I’m a 21 yr old student working in England. I’m not sure if I have a problem or not but I am very worried about myself. I have an overwhelming feeling of inferiority to everyone and this is effecting my social responses. Whenever anyone talks to me I become very defensive and would not even consider going up to someone to talk to them. Whenever I do get into a conversation I feel I must connect with the person and am very worried about anything I say. This means I’m always acting in social circumstances trying to impress rather than being myself. This makes me feel as though I am missing out on a very important part of life and that I’m running out of time. I have just moved away from home into a new environment but have been here for about 4 months I have very few friends and no regular social activities. I have discussed this with a close friend and my Dad but neither understand exactly what I’m trying to say. Can you help?
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The problem you are experiencing – which is at least a sort of shyness and perhaps even what is termed “social phobia” is quite common as anxiety difficulties go, and especially so when the person experiencing them has recently moved to a new place where they don’t know any people. Characteristic of this sort of problem is what is termed “self-focused attention” – you want to talk with others but get so worried about how they might be thinking badly of you that all of your attention goes into that worry and you don’t have any left over to speak well. The worry gets worse as you continually beat yourself up for not being strong enough or fast enough to overcome the problem. Please relax some. You have PLENTY of time to make adjustments in how you interact with others – and there is good help available. There is an excellent variety of cognitive behavioral therapy for social phobia that is highly effective in helping persons like you to socialize more easily. My recommendation is that you seek this sort of therapy out in your community. You might also want to consult with a medical doctor who can rule out if there is some medical reason you might be having such difficulty. My other recommendation is that you set a goal of attending one or two community groups – not with the understanding that you will meet people there – but because you have some interest in what the groups are doing. I’ll bet that you are so focused on what others are thinking of you that you forget sometimes what you yourself want and think. Take some time out to do this. Ultimately – it is avoidance that will keep you a prisoner of this thing. If you can break through and join groups you have a good chance of enjoying based on what you like to do – you have a better chance of finding friends along the way.