Anxiety over switching from your world into the social world

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anneurysm
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21 Apr 2010, 4:23 am

I require quite a bit of time before I can "switch tracks" from my own world into a social situation, which could include talking on the phone, messaging someone, or even something as simple as going outside. Once I am fully adjusted and ready to interact, I can partake in conversations and interactions with ease.

I'll often do things like:

* be late for social engagements because I'm having difficulty getting out of the house (which is an area that I'm perfectly comfortable in)
* not picking up the phone: instead calling someone back when I feel ready to speak to them.
* have all my email messages read: but never responded to for days.

I do this with absolutely everyone too (even my parents and boyfriend!)
No matter how special you are in my life, you will not be exempt from this :P

Some people have claimed that I don't have AS because I can socialize well with people and have many friends, but what they don't realize is that it takes lots of recharging on my part to work myself up to a state where I can effectively socialize. Also, although I am good at the details and nuances of social interaction itself, my difficulties stem from my anxiety which affects the big picture of my friendships: namely being responsible, reliable and staying in touch.

The biggest problem, however, is when I'm severely anxious and going through a hard time. During these times, I can't talk to anyone, go anywhere, or do anything even remotely social: sort of like becoming socially incapacitated. This has caused problems between many of my friends and I.

Some examples:

Back at the end of March, my friend who lives in the states came up for a week and I offered to have a chat on the phone with her. That week, I was in a frenzy trying to hand in my assignments and had a mental breakdown. The reason I didn't talk with her was not that I didn't want to...but I was too emotionally volatile at the moment to talk with anyone...not even my own mother. I closed myself off from the world for a few days in order to get the work done and to regain some composure, feeling badly that I wasn't mentally able to speak to her. I sent her a message explaining what happened when I had the courage to talk to her again...but she never responded to it. And this hurt. This coming from one of my closest friends who I thought understood me and knew me the best.

Also, back in the fall, another friend bought tickets for a concert that we were both looking forward to seeing. That night I was feeling so anxious that I couldn't leave the house...but didn't tell her this as I was too anxious to let her know, and was afraid that she wouldn't fully understand. She doesn't talk to me anymore...and I can understand why. But the whole time I felt horrible, and I still do because I greatly miss her friendship and the times we spent together.

I have hurt and let down many other people doing this...and for that I am truly sorry. I realize what I'm doing fully, but I HATE the way it is affecting my friendships and preventing them from being as healthy as I want them to be. The worst part is that I'm very eager to please, and if things like this happen, it's not that I don't care...in fact, I worry endlessly about stuff like this.
It's just that a) this is so hard to explain to people and b) I have no idea how to conquer it.

Can anyone relate to this? Are there any suggestions or strategies I can use to conquer this?


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I am an anomaly. Diagnosed with borderline,"tentative" Aspergers at 7 as the school board required me to have a label in order to receive special education services. I did not fit criteria for ASD but that was the closest label that fit my behaviour at the time.

My longtime psychiatrist has confirmed that I do not qualify for an ASD diagnosis (but have traits & OCD-like traits).

Mostly keeping a distance from ASD-related things (including WP).


ToughDiamond
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21 Apr 2010, 5:30 am

Yes I can relate to that. It's not quite so bad for me, probably because I have a day job which forces me to interact with people (though not a great deal normally).....I think my worst social anxieties happen when I've been alone for many hours and suddenly have to plunge myself into the fray.

So I try to control my life, trying not to be completely alone for too long. I also try to limit my exposure to strangers....I'm reasonably comfortable at the music club I go to, because it's a fairly small gathering and I know some of the people reasonably well, and it's always a scheduled event, so I have time to prepare myself before taking the plunge.

I try to stay aware of my limits and to simply refuse to accept any "invasions" that are too big or too sudden, though I also try not to be too hard-line about that.....I believe in gently "pushing the envelope." Not all social situations are the same - I try to evaluate how much of an assault they're likely to be.....so (e.g.) a phone call could be easy if it's from somebody I've developed some kind of rapport with. But generally I work on a presumption of inflexibility, i.e. if it's sudden, the answer has to be no unless I can see good reasons why it might not be all that difficult. Also I try to temper my perfectionism and remember that everybody makes mistakes....otherwise I'm prone to wind myself up by worrying about being out of my depth - I have to remind myself that people aren't going to bite me just because I'm behaving a little strangely. Groups of people are of course composed of individuals, and each one will have a different take on what they think of me - they aren't all sitting there like a tribunal to judge my social performance. Some of them have bigger problems than I have!

I think this need to prepare is quite well known for Aspies. One tip I recently picked up is to try to think a few happy thoughts before going out to socialise. Apparently if you're happy, you'll smile more and give off more positive signals, so the "audience" will be more likely to warm to you, and you'll relax and perform better. I haven't tested it yet, but I already know that when I'm relaxed and feel like smiling and being genial, my social skills seem to work a lot better.



Mdyar
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21 Apr 2010, 6:01 am

ToughDiamond wrote:
Yes I can relate to that. It's not quite so bad for me, probably because I have a day job which forces me to interact with people (though not a great deal normally).....I think my worst social anxieties happen when I've been alone for many hours and suddenly have to plunge myself into the fray.

So I try to control my life, trying not to be completely alone for too long. I also try to limit my exposure to strangers....I'm reasonably comfortable at the music club I go to, because it's a fairly small gathering and I know some of the people reasonably well, and it's always a scheduled event, so I have time to prepare myself before taking the plunge.

I try to stay aware of my limits and to simply refuse to accept any "invasions" that are too big or too sudden, though I also try not to be too hard-line about that.....I believe in gently "pushing the envelope." Not all social situations are the same - I try to evaluate how much of an assault they're likely to be.....so (e.g.) a phone call could be easy if it's from somebody I've developed some kind of rapport with. But generally I work on a presumption of inflexibility, i.e. if it's sudden, the answer has to be no unless I can see good reasons why it might not be all that difficult. Also I try to temper my perfectionism and remember that everybody makes mistakes....otherwise I'm prone to wind myself up by worrying about being out of my depth - I have to remind myself that people aren't going to bite me just because I'm behaving a little strangely. Groups of people are of course composed of individuals, and each one will have a different take on what they think of me - they aren't all sitting there like a tribunal to judge my social performance. Some of them have bigger problems than I have!

I think this need to prepare is quite well known for Aspies. One tip I recently picked up is to try to think a few happy thoughts before going out to socialise. Apparently if you're happy, you'll smile more and give off more positive signals, so the "audience" will be more likely to warm to you, and you'll relax and perform better. I haven't tested it yet, but I already know that when I'm relaxed and feel like smiling and being genial, my social skills seem to work a lot better.


T.D.
It's uncanny how I can relate to a lot ,if not most of your posts , and I totally relate here 100%........ are we twins :lol: :wink:
As I have posted here before ; married life with kids has tuned me up and keeps me sharp.
My inclination is to lose these skills rapidly if alone .
My job ,overall, entails little contact with people and this ^ has humanized me ^.

O.P. I've experienced that anxiety when switching tracks in the past almost to a 'tee' as you have stated.
I can't add a strategy here, but I don't worry anymore though, and maybe this a benefit of middle age.



ToughDiamond
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21 Apr 2010, 6:17 am

Mdyar wrote:
T.D.
It's uncanny how I can relate to a lot ,if not most of your posts , and I totally relate here 100%........ are we twins :lol: :wink:

Amazing.....I nearly didn't post it because I kept getting the feeling that I was talking rubbish.....luckily I suspected that was just paranoia, so I took a chance and hit the "submit" button. Thanks for reassuring me 8)

I'm sure that age (or more accurately, experience and reflection) does wonders for a lot of Aspie issues, including this one. Everything gets better, unless you have really rotten luck.



MathGirl
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21 Apr 2010, 4:06 pm

This description of your problems describes my friend perfectly. He has been diagnosed with social anxiety and OCD. He has a very difficult time getting out of his house. On Christmas, his mother had a party at her apartment and he did not come just because the idea of going to a small apartment crowded with people scared him. He wanted to go clubbing with me last summer, but cancelled it again. I usually come over to his house down in Mississauga, but he came over here two times. Both times, he was late by at least half an hour. He wouldn't admit it, but I could see how he leaves the task of getting out and seeing people to the last minute. Just like you, there are days when he does not feel like talking to anybody, and shuts himself in his room doing mindless, pointless things, like playing computer games, just so that he could have his alone time and recharge. This is quite frustrating to me because on these days, he usually turns off his phone. As a result, if there's somewhere I want to go and wish to invite him, I can't get through to him at all. He also used to smoke weed, which aggravated his anxiety even further to the point that he would skip work. I tried to talk him through it to get him to realize what he was doing to himself, but it seemed like he was completely unmotivated to do anything. He quit weed now, but still has anxiety problems along with the random obsessive thoughts that he gets from his OCD.

He's recently met a guy in a chatroom (he's bi) and talked to him on Skype and over the phone for a few months. They've made plans to meet for the first time, but my friend usually cancelled because he felt like he wouldn't be able to deal with the stress of meeting a new person as well as the tension that's involved in a more intimate relationship. So, after a few months talking and trying to meet up, he finally texted him and told him that it's not going to happen. It's very sad, and all due to his problems. He didn't tell him because he was too ashamed to do so. He's been single for quite a while, and it's sad that his potential shot at a relationship was sabotaged due to his anxiety issues.

There isn't really a solution to these problems, other than allowing yourself to have these breaks when you can calm down and refresh. Listen to calming music, or try meditating. Anxiety medication is another solution, but it can have very bad side effects and you have to find your perfect fit.

Anxiety is something that can result from having AS, but it's not exclusive to AS. Many people with AS may have anxiety and depression. I don't have these issues at all. I can't understand why my friend would want to be alone and do nothing, while I want to go out and socialize with every chance I get. My issues are mostly sensory. Crowds bother me, too, because there's too much unpredictability in them. So I can't really relate, but again, I've struggled to accept that I have AS for a long time because I've got an extroverted personality as opposed to the majority.

I understand what you're going through. At the same time, when people are late or don't show up at all, it is very detrimental to me. I become anxious and can even have a meltdown if there's too much on my plate. So, I try to not establish any agreements with people who cannot keep their word all the time. While it might be selfish, I have enough trouble coping with life as it is, trying to stay organized and punctual and keeping myself from obsessing too much. Really, it's all about keeping myself sane, just as you can't let a boiling pot tip over, because really bad things can happen then.

I've sent you a message on Facebook a long time ago, to which you did not reply. I've waited a few days for your reply and then decided to go back to the York campus myself to get the book I've told you about. Luckily, no one took it, and the workers at Second Cup kept it. So don't worry about the book anymore. I must have been too demanding of you, but I was quite angry at that time. Had this happened during school time, I wouldn't have forgiven you. But I do forgive you now. :)

I still want to see you again, and talk to you. I know that you will probably not show up tomorrow, but I am still really hoping that you will. And one more thing... from my message, it may have sounded like I've dismissed you altogether. And I didn't. It's just that I've realized that you're not as rational and pragmatic as I thought you would be. I guess you're more about enjoying your life in the moment, and less practical and future-oriented. I still think that you're an interesting person, and I would like to get to know you better. It's a pity that you're leaving York next year. That means that we won't be able to do stuff together for the Asperger's group, which is disappointing. I really do hope you come over here tomorrow, though, so that we could discuss this.


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Likely ADHD instead of what I've been diagnosed with before.


anneurysm
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22 Apr 2010, 1:07 pm

Your friend sounds like me in a nutshell. You mentioned that he was diagnosed with social anxiety and OCD, which makes sense as his symptoms are so severe that they cause immense social and occupational difficulties for him.

My mom and I have suspected that I have both these things, as anxiety, depression, and obsessive thought have been hallmarks of my life ever since I was 9 or 10. It's something that will never go away, but I must always be concientious about it in order to keep it from interfering with my life. The unpredictable thing about it is that it goes in cycles. Over the past year and a half, (including when you first met me), things have been amazing as I had hardly any difficulties with my life at all. However, over the past four months, the anxiety has gotten significantly worse to the point where I have been having academic difficulties, as well as increased attempts to try to tune out the problem altogether using less-than-suitable methods (i.e. partying, drugs). As a result, I have made an unwise choice by choosing to escape the problem rather than dealing with it head-on.

I think it's wonderful to meet someone like you who is passionate about the same special interest that I am. But the thing I hate is how my anxiety has gotten in the way of us developing a stronger friendship as I'd like. I very much enjoy your company as well as the discussions we have together, but my anxiety keeps me from making as much of a commitment to things as I would like to. I'm working on getting my life back on track though, and this includes trying to make and keep prior commitments regardless of how anxious I am feeling at the time. I've recently began seeing a psychotherapist again, so hopefully I will be better able to cope with everything soon.

I'm so glad that you're able to understand where I'm coming from, even if you can't relate to it fully. You have dealt with someone who has gone through nearly identical issues though, which helps gives you a bit of perspective.

The reason I didn't respond was that you were right with everything you said, and I don't like admitting weakness or defeat as I want to give an impression of being a strong, smart and capable individual. Unfortunately that impression fell apart once I made that mistake with you. I was upset because I finally realized the consequences of my actions and felt very ashamed. At the time I felt that you were rubbing the fact that I was stupid, irresponsible and incapable in my face, and I just felt worse upon reading what you wrote.

However, when I thought about it more, I figured that you were just having difficulty understanding where I was coming from, and vice versa. You are a person that operates on rational and logical thought and although you could see the consequences of my actions clearly, I couldn't, because I am someone who gets tied into fleeting feelings and emotions. I very much used to be like you until I started to get in better touch with my emotions: I went from an INTJ to an INFP in the span of a few years. So I have a sense of how you operate and the principles and values you adhere by. This also isn't the first time I have encountered someone with AS who is very much the same way you are. Sometimes I go for days without messaging anyone...and both of those people became concerned every time I did this. One even became obsessed with me, which made things significantly worse, and I had to terminate the friendship.

I'm so glad that you forgive me, though, as I still feel very horrible for what I did. I have done similar things to other people as well and hate the way this has affected them. I am a person who is incredibly eager to please as I am paranoid about letting people down or hurting them...if something isn't right with a friendship, or if I am making someone feel any negativity, I feel downright terrible. I am also glad you retrieved your book...I was planning on buying it again for you. I will still, however, be reimbursing you with the $6.00 at a late date when I see you, because I still feel bad for wasting your time.

Tonight I have promised to spend the night with my boyfriend, as I have been busy and stressed trying to finish up my exams and as a result I haven't seen him for a week. So I can't make tonight's Meetup, even though I would very much like to. I still would love to meet with you and discuss things further, though, and hopefully I will gather enough courage to attend some of the future Meetups. Because you have a different perspective on things, I believe that you could offer me some insight, and I truly believe that I could learn a lot from you. :)


_________________
I am an anomaly. Diagnosed with borderline,"tentative" Aspergers at 7 as the school board required me to have a label in order to receive special education services. I did not fit criteria for ASD but that was the closest label that fit my behaviour at the time.

My longtime psychiatrist has confirmed that I do not qualify for an ASD diagnosis (but have traits & OCD-like traits).

Mostly keeping a distance from ASD-related things (including WP).


Taupey
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22 Apr 2010, 1:40 pm

Yes, I have to prepare myself for social interaction of any kind. I used to not be like this when I was younger. But if I am isolated for any period of time because of medical problems or depression, I have to prepare to interact before I do.