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Anxiety Relief: Coping and Medication?

Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
I've been trying to cope with my anxiety (primarily social) for many years now. I've been trying to get myself out of myHowever zone, but it feels like I'm just making myself suffer for no reason. I'm currently on three different medications for my anxiety (Zoloft, Metoprolol and Neurontin), but the only substance that lets me talk freely with others and enjoy myself is alcohol (which last year earned me a public intoxication and disorderly conduct charge on my record, as well as an emergency room visit). I've become increasingly despondent and bitter with my situation, thinking about all the ways being able to naturally talk with others could have made my life better (more friends, a social network that could help me land a good job, a girlfriend, etc) and find myself getting angry with family and co-workers far more often than I used to. I even had to abandon my plan of living with my dad and stepmom while I paid off my student loans because my attitude and thoughts regarding them were becoming increasingly hateful.

Everything's not all bad, and I do have some friends I feel completely comfortable around, but I want to be able to attend public events, meet new people, and stand-up for myself whenever a co-worker has a disagreement with me.

Recent examples of my social anxiety:
- Talking to employees or even people I know at the grocery store causes my heart to race and makes it extremely difficult to have a conversation. I have to plan greetings in my head.
- I rarely send text messages or Facebook messages to my friends (with the exception of abouy three), and actually calling them is very rare unless I've been drinking. I feel like it would be easier if they called me instead, but they hardly ever do (possibly because they think I don't like to talk).
- I went to eat dinner with a married couple I'm friends with and their single, female friend. I didn't begin to feel comfortable until I had a drink. My friends told me later that she thought I was attractive, but also said I seemed to avoid eye contact and didn't respond to several things she asked me (I was totally unaware of this).
- I've had multiple women I've thought were pretty ask me out, but I've only once ever said yes. I've even lied before about having plans.
- I find it very difficult to be assertive. Making eye contact with someone whose been mad at me in the past (even if it's been months since an incident) is physically uncomfortable and causes me to dart my eyes away). My initial reaction when a co-worker is angry with me is fear; when I do get angry (which is very rare), it's almost overwhelming.
- I sometimes overhear co-workers and other people talking about things I'm interested in, find myself wanting to contribute, but being afraid to. Similarly, I'm interested in tabletop RPGs and want to visit specialty stores but find myself feeling very tense and fearful when I actually do (BTW, I've bought, read, and thought about TTRPGs far more than I've played them).

I've been hoping that I'd be prescribed a miracle cure for my condition, but so far no such luck (discounting alcohol). However, I'm starting to wonder if there isn't some kind of pattern in my thinking I could fix. I've been to multiple therapists before and not found them helpful, but I did recently have a breakthrough with the anxiety I used to have while drawing. After years of being unable to draw without becoming unbearably stressed at the slightest mistake, I just so happened to read a comment that almost completely alleviated that anxiety: "every drawing is the means to the next one, not an end in itself". It was that idea framed specifically in that way that eliminated nearly all the anxiety I used to feel, even when very similar comments had no affect. Now I'm wondering if there might be similar magic words to eliminate my social anxiety (altough I'm hesitant to see a therapist regularly again just for the chance they might say something revelatory that the previous four never did).

I'm about to make myself go to a small comics event. Last time I went two years ago my anxiety made me feel miserable (I distinctly remember biting the inside of my cheek twice while chewing gum in an effort to relax), but I'm about to try again. I'll update with my experience later.

Until then, any advice?

Posts

  • LucidLucid Registered User regular
    I'm not sure if you have an appropriate attitude in confronting this, when you talk about miracle cures or therapists saying something revelatory. You will have to work with someone, and work hard, at attaining the necessary skills to get where you'd like to be in terms of your social ability. There isn't a medication or a therapist that can just make it happen for you.

  • UsagiUsagi Nah Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Well, it really sounds like you should try therapy again. Honestly, sometimes it takes many many different therapists before you click with one that will be helpful.

    Sadly there is no miracle cure for anxiety, and self medicating with alcohol is a dangerous thing

    E: therapy isn't about POOF NO ANXIETY, it's about learning your triggers, being able to manage them, and relearning healthy coping mechanisms in order to deal with what life throws at you

    Usagi on
  • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    I have general anxiety, that used to be really bad in certain social situations. Participating in class was absolutely petrifying for a couple of years. I'd start to shake after commenting in class, or immediately apologize and attempt to retract whatever I'd just said.

    There isn't really anything I can say, specifically that might re-frame the idea of socializing for you. Like, I don't have a magic-anxiety relieving sentence for you. It is totally possible to change thought patterns, though. But it requires a bit more work.

    Basically, what's worked for me is knowing why I am afraid of things. I am completely petrified of getting yelled at, and the possibility of failing so badly I ruin my life. Those are the driving forces behind my anxiety. School stuff scares me because there is a chance I'll experience both major fears. And it manifests in general anxiety because my brain has a really exaggerated idea of how likely it is I'll fail and/or be yelled at.

    With that information, I can then retrain my brain to understand what the real likelihood of failure/yelling actually is, and help myself remember that if I actually do my work, it probably won't happen at all. I do this by starting with something moderately scary, with minimal consequences attached to failing the thing. Then I do whatever it takes to succeed at said thing- bribing myself, doing it on a "good" day when I'm not stressed out, doing something relaxing while I do it, and of course the actual thing itself. Once I've succeeded, I can do something harder.

    For example, to me, helping a professor connect their computer to a projector is less scary than commenting in class, which is less scary than writing research papers. So I acted as tech support whenever I could. This made commenting in class easier because I'd done something nice for the prof and therefore they were less likely to snap at me. So on days when I felt good about myself, I raised my hand and participated. Once I got a couple of questions right, class participation wasn't scary anymore and I went back to participating all the time, which is what I was like before the anxiety disorder. Then the papers were actually doable, because having correctly answered questions in class meant that I must have sort of known what I was talking about, and therefore wouldn't bomb the paper. While writing the paper, I ate a lot of chocolate, knit, and cuddled my dogs because those things make me happy. When I finished the paper, I bought myself a comic book.

    I can't really tell you what will work for you, but the basic key thing is figuring out what it is that's scaring you, and then slowly teaching yourself that the risk of that thing happening isn't actually as big as you thought. Maybe some kind of group therapy where you can practice socializing in a safe environment, but the important thing is to ease yourself into it and make sure you're having as many positive experiences as possible.

  • NopeQueenNopeQueen Registered User regular
    Usagi wrote: »
    Well, it really sounds like you should try therapy again. Honestly, sometimes it takes many many different therapists before you click with one that will be helpful.

    Sadly there is no miracle cure for anxiety, and self medicating with alcohol is a dangerous thing

    E: therapy isn't about POOF NO ANXIETY, it's about learning your triggers, being able to manage them, and relearning healthy coping mechanisms in order to deal with what life throws at you

    Thiiiiiiis times a million.

    I have general anxiety and have been to numerous therapists and tried a variety of coping mechanisms. Some work, some don't, but the key is actually trying everything, instead of waiting for something I agree with. Because I've realized that my jerk brain will predetermine that something's impossible or that I can't do it, when the reality is my rational brain could totally work at whatever thing, and maybe even benefit.

    There is no magic medicine or statement or therapist when it comes to mental health, particularly anxiety. It's a 2 way street that requires your participation and the idea that you want to change the way your brain defaults into dysfunctional thoughts.

    Long story short: you're gonna have to really get out of your comfort zone and stay there a bit before things really improve. Good luck!

  • VeeveeVeevee WisconsinRegistered User regular
    Hexmage, you sound almost word for word like I did before I went for treatment for my depression and general social anxiety. After taking a med for the depression (Celexa, if you care) and working through that I still had the anxiety to deal with. For some people anxiety is just there without a root cause beyond the situation itself, but for some people anxiety has some kind of source that is keeping it alive. Thankfully I had a girlfriend, now fiancee, at the time who is an educator and noticed many of the signs of ADD that she was trained to look for in her students. I brought it up to my psychiatrist and said I wanted to pursue this possibility so she referred me to a specialist because she had zero experience with ADD, which is also why she never thought of it.

    That specialist, after a single session, went "yeah, you've got ADD." See, without the hyper part of ADD, it's very easy to not see the signs and instead see an adolescent who doesn't care, or isn't putting in enough effort, or any number of bullshit "You can do better than this!" pep talks your parents or teachers may have had with you growing up. Left untreated into adulthood it can develop into an anxiety filled life because you can't concentrate, even if you don't recognize it as such, and are constantly trying to fight yourself . Then when those situations where your lack of concentration made you embarrassed/anxious come up again you just get anxious before they even happen and it turns into a self-repeating cycle.

    After getting meds and some therapy sessions to learn how to cope with ADD, and not being afraid to admit to the world that I do have this condition, I have a lot less anxiety. Usually none at all!
    I went to eat dinner with a married couple I'm friends with and their single, female friend. I didn't begin to feel comfortable until I had a drink. My friends told me later that she thought I was attractive, but also said I seemed to avoid eye contact and didn't respond to several things she asked me (I was totally unaware of this).

    Think back to this dinner. While talking to her did you randomly remembered, to use a personal example, an item you forgot to buy at the store earlier which made you lose track of what she was saying and in that moment of embarrassment you looked away? Or, using another personal example, maybe the table over was having an interesting conversation that you could barely hear, so your brain wanted to figure out what they were talking about instead of paying attention to what the pretty lady was saying, and no matter how much you tried it just wouldn't cooperate. These could very well be signs of ADD.

    Now, I'm not saying you have it as I could be wildly off base here, and only a medical professional can accurately make that diagnosis, but it could be a possible avenue to explore along with other possible conditions that can manifest through anxiety. For me, getting that ADD diagnosis and taking the correct drug for it, actually was a magic cure for my anxiety.

    Fake edit: Didn't mean to get so long and rambly, but tl;dr "Why do you feel anxious? Is it because you can't concentrate no matter how hard you try? Maybe it's ADD like me!"

  • HeraldSHeraldS Registered User regular
    Your medication will help you through the worst of it, but the real gains will come from seeing a professional and working on yourself. It's hard and it's painful and it's scary but there is no other way. There is no magic bullet, there is no golden nugget of enlightenment, there is just the next day. Keep at it, be honest with yourself, and lean on those close to you when it gets to be too much. Good luck man.

  • SacriliciousSacrilicious Registered User regular
    If you drink when you're taking medication, you're probably going to end up in serious trouble. The alcohol is almost certainly making everything worse.

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