Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Comments on fear of going to work

Ysbeth Wordsmith made the following comment on my post concerning fear of going to work::

Isn't one of the problems with social phobia a near-total lack of recognition and support from other people? That includes not just bosses but doctors (who should know better, but often don't). So you tell someone, and they mock you and say it's all in your head and you should just stop whining. Then you have to can that doctor and try to find another one who doesn't have his head up his ass. That can take a lot of extra time, money, and energy.
Yes, I agree that social phobia is an illness where understanding and support from other people seems sadly lacking. This also is complicated by the fact that the social phobic in general tends to be secretive about it and tells very few people if anyone. The result is often social isolation and a great feeling of loneliness. This can often turn into depression which then makes the psychological situation of the individual even worse. To that extent I think that the Internet can really help. There are any amount of forums out there where people like us who suffer from phobias can find people who really do understand. Also the fact that this kind of networking has a degree of anonymity helps. By that I mean it is probably easier to write and tell about your phobia than to sit, stare someone in the eye and talk about it. The latter would also increase the fears of rejection or being misunderstood.
The picture of how one shoudl be as an indiviual is often painted by the media and we should not underestimate that influence. Television to a large extent makes big money telling us how we should look, how we should dress, what we should eat, etc. But it also does the same in painting some imaginary picture of how we should behave - energetic, social,  outgoing. Phobics thus tend to suffer from a very weak self-esteem since many feel they do not live up to be what they should be. It does take some doing to rise above these fake clichees which we are fed, especially when we feel extremely vulnerable.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Fear of flying - a phobia or just plain common sense.

Perhaps I may seem to be playing the devil's advocate but I want ot try and determine in my own mind if there is a thin line between phobias and just a plain and rational fear of something. I wish to take the common example of fear of flying or fear of driving. Firstly, statistics would show that both activities can be dangerous. Planes do fall from the sky and cars do crash with horrific consequences. Logically I can be afraid of using such means of transport. Even within my life-time flying has become an everyday event for many people. Growing up as a boy in Ireland I imagined it as a once in a lifetime experience. Habit, social conditioning have taught us to treat flying as the most natural hting in the world - perhaps it isn't?
Let me take another example to show you what I mean. If I was afraid to go outside because I had a fear that an aircraft - like the actual one in the picture - woudl fall from the skies and kill me. I think we could all accept that this is a fairly irrational fear as the number of people actually struck by an aircraft crashing is very, very small and the chances of it happening are very, very small. There I would agree that this could be described as a phobia as it lacks rationality. Flying, on the other hand, seems to me a rational fear - should we call it a phobia?

Monday, 14 September 2009

Social phobia and fear of going to work

I just read a question of phobias which was sent to yahoo answers a couple of days ago by someone who is unemployed and has been placed to work in a charity shop. She explains how a few days ago she was so nervous about telling her superior she would be a little late in coming to work that she took the flight choice from the "fight or flight options" and did not call. Of course this did not solve the situation. She also has a terrible phobia of using the telephone which makes matters even worse.
From what I gather the person is also suffering from depression which is quite a natural result of the phobias. She was begging from someone to tell her what to do as she also did not attend an appointment with the employment services on the same day.
This is quite a normal situation for the phobic - who had not sought medical assistance and by the way only one in four do seek some sort of assistance with their phobias. I have the deepest sympathy with this person who feels trapped in the situation she finds herself but this is so typical of the social phobia situation in general. My advice, as always. Stop making a secret of the phobic condition and seek medical aid  i.e. go and see your doctor and just tell the plain truth - it is as simple as that. I know this will fill you with fears of feeling stupid or abnormal or whatever and you will fear what the doctors thinks of you. While this is the typical feeling, it is wrong and you will be very pleasantly surprised by how your doctor reacts and even better, he can help you with some light medical which will make a great difference to how you feel.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Social phobia - it is not as simple as that.

While many believe that the actual symtpoms of social phobia are fairly generic and can be basically seen as a fear of people and a fear of inter-action with people resulting in avoidance tactics, we sometimes forget that such symptoms can take on forms that are difficult to explain. Let me give you one example of a married couple, both successful in their careers - she in spite of suffering from social phobia. One of her greatest fears is not acting correctly around her husband's superiors and she is so afraid of this that she simply avoids such situations.
Since she has not confided in her husband that she suffers from her condition, rather than admit it she just pretends when their is any sort of social meeting with his superiors that she forgot and has arranged something else important work related for herself. Of course this may be acceptable once or even twice but when it starts to re-occur the husband becomes upset.
He sees his as wife as irresponsible or uninterested in his career as she simply avoids any social contact but does nto realise that the underlying reason is a phobia. I give this example as what we would not always consider to be a symptom of a social phobia can be easily misinterpreted.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The Linden Method - success or failure for social anxiety?

Recently I have been reading a lot of reviews on the Internet on the "Linden Method" as a possible cure for social anxieties and social phobias. The inventor of this therapy, Charles Linden, apparently suffered from panic attacks very frequently and eventually decided to do his owned research into the issue.
I have never tried the Linden Method so I am unable personally to formulate an opinion on it. Apparently the therapy focuses on the Amygdala part of the brain, an almond shape area which apparently is responsible for producing te chemicals which result in fear and anxiety in the human body. The first thing I do when reading of about new therapies is to look for reviews on the Internet although this can sometimes be deceptive as many quacks will spend lots of time gettings others or themselves to post positive reviews on web sites and forums in order to convince people to go for the therapy. I would be grateful if any of you reading this who have tried the Linden Method would leave your comments as I would be very interested in learning more about this approach to overcoming social phobia and anxiety.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Great response by Ysabeth to the question: can I stop working because of my social phobia:

Ysabeth responds:
"I think the important question is not "CAN you stop working?" but "SHOULD you stop working?" Let's consider some aspects of this decision.

1) A doctor (or counselor) is a useful *resource* but should be giving you advice, not orders. YOU are responsible for your own life and so you should make the decisions, taking into consideration the best information and advice possible. (People who aren't able to make sound decisions are usually in need of a hospital stay.)

2) If you're asking yourself whether you can or should continue working, then that indicates you have a serious problem. So whatever you decide about work, you should definitely seek help with your anxiety issues. Chances are you need some new skills in your head; and there may be physical, spiritual, or other aspects needing attention as well. Do not simply quit working and use your anxiety as an excuse to sit on your arse doing nothing forever. That way lies misery.

3) Explore, and actually list if you can, the practical ("My boss has complained that I am not doing my assigned tasks.") and emotional ("ZOMG I CAN'T DO THIS!") and financial ("I have some money saved, but it won't last forever.") reasons for and against stopping work.

4) Ask yourself some questions, such as:
* Have you had to stop one or more tasks due to anxiety issues? How many, how often?
* Does your social phobia make your coworkers, boss, clients, etc. uncomfortable around you?
* Is your social phobia bad all the time, or does it come in cycles?
* Do you feel that your job is making your anxiety worse? That is, can you point to things (an abusive supervisor, sexual harassment, short deadlines) that specifically make you miserable; such that you might do better in a different job? And do you feel calmer when you are not at work, including when you are with different people?
* Does it seem like you are simply overloaded, such that you get better when you have some time to relax and get more sleep?
* Has anyone else suggested that you stop working, temporarily or permanently, or switch jobs? Do you agree or disagree?

5) If your anxiety issues are impacting your work enough that there is a real risk of getting fired, then seriously consider taking a leave of absence or resigning before that happens. Getting fired for cause almost always makes it harder to get another job. However, check with your company first because some make counseling available to employees who need it.

6) As a possible alternative to leaving the workforce, temporarily or permanently, consider switching jobs or even careers. Some people find a particular field really stressful but are fine when they change to one that suits them. If your job is crushing or unsatisfying or terrifying, that's not good for anyone! Spend some time exploring whether there is some other kind of job you would enjoy and do well.

7) Avoid making permanent, long-term decisions like "I'm going to quit my job and never work again!" at this time. If you're so strung out with anxiety that you're thinking about stopping work, then you're not in a suitable frame of mind for making important decisions. Instead try to focus on short-term things like getting help or discussing your job situation with a counselor if you already have one, and maybe taking a brief leave of absence. That may put you in a better state of mind for considering your long-term plans."

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Can I stop working because of my social phobia?

This was a question asked by one fo our readers this week. And it is a question which is not so easy to asnwer. Firstly, do you mean can I stop working for ever because of my social phobia. Basically, anyone can stop working whenever they want but they might have trouble finding the means ot live. If the question is intended in the sense of is this a medical reason to stop work, my inital answer would be no.
Firstly, it is the decison of a medial doctor if you are fit for work or not. If a doctor thought would phobia was so severe when he/she would likely stop you from working for a limited period while you were undergoing treatment.
It is highly unlikely that a doctor would decide that on account of social phobia you would never be able to work again. And actually I think it is wrnog that you assume you want to stop working. I can understand your situation but would your goal not be rather to overcome your social phobia and continue working rather than just giving up right away and saying I never want to work again.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tunnel phobia in Norway

It is interesting when - as is seldom the case - phobias gain some sort of media notoriety for one reason or another. This was the case with the island of Hitra in Norway which was served by a ferry from the Norwegian mainland. All was fine and good strangely enough in that there were no complaints from the islanders about experiencing phobias on board the ferries. Then the Norwegian government decided to build a tunnel to connect the island of Hitra with the mainland. But this was no ordinary tunnel, this was the deepest and one of the longest tunnels in the world. In fact the tunnel was 264 meters below sea level and had an overall length of 5.6 kilometers. So as a result the islanders were forced to use the tunnel to cross over to mainland Norway.
Some 18 people living on the island complained of having anxiety and panic attacks when using the tunnel so the Norwegian authorities set up a special programme to try and remedy the disorder. it was based on cognitive bahvioural therapy and gradual exposure of the individuals to the tunnel situation.
The programme reports that at the conclusion all 18 taking part were able to drive through the tunnel on their own without experiencing panic or anxiety. You will find more information on the cognitive behavioural therapy for phobias here.