm more than ready to start recovery now, while I still have my whole life ahead of me. I can't thank you enough for your time and wisdom ^.^
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Avatar universal
I have been feeling the exact same way as you for the last 8 years of my life.  Just recently I have been having medical problems (think it's my heart, but we're still doing tests) and it has made the anxiety A LOT worse.  I feel lightheaded all day and mixed with the fear of social situations is horrible.  I went to the store the other day and didn't even finish shopping I was so nervous, dizzy, and nausiated.  I left the cart there and drove home.  It's getting to the point that I need to seek help.  Nice to know I'm not alone.
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Avatar universal
Hey, I am from the other side of the globe and I have the same problem, I've experienced the same problems in high school. However, I university everything was fine, but the problem appeared an year ago. I hope to cope with it soon... It is really disturbing. So you are not alone! Probably, there are so many others with the same problem around you, outside on the street, but we don't realize this, it is hard to see it. Since it is hard to be seen, be sure that no one notices when you experience this problem. I know, when you feel the anxiety, it leads to more anxiety because you are anxious they will notice your anxiety... Higher heart rate, blood pressure, chest pains, wish to immediately leave the place... And to me, it seems better to leave home at night or when it is colder or rainy, because there are less people out there, on the street... You are not alone!
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