On social anxiety

I just don’t know what is wrong with me.. I am 17 and I have never had a boyfriend or had any guy show any real interest in me.. I am very shy, so that’s probably a big factor, but guys don’t talk to me at all for any reason.

Part of the reason that I am so shy in general, and especially around guys is because I used to be teased a A LOT in middle and high school and it REALLY affected me..I’m in my first year of college right now but I still can’t forget all the names those other guys called me and how ugly they said I was… and how they made jokes saying ‘so and so likes you’ and then laughing in my face. Even when I just go to my room in the dorms, I can’t look at the guys on my floor because I am so scared of what they’ll say about me and I want to just run away..

I just feel so lonely sometimes but it’s just so hard to even look guys in the eye and smile at them when I feel so scared that they’re going to laugh at me or say other things..

What should I do?

Well, you could see the school shrink. He’ll diagnose you with generalized social anxiety disorder and whack you with a thousand milligrams of Paxil every month. It might help.

It’s a shame you can’t just have a fucking cocktail. There’s nothing like a little liquid courage, but since you’re seventeen it’s probably easier just to get prescription SSRIs. That’s always been one of my favorite little chemical ironies.

Other than drugs and alcohol, one of the better cognitive therapy tricks for dealing with anxiety is some negative visualization. Whenever you’re in a social situation where you get scared, force yourself to answer one simple question: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Do it calmly. Do it rationally. Flesh out a detailed version of the worst-case scenario in your head. If you look a guy in the eye and smile, what’s the worst thing that could happen in that moment?

It seems counterintuitive, but it works. It renders your fears into specific rather than nebulous form, which will always make them more manageable. It also works because it draws your conscious attention to the fact that your fearful thoughts are just that — thoughts.

When your specific fears never materialize — and they never will — they start to seem pretty silly. You’ll be making all kinds of eye contact in no time.

Oh, and don’t forget to breathe. Use it as a tool. Deep, steady, meditative breathing. That shit works too.

Good luck confronting your fears!


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