I’m 23 and up until about 4 years ago, I was outgoing, had a big social circle, and a part time job I had maintained for a couple years. Since then, I’ve somehow become very depressed, self-hating, antisocial and have terrible anxiety whenever I’m obligated to a work or social situation, sometimes even when it’s just a family get together. It gets so bad that I’ve quit about 8 jobs in the past 4 years. It’s very hard to explain it in writing, but it feels uncontrolable when I start to feel the anxiety and apprehension. It’s embarassing and I feel like a child having a temper tantrum but I can’t stop it. I’ve gone as far as hysterically crying until my boyfriend told me I didn’t have to go into work, I’ve pretended to go but actually went somewhere else to kill time, or I’ve just stopped showing up to work all together and never called. It sounds so irresponsible, spoiled, and childish which is why it’s so hard for me to talk about because I can’t convey the way it feels to me inside. I prefer to spend my time alone in my apartment or with my boyfriend only and I don’t understand why it’s so hard for me to be around other people. My family growing up was very dysfunctional and my parents were verbally and sometimes physically abusive toward one another my entire childhood. I can still to this day vivdly remember some of their fights and the things I’ve heard them say and seen them do. As I’ve gotten older, I get preoccupied thinking back to those times and it bothers me more now that I can reflect back on it as an adult. I’m very hypervigilant and I’d say I’m in a state of fear or anticipating something bad about 75% of the time for no valid reason. I’ve been that way my entire life though, not just recently. I slept with my parents until I was 11 and I still have night terrors to this day, usually about myself being killed by a man. I just don’t understand how I was so fuctional as a teenager, but now as an adult I’m falling apart emotionally. I hate the way I am, it’s shameful and embarassing and the more I feel shameful, the harder it is for me to snap out of it.
Psychological problems are no more shameful and embarrassing than developing the flu or a toothache. You are not purposely causing your symptoms. You are doing your best to deal with your symptoms but you’re not a trained professional. Most people are not and thus can’t treat themselves.
You were doing great until about four years ago. Try to think back about what may have happened to trigger these problems. If you think about it, there’s probably something that caused a change. Identifying the trigger might provide important insight about what might be wrong.
As you already may recognize, untreated anxiety tends to become worse over time. That’s because people with anxiety disorders tend to inadvertently reinforce their anxiety. It’s called negative reinforcement. In your case, each time you avoid something because of your anxiety, you are inadvertently reinforcing your anxiety. This will cause the anxiety to increase in the future. Avoidance only makes the problem worse.
Highly effective treatments exist for the problems with which you are suffering. You should not hesitate to seek help. Mental health professionals are specifically trained to deal with anxiety and depression. Counseling and medication have both been shown to improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Finally, do your best to refrain from self-criticism. I highly doubt that if you had the flu or a toothache you would refer to yourself as yourself “irresponsible, spoiled or childish.” Mental health problems affect many people, including smart and successful people. Your continued self-criticism might make the process of seeking help more difficult for you. I hope that you make the wise decision to seek help because it is the correct way to deal with this problem. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle