I like being around people but after these years of self-reflection, I realized I’m afraid of social settings. It’s ironic because I avoid people on my own but I feel so incredibly lonely. I can’t have people stare at me when I eat, it’s hard for me to look people in the eye, and I get really nervous talking to people in general. How do I stop this? I know I like to be around people but I’m just hindered by my own fear.
Thank you for your questions about your feelings regarding your fear of social settings, nervousness around people, and how your avoidance of people has resulted in feelings of loneliness.
I can understand why you are seeking help, as you say that you actually do like being around people.
Firstly, I would like to tell you that your condition is shared by many, and recent advances in the field of therapy have resulted in great successes. Within the field of psychiatry, these feelings are referred to as social anxiety disorder.
After a diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist, there are two main ways that this condition is treated. The first is with CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Other patients who are not willing to begin CBT may be prescribed medications by a psychiatrist (you can check the links I have left you below regarding these medications).
I recommend CBT because of its great record of success. If you search for face-to-face or online therapists specializing in CBT for social phobia/social anxiety disorder, I expect you will experience a recovery.
One of the important things to realize about your condition is that while your feelings of self-consciousness, anxiety and nervousness around people are very real, these feelings are based on how you perceive others are thinking about you.
In other words, you are thinking that others are looking at you, or judging you, which results in feelings that you are inadequate. When you realize that your feelings are actually the result of how you are mistakenly judging others, you will experience social confidence.
You may be relieved to know that in social situations, most people are focused inwardly, on themselves, rather than focused on judging others. We are all the same.
CBT is actually a method of training you to be aware of your thoughts and emotions. Basically, it helps you to change any thinking or behavior that is not helpful to you. This approach is directive, meaning that you will be taught how to deal with unwanted feelings effectively. In addition, you may have to ‘unlearn’ some of the conditioned responses that are part of you now – which you have learned through experience. New experiences will replace your older experiences. This therapy may also include some form of social skills training which will help you develop a skillset for various difficult social situations.
From Mayo Clinic (also offers some info on CBT)
Anxiety medicines (more detailed)
Comments from drug users on the pros/cons of each drug
1. from a psychiatrist
2. From a psychologist
3. Same psychologist therapy vs medication –
Personally, I recommend my clients not to use medications as I feel that with time, CBT actually works. But this is a personal choice I would like you to make.
Lastly, I would like to ask you to find a doctor you like. If you do not feel comfortable with one doctor, please change to another. Your relationship with your care provider is strongly correlated to your recovery.
Please ask me again if I can help you!
I expect you can look forward to recovery and enjoying the rest of your life.