anxiety

wrenwind:

therapy is better without true believers

left-to-say:

realsocialskills:

realsocialskills:

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I was wondering if you/ any of your followers have thoughts on mindfulness as a treatment for anxiety? It seems to be recommended by a lot of doctors where I live as something that always works and has no side effects.

wrenwind said:

As someone who also has severe anxiety, I would recommend giving it a shot while someone that you trust is in the room. Mindfulness works for some people–for me, it makes my anxiety so bad that I feel paralyzed and I just want to shut down. It is definitely worth a shot, because it can be helpful, but just be careful about it. 

I find that this website really helps me personally, and there are some other suggestions here.

Good luck!

how do you tell the difference between when someone is gaslighting you and when you’re doing the distorted thinking thing from anxiety/depression? (for example you KNOW they’re judging you because they’re your parent and you’ve learned what that LOOK means but now they say they’re not judging you which means you can’t trust your own perceptions)
realsocialskills said:
  
One thing that’s important here is that distorted thinking and gaslighting are not mutually exclusive. When you know that you have distorted thinking, gaslighting abusers sometimes exploit that to get you to doubt your perceptions. Even when you are having an episode of actively distorted thinking, that doesn’t mean that the things someone else wants you to believe are necessarily true.
  
I think there are a couple of things that can help to sort out what’s really going on and what’s distorted thinking: outside perspective, and paying attention to your perceptions over time.
 
Regarding paying attention to your perceptions over time: Even if you have depression, you’re not always going to be equally depressed. Even if you have anxiety, you’re not always going to be equally anxious. If you still don’t like what someone is doing to you even when you’re not actively anxious or depressed, it’s probably not distorted thinking.
  
Also, if every time you object to something someone does, they consistently convince you that it’s distorted thinking, something is probably wrong for real. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes you’re both depressed *and* reasonably objecting to something. If someone consistently uses your mental illness to try to make conflicts go away, that’s gaslighting and wrong even if your perspective actually is distorted.
   
 (That said, if you’re actively anxious or depressed, it can be hard to tell in the moment whether or not something is a pattern. It’s possible to feel like it is a pattern when it isn’t, due to distorted thinking. That’s a reason why it can be really helpful to pay attention to how you feel over time.)
   
One way to keep track of how you feel over time is to write a journal. If you write a journal, you can pay attention to how you felt yesterday and whether you still feel that way today. Writing down your perspective is a more reliable way to track things over time than relying on memory. It’s hard to have accurate memories of how you’ve felt over time, and it’s particularly difficult to have accurate memories of what you thought when your thinking was distorted. (That said, journaling does not work for everyone, and if you can’t do it, that doesn’t mean you can’t figure things out.)
  
Outside perspective can also help a lot. That’s one reason that therapy is very helpful to a lot of people who struggle with distorted thinking. If you can find a therapist who you can trust to have a good sense of when you’re probably getting something right and when it’s probably depression/anxiety-related distorted thinking. This backfires horribly if your therapist *isn’t* trustworthy. I don’t really have any advice about how to find a good therapist (I wish I did, and if I ever figure it out, I’ll post about it), but I know that for many people it is both possible and important to find a good therapist. 
  
Personal blogging can also help as a way to track your perceptions over time and get feedback, but be careful about that. Personal blogging attracts two kinds of people who can create problems for those who struggle with distorted thinking: mean people who try to make you feel awful about yourself, and people who unconditionally offer you validation no matter what you say or do. Neither of those kinds of perspectives are helpful for sorting things out. In some ways, unconditional validation is particularly dangerous, *especially* if there’s a possibility that you’re abusing someone.
  
Friends and relatives can also sometimes be really helpful, particularly if they know the people involved or observe things.
 
If you have a sibling you can trust (not everyone does, but some people do), you might be able to have this kind of conversation:
  • You: Sarah, when Mom made that face, was she judging me or was I imagining it?
  • Sarah: Yeah, that’s definitely her judgey face. 
  • or, depending on what she thinks:
  • Sarah: Actually, I think she probably didn’t mean it that way this time. She just talked to me about her obnoxious boss and I think it was her pissed at my boss face.
Similarly, friends sometimes have a really good sense of what’s going on. 
   
The caution about blogging goes for consulting friends/family and other forms of peer support. Be careful about people who offer unconditional validation of all of your thoughts and feelings no matter what. That can end up reinforcing distorted thinking, which is not going to help you learn how to improve your perspectives and trust yourself when your perceptions are accurate.
  
People who are offering you useful perspective will sometimes tell you that they think your perceptions are off base, and they will not be jerks about it when they are critical. They will also not try to coerce you into adopting their perspective. Sometimes they will be wrong. Sometimes you will disagree with them and be right. You are allowed to think for yourself, even if your thinking is sometimes distorted. No one else can think for you, even if you go to them for perspective and help sorting things out.
tl;dr: Gaslighting and distorted thinking are not mutually exclusive. It’s common to experience both, even simultaneously. If you have distorted thinking, people inclined to gaslight you tend to exploit it. Tracking your perceptions over time, and getting outside perspective, make it much easier to sort out what’s actually going on. Sometimes therapy is helpful. Sometimes blogging is helpful. Sometimes friends and family are helpful. Be careful about trusting people who are mean to you or who offer unconditional validation. 
 
What do y'all think? How do you protect yourself from gaslighting when you struggle with distorted thinking?

Plans, changes, anxiety, depression, and conflict

I have anxiety and depression and probably some other shit I get very scared and panicked when someone says “I’ll be right back” and walks away from me and if I’m supposed to meet someone and they are late or don’t show up. I guess it’s abandonment.
So my question is: how do I keep from flipping out on my boyfriend when he accidentally distresses me, like when I’m supposed to pick him up but he finds another way home. His phone is off so he can’t tell me.
And I guess my other question: is it fair for him to get frustrated and angry with me when I tell him that doing this is inconsiderate? He said he thought he’d get home before I left to get him so it wasn’t intentional, but I still feel disrespected.
realsocialskills said:
   
This doesn’t sound to me like it’s just a depression and anxiety problem. It sounds to me like either something is going wrong with your communication with friends, or people aren’t treating you well, or a combination of both. It’s hard for me to tell which from a distance.
   
Having anxiety and depression does not mean that you are wrong every time you are upset about something. Sometimes, you’re going to be upset because something is actually wrong. 
  
It is not unreasonable to want people you make plans with to either show up or let you know that they’re not going to make it. It is not unreasonable to want people to tell you if they are going to be late. It is not unreasonable to want people you’re supposed to pick up to let you know if they found another ride. Those expectations are normal, and not something unusual caused by mental illness. Most people would be upset if others habitually made plans and failed to show up.
 
(It might be unreasonable to expect people to refrain for saying “I’ll be right back” and walking away, depending on the context. For instance, that’s sometimes a euphemism for going to the bathroom. So if you’re, say, eating at a restaurant and someone says that, it’s probably not reasonable to object.  But if they’re, say, leaving you in the middle of a crowded park without any clear plans for how you’re going to reconnect, that’s a problem. There are any number of configurations for that; it’s hard for me to tell just based on the phrase.)
 
It is entirely reasonable to want people to care that they flaked in a way that was distressing. Even if they did it for a reason or thought it would be ok, they should care that they flaked on you and apologize if it caused you distress. They should also be willing to think about how to avoid that problem in the future. In close relationships, people make mistakes from time to time that cause one another inadvertent distress. If someone gets angry and defensive every time you feel upset about something they did, something’s going wrong.
  
That said, it’s not ok to regularly flip out at people close to you for making mistakes. It’s hard for me to tell from your description if that’s what’s happening. Like, I could see a few possibilities:
 
Possibility #1: You’re actually flipping out in a way that’s not reasonable. Eg:
  • You: WTF?! Why didn’t you show up?! You’re a terrible boyfriend. You always do this. Why don’t you respect me?
  • Him: I thought I’d get home first. I’m sorry.
  • You: That’s not good enough. You’re awful. Why can’t you be considerate ever?

If this is what’s going on, you flipping out may well be part of the problem (but not the whole problem, because wanting people to either keep plans or let you know that they’ve changed is entirely reasonable even if the way you react is not.)

If actually flipping out on people is part of the problem, then it’s important to learn how to distinguish between how it feels to have anxiety triggered and what someone actually did. If you’re freaking out, it might be best to hold off on talking about what’s going on until you’ve calmed down. It might also help to say explicitly something like “I’m not rational right now; let’s talk about this in a few minutes.” (This is also the kind of issue that a lot of people find therapy helpful for. I don’t know if you’re someone who would find therapy helpful, but it might be worth looking into.)

But even if you are doing things that look like flipping out, that may be misleading. It’s possible that he’s intentionally provoking you in order to make you look unreasonable to avoid dealing with the problem. That brings us to possibility #2:

Possibility #2: He’s accusing you of flipping out as a way to avoid dealing with the thing you’re complaining about. Eg:

  • You: I went to pick you up and you weren’t there. What gives?
  • Him: Chill. I thought I’d be home by the time you got here. Why are you flipping out on me?
  • You: Can you please call me if plans change?
  • Him: Why are you accusing me of being inconsiderate? I didn’t do anything wrong.

For more on that kind of dynamic, see this post and this post.

Possibility #3: You’re responding to a pattern, he’s insisting that you treat it as an isolated incident, and that’s pissing you off. Eg:

  • You: I went to go pick you up and you weren’t there and didn’t call. Can you please let me know if plans change.
  • Him: Oh, sorry, I thought you’d come home first and see that I was already here.
  • You: Ok, but this happened last week too. Can we figure out how to stop it from happened?
  • Him: That happened last week. That’s over and done with.
  • You (raising your voice): This keeps happening! I need it to stop!
  • Him: Why are you flipping out? I *said* I was sorry.

Possibility #4: You both mean well, but you’re setting off each other’s berserk buttons inadvertently. Eg:

  • You (visibly close to melting down): You weren’t there?! You are here? Why weren’t you there?
  • Him (freaked out by the idea that he did something seriously upsetting, also visibly close to meltdown): I tried to be there! I did! I thought it would be ok!

If that’s the problem, finding an alternate way to communicate about problems might solve the problem. For instance, it might mean that you need to type instead of speaking, or use IM in different rooms, or talk on the phone. Or it might mean that you need ground rules about how to communicate in a conflict without setting each other off. For instance, some people need to explicitly reassure each other that this is about a specific thing and not your judgement of whether they’re a good person (sometimes judging people is appropriate and necessary. This kind of reassurance only help if that really *isn’t* the issue).

This is not an exhaustive list. There are other patterns of interaction that could be going on here. But whatever is going on, it probably isn’t just your depression and anxiety making you unreasonable. It is ok to expect people to either keep plans or let you know when they have changed.

ischemgeek:

making phone calls

realsocialskills:

Do you have any tips on how to make important phone calls when you need to but it’s difficult? I always end up getting myself all panicked about them and sometimes consequently unable to make them, but I can’t not worry about them…

ischemgeek said:

I also find phone calls very hard. If audio processing is an issue, try closing your eyes - I find eliminating visual stimulation helps my auditory processing and makes it easier to make out what people are saying (if there’s background noise or the speaker has an accent I’m unfamiliar with, I might only understand a third of what’s said if my eyes are open, but that might rise to about half if I shut my eyes).

Also, if the auditory processing stuff is hard, make up scripted socially-acceptable ways of asking for clarification/repeat. Some I use:

  • I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat it?
  • So you want me to [rephrase of what I think I heard]?
  • Pardon me?
  • Excuse me?
  • I’m sorry, it’s noisy here. Can you repeat that?
  • I’m sorry, my phone sound quality is bad. Did you mean [thing I think I heard]?
  • I think I misheard you. I heard [thing that makes no sense]. What did you mean?

In my experience, just saying, “What?” is considered rude.

If I know I’m having a bad auditory processing day, but I need to make the phone call and putting it off isn’t an option, I’ll start off the conversation with something like, “I can’t hear very clearly on my end, so I’m going to need you to speak a little slower than normal so I can make out what you’re saying.”

Having a stim toy for calming stims is useful, to. Something soft and fleecy works for me if I start getting too anxious.

I’m really interested getting a degree in Social Work…but I’m wondering how much math you need in order to get a degree. I know each school is different, but wouldn’t the amount of math you need be pretty much the same? I ask this because I have an extreme fear of math. I get severe anxiety whenever I have to do even simple math in front of teachers.
realsocialskills said:
I’m not sure. Here’s what I do know:
  • In order to become a licensed clinical social worker in the US, you will need an MA as well as an undergrad degree.
  • I think once you get to the MA part, it is possible to avoid math classes
  • It probably is not possible to avoid math entirely undergrad
  • But there are often classes that count as math which aren’t particularly mathy
  • And at some schools, math classes and science classes are considered interchangeable for purposes of meeting distribution requirements
  • It’s worth looking into exactly what will be required when you’re considering schools, because it’s not the same everywhere
  • Also, many colleges have online math classes. If your anxiety is about doing math in front of teachers, that might be a good option for you

Does anyone who knows more about math phobia or social work degrees want to weigh in?

sqbr:

realsocialskills:

I was conditioned from a really young age to be passive and go along with whatever was happening (mostly because of my dad’s temper. He was never abusive but he was very angry and it was never worth the battle to disagree with him), so now everytime i get into a disagreement or heated discussion with someone I end up crying and choking up to the point that I can’t get a sentence out. Do you have any advice for being able to argue inspite of this?
realsocialskills said:
A few suggestions:
It might help to communicate more slowly when things aren’t urgent. For instance:
  • Some conversations might be possible for you to have over email, but not in person
  • It’s ok to say “let’s move this conversation to email so I can figure out what I think without melting down”
  • It’s also ok to need to pause the conversation from time to time
  • Needing the conversation to be over for a while doesn’t mean you’ve conceded the point
  • Some things are urgent, but a lot of conversations can be slowed down

Learn to use the word “maybe”:

  • It’s ok not to know what you want
  • It’s ok not to know whether you’re ok with something
  • It’s ok to need time to figure it out
  • “Maybe” is an important word, you don’t always have to say yes or no immediately

It might help not to rely so much on your voice:

  • A lot of people who can’t get words out for various reasons can still type
  • You might find that typing is more reliable than speech for you when a conversation gets emotionally intense
  • An iPad can be really useful for this since it is very portable
  • You can use a text-to-speech app (Verbally is a free one, Proloquo4Text is a dramatically better but also more expensive one),
  • Or you can even type in Notes and show the screen to the person you’re talking to
  • Or sometimes typing the thing first can make it possible to say the thing with your voice.

It might help to make less eye contact:

  • If you’re intimidated, looking at someone’s face can make matters worse
  • If you aren’t looking at their face, it might be easier to think and speak
Do any of y’all have suggestions for things that help with this?

sqbr said:

My main problem is an anxiety disorder so it might be different, but aside from the stuff above: The most useful (but difficult!) thing long term has been finding someone I feel comfortable enough with that I can freak out and cry for a bit during an argument and they give me some space, then when I calm down enough we can get back to the argument. Similarly useful has been getting into (non real time) intense but good natured discussions online where noone knows I’m freaking out. In both cases this has helped me get over my “arguing leads to BADNESS” emotional block. Also I’ve been telling people I MIGHT freak out if we get into an argument, and seeing how they respond, and this gives me a pool of people I feel less tense about arguing with.

Also for topics where I am more likely to freak out I write locked journal posts etc working through my POV with trusted friends, so I have more momentum in real time face to face arguments. My brain doesn’t have time to realise I’m arguing and freak out.

Supporting people who are overly apologetic

Some people apologize all the time, for everything. This can be very annoying.

Here’s a conversation:

  • Mary: I like ice cream. I don’t want to order a slice of cake. I’m sorry.
  • Darlene: Dude, you don’t have to apologize!
  • Mary: Argh, I’m sorry about that.
  • Darlene: ::headdesk:::

Telling someone off for that kind of thing doesn’t help. People who do this do it for a reason; they’ve often been taught that they always have to want what other people want. They’ve been taught that it’s rude to ever express a desire. This is not something you can fix by getting annoyed.

In fact, you can’t fix it at all, because you can’t actually fix other people in any case. But getting annoyed makes the problem worse. So does telling someone off for apologizing. Some people need to apologize and adopt a deferential tone in order to feel ok about expressing preferences and boundaries. If you put pressure on people not to apologize, it makes it harder for them to tell you what they want. Don’t take it personally, and don’t take it out on them. It’s not your fault, and it’s not their fault either.

There are things that you can say that sometimes help other people to feel more comfortable expressing desires, if you can say them in a non-annoyed tone of voice:

  • “That’s not a problem.”
  • “That’s fine.”
  • “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

I’m going through a breakup and am dealing with pretty crippling anxiety and depression despite the fact that my ex and I didn’t end on bad terms. I am a very socially awkward normally and my ADHD sometimes causes me to act impulsively. I have three questions: 1.) How/when/who is it appropriate for me to discuss my problems with (Like when people ask how I’m doing I normally lie but I think that may not be good for me.) 2.)How long should I wait before spending time with my ex, seeing him is like tearing off a band-aid and 3.) What is a good way for me to cope with my loneliness when my social anxiety prevents me from being able to be around most people?
Realsocialskills answered:
A few thoughts:
First and foremost, there is no one solution to this problem. You’re going to have to slowly find ways of making your life better. You’ll probably feel better if you think of it that way.
I get the sense that you might be thinking of the problem as “How do I get over my ex, stop being so impulsive, not be depressed, not be anxious, and not be so isolated, so that everything will be ok?” That’s a really overwhelming problem, but it’s not actually the problem you have to solve. The problem you have to solve is “What things can I do to start making my life better?”
And there are a lot of things that might be worth trying, and other things worth avoiding. I’ll start with the things I think you should avoid:
Don’t rely on your ex for emotional support:
  • It’s not good for either of you
  • Part of what being broken up means is that you need to separate emotionally and regain your own space
  • Relying on your ex for emotional support makes it damn near impossible to do this
  • Especially if you don’t have much else in the way of support
  • It is not your ex’s responsibility to make your life ok post-breakup
  • It’s probably not a good idea to spend time with your ex until you’re past the point of the breakup feeling like an excruciating loss when you see them

Respect other people’s boundaries:

  • Someone asking you how you are isn’t necessarily an invitation to share
  • “How are you” is usually a fairly meaningless socially greeting.
  • Sometimes people ask because they are concerned and really want to know. These are usually people you are already close to, or people you’re related to.
  • If you’re not sure whether they really want to know or if it’s just social noise, you can say “It’s kind of hard right now” or something similar, and see if they ask follow up questions
  • If they ask follow up questions, it’s usually ok to tell them what’s going on
  • But keep in mind that it’s ok for people to decide they don’t want to be your support system
  • And it’s important to respect that
Meetup.com
  • Meetup.com can bee a good way to meet new people in an unthreatening way
  • It’s easier to talk to new people when you know that you share an interest and are gathering to talk about it or do something
  • It’s also often ok to go and listen to other people talk
  • And it’s ok to leave if you need to

Interacting with people on the internet

  • A lot of people who can’t interact easily in person get a lot of social interactions from Tumblr
  • This counts as social interaction. Don’t devalue it
  • It also might help to seek out some other type of forum, like a message board about your interest/fandom/whatever
  • Email lists can be good too, especially if they’re the kind that don’t have archives that can be googled
  • Even with people you know, it might be easier to interact on chat or Facebook or some other internet based way

Religion

  • If you have a faith tradition, it might help you to go to church/temple/synagogue/mosque/place of worship.
  • If you have a bad experience with the place of worship you grew up with, you might be able to find one that works better for you
  • Most communities have a number of places of worship. Some of them probably have nice people
  • Unitarian Universalist churches work for some people who don’t feel comfortable in the organized forms of the religion they grew up with, but don’t want to reject it either
  • Going to a place of worship can be a way to meet people
  • It can also be a way to be around people without having to interact too much directly
  • For some people, being near people without having much conversation can be a way to feel less lonely without anxiety-inducing pressure
  • There also might be things you can volunteer to help with that aren’t too socially intense
  • There also might be study groups that work for you, because you can talk about the topic or just listen
  • Prayer can also help some people. Talking to God can help, even if you can’t talk to people.
  • Organized religion is not right for everyone, but it can be really good for some people

Reading fiction or watching TV

  • For some people, stories are a good way to cope with loneliness
  • Reading or watching stories is sort of like vicarious social interaction
  • It can also help you to learn a bit more about people and relationships
  • There’s a reason why lonely isolated kids coping with growing up by reading novels is such a pervasive trope
  • This isn’t helpful for everyone. Fiction can be really misleading and not everyone can understand it. But for some people, it can be good.

Therapy is helpful for some people

  • Some people find it helpful to talk to a therapist
  • Sometimes therapists can help people manage social anxiety and depression better
  • Or figure out executive functioning strategies
  • Or learn appropriate boundaries that make friendship easier
  • Therapy is not a good idea for everyone.
  • For some people, it isn’t helpful.
  • For some people, it’s a matter of finding the right therapist
  • For others, it’s actively anti-helpful and damaging.
  • For some people, it’s sort of helpful but not worth the costs
  • Therapy is something that can help some people to get support that helps them to figure out how to improve their life incrementally
  • Only you know whether therapy is a good idea for you (and it’s ok to decide to stop going to therapy if you decide that would be better)
  • In any case, therapy isn’t magic and it’s not a cure. There isn’t actually such a thing as “getting help” and that fixing your life. There’s just trying things and seeing what works.

Medication can be helpful for some people

  • Anxiety, depression, and ADHD are all conditions that some people find easier to manage with medication
  • For some people, medication is useful in the short term even if it’s not good in the long term
  • Some people don’t benefit from being on medications regularly, but do benefit from having medication available for occasional use to control anxiety or panic attacks
  • Medication is not right for everyone.
  • For some people it doesn’t work
  • For some people, it works, but has intolerable side effects
  • For some people, it works, but it takes a lot of experimentation to find the right medications and doses
  • Only you can decide if medication is right for you
  • Medication is not a cure or a way to become a different kind of person. It’s a strategy for managing things that works well for some people
  • If medication doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t imply that you don’t really have depression/ADHD/anxiety.
  • It also doesn’t imply that your condition is mild
  • Or that you’re not serious about making your life better
  • All it means is that medication is not a good strategy for you