A reader asks for help: She dreads talking to and seeing others – even loved ones.

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A reader sent in this request for help and advice. I’m not a psychologist but I thought there may be some of you who have experienced similar problems and might have some good suggestions for her. And at the least, we can offer her our support and encouragement while she continues with her therapy.

I once was an incredible extrovert, to the point where I was the life of the party and everyone wanted me around. Overthe past 2 years I’ve been suffering from severe anxiety and panic attacks. I find myself with no friends, (I get lonely, but don’t really want them.) I’m housebound about 80% of the time, I can’t work and find it very difficult conversating with people. It’s now to the point where I no longer want to speak to my daughter over the phone or have her come visit, and tragically I dread my partner of 27 years coming home from work, as well as her days off. I just want to be alone all the time….it’s often painful, what do I do. (I’m in very good therapy, but it still doesn’t help.)

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17 Comments

  1. I replied to her original email as follows:

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you! I don’t have any qualifications at all in psychology, so please don’t let me steer you in the wrong direction. But – did something happen two years ago? Any bullying from coworkers or friends? Abuse, whether physical or verbal? Those sort of things are notorious for making us start to “cringe” and avoid others.

    Or – could this be anything to do with PMS, depression, vitamin deficiencies…etc.? Do you feel any more receptive to others when you’ve had some vigorous exercise?

    She replied that she has suffered some significant traumas, and one was two years ago. She does feel better when she exercises, but she still doesn’t want to interact with anyone.

    Obviously she could be an extrovert or an introvert – introversion would not cause the social anxiety and suffering she is experiencing. I still wanted to share her question here, because a lot of people who come to this site are lonely and shy – and I think many of us introverts are thoughtful enough to understand and try to be of some help. She does say she’s getting therapy, and that’s good. I hope this is a good therapist, the right therapist for her.

  2. Donald@quiet on

    No degree in psychology here either, but it sounds to me like some kind of PTSD, or maybe just a form of depression. Although that’s pure speculation: you really do need someone who’s qualified and face time to come to any real conclusion, which I’m glad to hear, is being taken into account.

    And just to show how important it is to have face time with a qualified professional, I had a similar personality change many years back, maybe not so severe, but very noticeable. People say I went from moderately extrovert to completely introverted. They speculated almost everything you could think of, and even sat me down and recommended I get tested for autism. Sat down with a qualified professional, and in the end it was nothing, just a normal adulthood personality adjustment. I was showing my introvert side more, feeling happy about it, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    He suggested I modify my behaviour a bit so as not to “freak out” others so much, gave me some specific pointers on it, and that was that. Things got back to normal… after many months, I might mention. Convincing everyone that introverted is ok is never easy.

    And as people understood, things started to get a whole lot easier, both for them and for me. I guess part of the anxiety of it all is that the whole world is trying to get you to change into something you’re not.

  3. I feel exactly the same way, although not to the degree you do. I work with people all week, so when I am not at work I hide in my home. Even when I force myself to go out, I will watch to see if any neighbors are out and about and wait until they are gone to leave. It just feels like everyone I run into wants to dump their problems or complaints on me when I just want them to shut up. And often little things go wrong when I am out that send me running back home again.

    I think it is important to get out of the house at least once each day, even if only for a few minutes and with no interaction with others. It is helpful to go to a bookstore where I am out and around people, but can have my nose in a book and not converse. Also, wearing my iPod, even with it off, keeps others from yapping at me. Hope these suggestions help.

  4. Hi. I’m a counsellor… (Masters of Counselling in Applied Pscyh.) which does not make me qualified to diagnose this person, but the education I have on the subject leads me to think we are not talking about a sudden change from extroversion to introversion, but something else. As you said, introversion does not equal panic attacks and anxiety.

    Definitely people can change from extroverted to introverted (or vice versa) but the change is more likely to be gradual than abrupt, and this writer speaks of a sudden change.

    I think you are on the right track asking about what happened in her life immediately preceding the change, as well as exploring her medical background. I would encourage her to stick with therapy and change therapists if the current one isn’t helping her find answers. I would also recommend she talk with her doctor and explore any other, perhaps related, changes to her health.

    • Good advice Lisa. There is no doubt that Panic and Anxiety attacks can come upon people very suddenly out of the blue and without any warning. However it seems this sufferer has had a relatively gradual transition from extrovert to introvert. There are numerous self help books and courses available as well as traditional therapy. Lisa is right in that if something is not working, move on. Get a new therapist or try a new course. There is something out there for everyone, sometimes it may just take time to find the one that works for you. My advice is change and try something different, but above all, don’t give up.
      George@Social Anxiety Disorder´s last post ..Overcoming social anxiety and shyness – The similarities and differences

  5. I often think about things like this.

    I am no where near as “bad” as you are with this, I like to be around friends and family and people I like but I do need my own space and I need that a lot more than other people.

    What I do find is I hate been with people I am “forced” to be around and end up resenting them, when I go to work I dont like anyone who is there, I dont know why I just dont – I dont know them and wont make an effort to know them.

    I think its to do with the fact I dont like working and associate these people with something I dont like….. I wondered if on some level that could be applied to your thinking to help?
    danika´s last post ..Are you hesitating about selling your old phone? Don’t think about it, cash it in!

    • I feel the exact same way about work…and the people there. I mask it well…even initiate some conversations. But honestly, my ideal job would be an artist or something like that where I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone.

  6. That is really the worst scenario because you have converted from extrovert to introvert. That is really strange. I guess it is really a negative thing that happened. You have to deal with it because you will suffer and your family will suffer as well. I understand if you have the problem dealing with other people but with your partner for 27 years is just weird and with your children? I hope to really have a good talk to you if it permits. This is really something that needs to be treated.

  7. It’s awesome to read about people who were once very extroverted but have since become introverts. I had thought there was something wrong with me. It sounds to me like in her particular case though, I agree with what Onald said, that it might be a form of depression. It sounds like they’ve maybe crossed the line a bit between being introverted and being unhealthily antisocial. But that’s just me. No degree in psychology here either.
    Fria@Green Powder´s last post ..Greens Gold Review

  8. I know of people who have gone through a similar transition with parents, friends and others. Depression is a real factor and maybe altering your diet or taking supplements that target your brain chemistry may help (avoid drugs). A similar but nowhere near severe type of situation that I see is when people spend their lives surrounding themselves with certain kinds of friends that are interested in the hobbies you partake but then you might change pick up a new interest that alienates you from your own group suddenly you can’t communicate with your old friends. To them I suggest maybe they try and find some new people, go out, socialize with people you wouldn’t usually socialize with. Sometimes this can cause a real change in your outlook on life.

  9. It does sound very likely that the traumas she has gone through have caused or contributed to both anxiety and depression. I would suggest she consider nutritional support – particularly amino acids, a good multivitamin, a B complex and a healthy diet. Trauma often causes the brain to use up neurotransmitters at a very rapid rate and this can leave us depleted and lead to depression and anxiety. Sometimes the best way to rebuild the depleted neurotransmitters is to provide the brain with more of the basic building blocks it needs for neurotransmitter production.
    Jane@Get Help For Depression´s last post ..Can Depression be Cured?

  10. An extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people. Extroverted behavior is simply a manifestation of the way an extrovert interacts with the world. Extroverts are interested in and concerned with the external world.

    Always in the session of your therapy and follow what the specialist told you and in that you will help your self to change.
    shd´s last post ..Inspirational quote 31

  11. Sounds like also could be manifestation of an adjustment disorder: a crippling, maladaptive behavioral inhibition response to stressful life events. One proven effective ways to combat these symptoms is to adopt an active approach to treatment: That is, training oneself to replace undesirable behaviors with healthier behavioral patterns. Within this framework, there is no need to/ and we can bypass any focus on uncovering or understanding any unconscious motivations that may be behind maladaptive behavior. In other words, the symptom itself IS the disease; forget trying to find out why you behave the way you do, just change your behavior. Sound like a simple concept? It is…. but, often quite difficult to execute, and requires dedication and commitment, even in the face of repeated disappointment and frustration. Remember though, the joy comes from “doing”

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