Stress and panic


Stress and panic


your avatar   Anuja, 29-year-old woman

I grew up in multiple foster homes until I was 18 and have no contact with my family. I am very introverted, and tend to stress out a lot and get overwhelmed and anxious because I feel like I have so many things to do. I am always alone. I don't think it would matter to anyone or make a difference if I was not around.

I guess I would like to know what I could do for self-care. I want to feel like I matter, mostly because I am noticing it is affecting my ability to have any kind of relationship or friendship.


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Anuja,

Your situation is, sadly, all too common. That doesn't make it any easier to bear!

I am sure some of those foster parents did their best for you, but all the same, while growing up you must have felt abandoned, rejected, and just a job rather than a beloved child.

The reason you feel like you have so well described is that this way of seeing the world has become a habit. We all create our own reality. Because of your history, understandably, the reality you created for yourself is that nobody cares if you are around, that people can be hurtful, that social situations are threatening. You can change this reality, but it takes a lot of work. There are many tools for doing so, and they are effective. But you need a guide.

I entered "free psychotherapy" in your state in a search engine, and got several hits. You can do the same, and contact any that are near you. Meanwhile, here are a few suggestions for you to try:

1. To have a friend, be a friend. This means facing your fear of people, and going out to meet them. Some will ignore you. Ignore them. Some may react negatively. That's their problem and their loss. But there will be those who will receive you with friendship and kindness. Do things to make them feel good for having you around, and also, study them.

Part of your problem is that probably you have never had the chance to learn how to be a sociable person. These friendly folk can be your teachers. Do what they do, and ask for their help in teaching you.

Where you seek such people depends on your interests. Church can be a good place, if you have any religious feelings. Sports, hobbies, common causes like politics, looking after nature, caring for unfortunate people or whatever the case may be all offer opportunities to meet people you already have something in common with.

2. The best way to gain self-confidence and inner strength is to join Toastmasters. They don't know it, but they are excellent group therapy for social phobia and insecurity. They will be very supportive, and in a year, you might not even recognize yourself.

3. Find something, almost anything, to be passionate about. This needs to be an activity, a cause, or a group with no immediate personal benefit to yourself. At first, your involvement can be over the internet, so it feels safer. The more you give, the more you get.

But the quickest way for you to climb out of your pit is to seek therapy. Let me know how you go.

Your new friend,


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:

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