I freak out around men
Ok, here goes.I'm 23, and I've been on a grand total of one date. I've have never had any real physical contact with a guy. Yes, I'm very tense. The reason being is that whenever I am remotely attracted to someone I get terribly shy and afraid. This is very obvious because I tense up, stutter, feel nauseous, and find it difficult to breathe. This will last for days after too. This has often happened quite recently. A guy gave me his phone number and I freaked. There is no other way to put it. The very idea of calling him gave me the same reaction.
I wasn't raised in a very social environment. My parents had no friends and I had very little contact with my family outside of them and my brother. However, I am very social now and have no problem meeting new people, unless they're men and I am attracted to them. Other men--no problem. I guess I have put to much pressure on myself to get involved with someone, so I can't not think about it, but when I do I also think about all of the physical things that I am not experienced at. I am aware that there are a multitude of reasons as to why I am the way I am. Mostly I overanalyze everything that I do, which, in turn, causes me to worry, a lot. Don't think bad of me, but I've even tried alcohol to relax me. I just end up sobering up very quick. I know it was wrong, but at least now I'm pretty sure no one could take advantage of me when I'm drunk...or sober, or quite possibly in a coma. Knowing me I'd still probably wake up and scream.
What I would like to know is how I can get these anxiety attacks under control. I know about meditation and all that, but I'm talking about something quick and easy that I can do in immediate situations. Any advice will do, though. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for writing. It interesting that, although you have been suffering with shyness for probably most of your life, you'd like to solve your anxiety problems with "something quick and easy." I'm sure you know that if something were "quick and easy" you would certainly have discovered it by now. My responsibility to you, then, includes informing you that what will likely help you will definitely NOT be "something quick and easy".
Besides, when you mention (in your letter) the "quick and easy" method you tried (alcohol) you say, "I know it was wrong." All that to say that whatever will alleviate your fears will probably take lots of time, energy, effort and commitment. (Aside: Do you still want my advice?)
You say that you "overanalyze everything" that you do; have you ever had help with this? Based on the description of your childhood environment ("I wasn't raised in a very social environment. My parents had no friends and I had very little contact with my family outside of them and my brother"), it seems unlikely that you have reached out to anyone for help with this problem, since you probably did not see this (asking for help) modeled by your parents in their isolation.
So, you have taken a step in growing and changing by e-mailing an online counselor requesting "something quick and easy." My guess is that you could really benefit from allowing a counselor to get to know you so that, over time, you could explore the self-esteem issues underlying your social anxiety.
Your counselor would, no doubt, recommend that you get a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether or not your panic attacks could be helped by medication, and would also want you to be seen by a physician to 'rule out' any organic reasons for your panic symptoms. Ultimately, I'd recommend that you become involved in a co-ed support group, so that you could desensitize your fears (of men) by having a lot of interaction with them in a safe, therapuetic environment.
But first, find a therapist with whom you feel safe and supported and begin to look at the self-esteem issues affecting you today which relate to what you saw, felt, thought and heard in your childhood home. Then (after a few months), ask her (or him - hm...there's an interesting idea!) to refer you to a mixed group which meets weekly. Attend this group regularly for several months as you continue your individual therapy.
With this treatment plan, you will absolutely grow, change, an finally lose your fear of men and intimacy. But, I guarantee it will be neither 'quick' nor 'easy'. Sorry.
Margaret "Peg" Burr , MA, MFT
This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/