Getting Over Fear

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Problem from the Reader

Is being terribly shy at about 40 nevertheless normal? I live with my two children and have very few companions. Some of my coworkers don’t interact with me very much at work, and I tend to keep to myself a lot because I get very anxious when I’m around too many of them at again. I generally stay away from meetings and social gatherings because I occasionally simply don’t know how to make smaller talk, which I also find to be a waste of time. Since I don’t have a social life, I also find myself to be somewhat dull. I’m also conscious that I frequently come across as nervous, awkward, and stupid. On Sunday mornings, I occasionally experience extreme depression and anxiety because I know that on Monday it will be back to work.

I also want to begin a relationship with somebody new, but I have no idea how to go about doing it. I believe I act like a schoolgirl and feel like I’m psychologically undeveloped. Additionally, I feel incredibly inferior to my classmates who have well-balanced people and active social life. I generally aspire to be more like them. Sometimes I feel really forlorn. At this point in my life, I simply don’t know what to do with myself, and I notice that I’m becoming more lonely and sad. I am aware that I need to get out and interact with people, but I’m not sure where to start or how to do it without coming across as phony, anxious, or terrible. Simply put, I’m at a loss for what to do.

Response from a psychologist

To answer your first question, yes, shyness is a common personality trait and is normal, no matter what age. In some cultures, shyness is seen as a positive trait — but because Western culture is very outgoing, it can be difficult to feel as if others experience shyness as well. It’s also very normal to want to have one or two close friends, or to have deeper conversation with one person rather than making small talk with acquaintances. Some individuals find it helpful to know that others are like this, and that a construct called Introversion (from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI) exists. Individuals who score higher on the Introversion (rather than Extraversion) end of the scale often feel drained if they have to interact with many people or make small talk — they tend to get their energy from their own thoughts and ideas and can become easily overwhelmed at parties or other large social gatherings. Some introverted individuals are also very sensitive, and find support in books such as The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, PhD.

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You seem to have some effective relationships based on what you’ve said, including having two kids, having some companions, and being able to work in an office setting. I wonder if anything has changed in your life since you were able to form those connections in the past.

I can appreciate how challenging it can be to experience dread and fear when approaching circumstances that cause anxiety and nervousness. Finding a qualified mental health professional to rule out Social Anxiety Disorder and to assist with increasing your pleasure answer in social situations may be helpful if the fear is considerably interfering with your cultural, work, and other important areas. They may also assist in examining the thoughts that are causing more anxiety( for as” I look nervous, awkward, and ridiculous”) and the ones that come after( for instance,” no one wants to be friends with me ,”” some are just being nice to me because they must be ,” or” one’s looking at me and judging me”). Finding ways to achieve your goals for connecting with others can be made easier with the aid of a counselor or other qualified mental health professional.

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One or more scientific psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals peer review all of the medical content on this website. Dr. Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor, next reviewed or updated the book that was first published by Drs. Elizabeth Chamberlain, PhD.

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