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Chronic social anxiety - tell me ANYTHING that has worked for you

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#1 jdl

Posted 13 April 2020 - 01:49 PM

Hi all

My daughter now aged 17 has had anxiety all her life but lately it's been so horrendous that I need to reach out and see what other people have done.   She's profoundly anxious but up til last year she could leave the house and do things, As the year has passed, she could only attend school by herself (thank God she could) and otherwise only leave the house with me.  

She has 'friends' at school but she is never invited anywhere, parties, 'gathos' etc. One  school guy said to her on Snapchat, don't you hate not going out anywhere with social isolation, She responded that this was her normal - and he disappeared. I think the kids at school don't get it.

Her main thing is persistent self hatred and the belief that people are looking at her and judging. We went for a walk in crowded Centennial earlier today but she started panicking that everyone was looking at her and we had to go home, She will sit in the car at the shopinng centre rather than come in with me, in case people look at her.

And this is AFTER  a lifetime of seeing psychiatrists and counsellors and various meds (mostly SSRIs) that haven't worked. She is under care of a psych now but he doesn't seem to be helping so I now face the tedious search for new treaters.

She can't face thinking about going to uni and wants to be a you tuber or sell second hand clothes online because then no one can look at her. She has no deformities and is a perfectly fine looking, above averagely attractive girl with a penchant for Y2K fashion, so looks a bit different from the Brandi Melville set, but otherwise....??

Has any one lived through this and can you tell me what you did?  Heartfelt thanks.

#2 Silverstreak

Posted 13 April 2020 - 01:54 PM

Hi JDL. I was an anxious teen and I found this book very helpful and easy to relate to, with lots of cute cartoons as well. Ended up lending it to a couple of friends as well, so not sure where my copy is!


#3 jdl

Posted 13 April 2020 - 01:57 PM

Thank you Silverstreak. Will look into tracking this down. Did you find that age and maturity helped with any of it?  I feel that just having to get by in the world day to day would help, but I don't know. Hierarchy of needs type thing.

#4 born.a.girl

Posted 13 April 2020 - 02:42 PM

I will always live with the regret that I didn't pick up my daughter's anxiety during late secondary.  It was only when she went on to medication in her early twenties that she started telling me the difference it made, and was then able to tell me how she was able to behave differently.  I hadn't seen it because she was fine when she was with me.

Her anxiety culminated in a massive anxiety attack that led to me coming to the doctor with her, because she'd never felt free to tell the doctor how bad it was ('so many people have it so much worse').

She did find a good psychologist who's good with uni age kids, based in Melbourne's inner south east, but did her last session online.  Not cheap, but the change is significant.

We were put on to her by a uni professor we know - one of his students went to her and raved about her.

Obviously it's a case of the glove fitting the hand, but happy to pm you the name and details if you wish.

ETA: Yes, all that, people looking at her (she's gorgeous), being a harsh critic of her imperfections etc.   Coming out with me for the first time without makeup was a big milestone.

Edited by born.a.girl, 13 April 2020 - 02:44 PM.

#5 Silverstreak

Posted 13 April 2020 - 03:29 PM

View Postjdl, on 13 April 2020 - 01:57 PM, said:

Thank you Silverstreak. Will look into tracking this down. Did you find that age and maturity helped with any of it?  I feel that just having to get by in the world day to day would help, but I don't know. Hierarchy of needs type thing.

Yes to a certain extent! I have had to accept that I am an anxious person on the whole who dislikes being the centre of attention. Maturity has helped me manage my anxiety in the form of exercise and simplifying my life as much as possible. I also do the 5:2 program to help manage comfort eating (currently on hold due to isolation, but I'm tracking my calories instead.) I also try to build in down time during the day, where I can be by myself and recharge.

It can take a while for anxious introverted people to find their tribe and I found things easier once I left high school, which was too cliquey for my tastes and became more comfortable with myself. Now in my 40s I'm pretty happy on the whole.

Good luck and all the best xo

#6 PooksLikeChristmas

Posted 13 April 2020 - 03:42 PM

Has she seen a psychiatrist?

#7 CallMeFeral

Posted 13 April 2020 - 03:57 PM

View PostPooksLikeChristmas, on 13 April 2020 - 03:42 PM, said:

Has she seen a psychiatrist?

View Postjdl, on 13 April 2020 - 01:49 PM, said:

And this is AFTER  a lifetime of seeing psychiatrists and counsellors

#8 IamtheMumma

Posted 13 April 2020 - 04:03 PM

Medication and CBT, and becoming a parent. Obviously don’t recommend the last one for a teen.

The medication got me to the point where the CBT could work. There is also an element of feel the fear and do it anyway. That took a very long time to come. I did the whole just 5 mins, ok now another 5 mins. Some days I could go out for an hour. Others I’d be u-turning before 5 mins.

#9 CallMeFeral

Posted 13 April 2020 - 04:08 PM

OP that sounds hard.
If she's not clicking with the psychologist, then definitely find one she does. That said, with anxiety that extreme, steps forward will probably be quite gradual.

A book you might find helpful for yourself in terms of what to do as a parent, is "Helping your anxious child" by Ron Rapee. Yes, just operating in the day to day world would help - doing whatever she CAN tolerate doing usually helps at least with her world not constricting even further. Encouraging and rewarding baby steps that are at a level that create some discomfort but not overwhelming discomfort can help broaden that comfort zone. As well as encouraging her courage to sit with small quantities of discomfort rather than avoiding it.

But in the end with that level of anxiety it is going to require the help of professionals. And given how dependent she is on you, maybe even finding one who is happy to talk to you for a few minutes at the end of each session perhaps about what strategies have been learned that day and how you could support them.

#10 zogee

Posted 13 April 2020 - 04:11 PM

OP I think unfortunately as you mentioned a new provider (psychologist and psychiatrist) sounds like it’s needed :( my daughter has similar issues though not as severe.. she’s only 11 though. We saw a psych for a year and it did bugger all... we changed provider at the start of the year and she’s on low dose endep and melatonin which seems to be working.
It’s very worrying and tiring as a parent though. If I can see she’s ‘not good’ we play a round of uno, do a quick guided meditation, cook or go for a walk. She’s sometimes reluctant though and struggles to be motivated and then I get frustrated.

#11 jdl

Posted 13 April 2020 - 04:39 PM

Hi all

Thank you so much....things seem to have reached a head over the last few weeks that are challenging even the most sane among us. Your insights especially across years are really useful as it can be hard to see past the current morass.

Zogee thanks - I feel for you, my daughter started with this much earlier but by 11 it was entrenched and she was on Zoloft at that age. It worked for a bit and then stopped, same with all the SSRIs. I actually was going to ask for the Psych to consider a tricyclic antidepressant for my daughter just to get her through the HSC.

I am actually amazed and so dispirited at how little we have got from so many psychologists and psychiatrists over the years. I have not had to use these specialists in my own life and it has been an eye opener. For the most part it has not changed anything.

#12 MsLaurie

Posted 13 April 2020 - 06:35 PM

A slightly different suggestion (and I have no personal experience so feel free to dismiss)- perhaps a mental health OT might be of use? They can often be more practical than psychs, perhaps a different approach might help?

#13 barrington

Posted 13 April 2020 - 07:09 PM

My teenager's social anxiety is not chronic, but the very best thing that has helped him is drama lessons.  He has been doing AMEB exams in Communication for a few years now and these private lessons are easily the one thing that has allowed him to open up.  He has been taught how to start a conversation, how to respond to a question, how to enter a room etc.  His drama teacher is not someone who you would ever think would 'gel' with him, but she adores him and has managed to get him to a stage where most people, seeing him in a social situation, would have no idea of his anxiety.

#14 blueskies12

Posted 13 April 2020 - 07:58 PM

All sounds very much like a cliche but I have been diagnosed with having moderate anxiety, so I understand things little bit.

Here are some suggestions:
-Having someone/ close family members (like you) in your life where you can check in with as much as you need is invaluable. The fact that she has you and that you have a close relationship is wonderful.
-Regular, heart-rate increasing, exercise.
-Being outside. Gardening, being with animals, nature, walking along the beach, bush walking.
-A good psychologist. I actually really LIKE my psychologist as a person, so your daughter needs this too.
-Drama classes helped me enormously. I leant that life is like a stage. Sometimes I fake it to make it.
-Hobbies and interests that connect you to others without the need for deeper social interaction.
-Small goals like a great PP said- start with 5 minutes/10 minutes etc and increase it.

I'll come back with more. You really are doing a terrific job.

#15 Chaotic Pogo

Posted 13 April 2020 - 10:58 PM

Coming from a slightly different angle - and having been diagnosed with ASD / ADHD in my 40’s, I wonder if these could be contributing?

None of the psychs I saw for 25 years even mentioned it as a possibility (assorted medication etc).

When the kids were diagnosed and I asked someone to assess me too - yep.

I had a lot of social anxiety as a teen - because I knew I wasn’t picking up all the social signals and constantly trying to stay in the ball and not miss one, or work out what people were really thinking (judging me etc) was exhausting and anxiety provoking.

Girls are very often missed for ASD. Some even get an incorrect BPD diagnosis instead.  If this list rings any bells, you might want to do some more reading. Professionals that don’t work daily with girls/women with ASD, bluntly, have no business assessing them - unless they have the right experience, their opinion is often less accurate than a parents.


#16 Not Escapin Xmas

Posted 14 April 2020 - 06:10 AM

My sister suffered terribly. Having a baby was the best thing that happened to her! She was only 19 though so generally not a recommended course of action.

Would she be up for a pet? Something high maintenance? I think having a focal point outside yourself is the reason why having a kid really helped, so I’m wondering if a pet might do something similar?

Poor kid, and poor you! I really feel for you. And also second PPs suggestion RE looking into ASD/ADHD.

#17 SM3s Fight Song

Posted 14 April 2020 - 07:12 AM

View PostChaotic Pogo, on 13 April 2020 - 10:58 PM, said:

Coming from a slightly different angle - and having been diagnosed with ASD / ADHD in my 40’s, I wonder if these could be contributing?


I can tick a lot of things on this list.  DD is very like me as a kid.  I've never questioned if it was anything other than anxiety before.

OP the Bev Asbett books are on Google play if you're happy to read digital versions.  Pretty sure print ones are on amazon.  A good psychologist you click with can make a real difference OP.  Yoga and meditation helps me take the edge off my anxiety.  Before I got sick I used to run whenever it was bad, even if it was the middle of the night.  I've never found anything that works as well for my anxiety as running flat out.

I haven't found anything that makes a big difference but I can cope so much better even if it's just reduced a little.  I'm currently on Amitriptyline, for chronic pain which it didn't help with, so I started reducing dose to come off it, and realised it was helping my anxiety levels. It didn't do anything till I hit 100mg.
I don't think it's commonly used for anxiety although it used to be prescribed for it a lot.  I've heard psychiatrists can be very good for helping you get medication or combinations of medication right to help manage anxiety.  I think strategies and things like cbt often work better with medication.  Too much caffeine or too little sleep can worsen anxiety too.  Especially for me the too little sleep. The Amitriptyline makes me sleep even when I'm really anxious.

Eta:  My 7 year old DD has anxiety too.  Its so hard watching your kid feel like that.

The cool kids program is supposed to be great for anxiety.  Not sure if they have a teen version but might be worth looking into.  It can be done in person at some universities and it's available online.  A support group on FB or IRL might help too.  If you're in a bigger city area there may be a teen MH group.

Edited by SM3s Fight Song, 14 April 2020 - 07:43 AM.

#18 CallMeFeral

Posted 14 April 2020 - 02:13 PM

 SM3s Fight Song, on 14 April 2020 - 07:12 AM, said:

The cool kids program is supposed to be great for anxiety.  Not sure if they have a teen version but might be worth looking into.  It can be done in person at some universities and it's available online.  A support group on FB or IRL might help too.  If you're in a bigger city area there may be a teen MH group.

There is an adolescent one, it's called 'Chilled'.

#19 MakesMeHappy

Posted 14 April 2020 - 04:26 PM

For me it was medication, the right medication.

I really struggled as a teenager, I was always anxious but a teenage life drama upset me very much and triggered extreme anxiety. I could only go places I had been before and knew the layout, I had to be with someone who understood what I was going through, even if they thought I was being stupid and carrying on, I was dependantly social on a couple of friends and lost lots of friendships and put too much on others. The anxiety was crippling. I really feel for your daughter.

Everyone wanted to treat me for depression which in turn should help treat my anxiety, it never helped me, I wasn’t depressed (although did get low at times) I am still the same, anxiety medicine works for me not anti depressants.

For me having a best friend, a really good one, that I was too dependant on, kept me in the real world, without that I would have just stayed miserably at home.

I am still anxious, anxiety medicine has not cured me! But I can function, I can function well. I ended up find a GP who had great out of the ordinary suggestions for me (I say out of the ordinary because they had not been suggested before) and I think in terms of meds they are quite mild but it works for me. Keep trying until you find something that works.

Your daughter is lucky to have you OP

#20 Chaotic Pogo

Posted 14 April 2020 - 06:47 PM

 MakesMeHappy, on 14 April 2020 - 04:26 PM, said:

Your daughter is lucky to have you OP



#21 PooksLikeChristmas

Posted 14 April 2020 - 08:47 PM

 CallMeFeral, on 13 April 2020 - 03:57 PM, said:

Ok I phrased it wrong. I meant was she under the care of a psychiatrist.

#22 zogee

Posted 14 April 2020 - 09:03 PM

 Chaotic Pogo, on 14 April 2020 - 06:47 PM, said:


I agree too! Hang in there OP. You don’t have to have all the answers but just being there for her is incredibly important x

#23 Grrrumbles

Posted 14 April 2020 - 09:58 PM

Are there any psychiatric day programs near you? Often they are run for people transitioning from inpatient care but sometimes can be by referral too.

From what I understand they are more like group tutorials than individual counselling but they work through different strategies including relaxation. They have a strong focus on education, understanding the condition, looking for triggers.

The one offered at the private hospital near me is quite good, the public alternative didn’t look great, more a check in than a structured program.

Psychology clinics staffed by registrar psychologists under supervision can be good too if you have a Uni nearby.

#24 petal71

Posted 19 April 2020 - 06:14 PM

I can totally relate. My social anxiety wasn't quite as bad as your DD"s but it was crippling at times. I remember at Uni, hiding in the toilets because I couldn't face going into the crowded canteen/breakout area and not feel able to join in any conversations. I still get a similar thing in larger workplaces.

I think perhaps the age we live in is a double-edged sword as it enables online interactions, but that can make IRL interaction increasingly hard if you aren't always out there practicing.

I love the dog idea. That way the attention will always be on the dog, and she has to walk it? If she'd do that? Also agree with PP's it gets easier once you've had children.  I still get a tinge of "are ppl looking at me?" in some environments when out by myself, but neverr when with DS. So on this theme, could she possibly become a mentor at Headspace or similar, like a peer worker? Could be possible online? There's something about helping others in a worse position than you that can really be therapeutic.

#25 timtam92

Posted 14 May 2020 - 08:38 PM

 IamtheMumma, on 13 April 2020 - 04:03 PM, said:

Medication and CBT, and becoming a parent. Obviously don’t recommend the last one for a teen.

Becoming a parent didn’t really help my social anxiety. At least In iso it’s ok to say you didn’t do anything on the weekend. I am at the point where I now “make up” my social life as it’s embarrassing to say you have no life and not many friends. Sometimes it just doesn’t get better unfortunately

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