Does the dog…er, the loner…really want outside? Loss of focus and connection with inner self.

This piece by Mister A neatly captures the pain of those who find no respite at home or outdoors, due to their natural need for and their great difficulties with social interaction. First published by the author on his site, Mister A’s domain.


As I was sitting here alone on this holiday and contemplating the perils of my current and future existence more, a parallel with some of our four-legged friends hit me.

You know the type of dog that seems like he can’t make up his mind about wanting outside at the moment? Ignore his pleas to go out, and they only become more persistent. Ignore his pleas to come back in after two minutes, and they’ll become just as persistent too.

Rinse and repeat at various times throughout the day.

What’s likely going through the pup’s mind? Antsy energy. A lack of focus on what to do with himself. An inability to be content with whatever environment he’s currently in.

Regardless of whether he’s in or out.

And when you think about it, it’s similar to how we loners feel and act. We know that getting out in the world some is what we need (and that staying in the house stewing about our existence is not healthy). But what happens when we do go outside?

We’re “that” dog. Antsy, restless, feeling sapped of the energy and focus to do much. With a certain amount of social anxiety usually mixed in (in doses anywhere from very minor in my case to quite problematic for some people).

So then what do we do? Like that pup, we find ourselves quickly wishing we were right back inside. And often end up turning around and returning to the sliding glass door before long.

Trapped in our own minds, bodies, and uncomfortable place in the world.

Regardless of whether we’re human or canine.

by Mister A, Mister A’s domain, 5 July 2021.

Early Gentian (Dynamic Dunescapes, Creative Commons)

Social anxiety news and stories round-up

“Taking LSD granted me a temporary lift off my anxiety, which, unfortunately, was chemically induced. I hoped that I would somehow be able to take those benefits into sober life by being in that anxiety-less state as often as I could manage to do so. I also noticed a great increase in my openness and creativity. I was enjoying music like I never had before and drew for hours on end. But it didn’t take long for the negative side effects of my consumption to manifest themselves.”

An insightful and inspiring interview with Vietnamese American mental health activist and travel blogger, Meggie Tran: “My organization, a travel and mental health blog called Mindful Meggie, normalizes the discussion about mental health and its illnesses. Being open about them is the antidote to the negative stigma. I hope that people will be encouraged to acknowledge their mental health struggles, seek help from a medical professional when necessary, and open up to supportive family and friends.

The travel aspect is there to liven up the discussion with fun and relatable content. (After all, lots of people love to travel, or at least, read travel stories). Many of my nonfiction narratives discuss both mental health and travel. I also have practical resources for travelers with a mental health condition, which equalizes the opportunity to travel.

I strive to make my Vietnamese American voice heard. That way, I can invite and empower fellow Asians in the travel and mental health fields, both of which are still not quite there yet in terms of racial and cultural inclusivity.”

On work commitments and health: “Here’s the thing – there are positives to where I work. I work part-time and mostly from home; I set my own schedule; I can take time off for illness or family emergencies whenever I need too without feeling any guilt; and I don’t have anyone breathing down my neck or micromanaging everything I do. It’s these things that make me stay. It’s about balance and what it important to me at this stage of my life. With my anxieties and health and family issues, the work environment and flexibility are more important to me than not being able to do my job the way I know it should be done. All I can do is do the best I can with what I am given, and of course keep good notes on the side. I don’t think I could handle a fulltime corporate job anymore, especially since it would pay less for more work.”

Reflecting on anger and emotional self-control: “One of the ways I’m still growing is in regard to my anger. It’s better than it was but it is still there, bubbling away just beneath the surface, raging into a fire when I’m not doing well. Sometimes, it flares so strongly that I become violent – not toward other people or living things, but still violent.”

News articles

“Social anxiety and depression symptoms were positively associated with participants’ extent of dating app use, and symptoms of psychopathology and gender interacted to predict various dating app use motivations.

Symptoms of social anxiety and depression predicted a lower likelihood of initiating contact with a dating app match among men but not women.”

“For the study, researchers from The Ohio State University and the University of Oregon set out to learn whether identifying with a fictional character is connected with the brain activity that occurs when a person thinks about themselves.”

“Individuals have conveyed that this trait identification allowed them to experience a greater level of self-confidence and self-compassion,” says Dr. Magavi. “For example, I evaluated a young man who identified with [“Game of Thrones” character] Samwell Tarly, as he similarly felt ostracized by society and his family. When Samwell Tarly found his calling and helped his friends, he was so touched that he found the courage to apply for a job, despite his debilitating social anxiety.”

“Stress hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine flood your body, which can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and the blood flow to the muscles in your arms and legs. All of these can cause you to start shaking.”

“By strategic experiment I mean doing something to test your assumptions about how others react to you. Your goal in conducting an experiment is to obtain new facts, data, information about how others see you to begin constructing a new, more realistic image of yourself – – NOW – – to counteract the old, negative self-impression stored in your memory from THEN.”

“A study out of China published in April found that 10.8% of people met the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning to work. Following personal protective measures, like wearing face masks, reduced psychiatric symptoms and made people feel more confident. It also helped when workplaces listened to employees concerns and increased workplace hygiene.”

“Curb the urge to seek reassurance from others that you are doing the right thing,” Shannon wrote. “Getting reassurance reinforces the belief that if we do everything right, we will avoid criticism. True confidence comes from allowing for mistakes and accepting that we cannot please everyone.”

“I began smiling at strangers when I went out in public and noticed how relaxed I was when I got home. In my mind, I was smiling as a way to tell people I was non-threatening, kind, maybe even a cool person to know. Lo and behold, seeing their smile in return eased my own mind; quelling my anxiety. I became confident going places solo. I could smile at a stranger at the grocery store and the incessant buzzing in my head would quiet down. I started traveling to different countries on both solo and group trips. Smiling at strangers made me more confident and safe. It was every kind of reassurance I needed.”

Research

“Results suggest that distractor stimuli that are either threatening or faces impair performance of high SA participants. Results demonstrate a hypervigilance for threatening faces in SA but indicate that this happens primarily when cognitive resources are available, that is, under low perceptual load.”

  • From scanners to cell-phones: Neural and real-world responses to social evaluation in adolescent girls Stefanie L. Sequeira, Jennifer S. Silk, Elizabeth A. Edershile, Neil P. Jones, Jamie L. Hanson, Erika E. Forbes, Cecile D. Ladouceur – Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Oxford University Press https://watermark.silverchair.com/nsab038.pdf

“As hypothesized, associations were found between reactivity to perceived social threat in daily life and neural activity in threat-related brain regions, including the left amygdala and bilateral insula, to peer rejection relative to a control condition. Daily life reactivity to perceived social threat was also related to functional connectivity between the left amygdala and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex during rejection feedback. Unexpectedly, daily life social threat reactivity was also related to heightened amygdala and insula activation to peer acceptance relative to a control condition. Findings may inform key brain-behavior associations supporting sensitivity to social evaluation in adolescence.”

A 2015 publication considering role of obesity, body esteem and social anxiety: “The structural equation modelling displayed that obese individuals with sedentary behaviour and poor body esteem were more likely to show social anxiety. Body esteem partially mediated between sedentary behaviour and social anxiety. Our results highlight the role of sedentary behaviour and body esteem as promising avenues for reducing social anxiety in obese individuals.”

2016 study: “These findings indicate that single dose testosterone administration can alleviate gaze avoidance in SAD. They support theories on the dominance enhancing effects of testosterone and extend those by showing that effects are particularly strong in individuals featured by socially submissive behavior. The finding that this core characteristic of SAD can be directly influenced by single dose testosterone administration calls for future inquiry into the clinical utility of testosterone in the treatment of SAD.”

“Results confirmed that self-reported emotional tendencies of social anxiety and psychopathy Factor I (interpersonal-affective deficit) correlated negatively, but self-reported behavioral tendencies (social avoidance and psychopathy Factor II [impulsive behavior]) correlated positively. Furthermore, Structural Equation Modelling demonstrated that participants with higher social anxiety and higher cortisol levels showed an avoidance tendency towards happy faces, while participants with higher psychopathic traits showed an approach tendency towards angry faces. In sum, the notion that social anxiety and psychopathic traits are opposing ends of one dimension was supported only in terms of self-reported emotional experiences, but a comparable relationship with regard to behavioral and endocrinological aspects is debatable. The current findings stress the necessity to study emotional, endocrinological and behavioral factors in unison in order to better understand the shared and distinctive mechanisms of social anxiety and psychopathic traits.

  • Cognitive therapy compared with CBT for social anxiety disorder in adolescents: a feasibility study Cathy Creswell, Eleanor Leigh, Michael Larkin, Gareth Stephens, Mara Violato, Emma Brooks, Samantha Pearcey, Lucy Taylor, Paul Stallard, Polly Waite, Shirley Reynolds, Gordon Taylor, Emma Warnock-Parkes, David M Clark, Health Technol Assess 2021 Mar;25(20):1-94 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33759742/

“Objectives: To train child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) therapists to deliver cognitive therapy for SAD in adolescents (CT-SAD-A) and assess therapist competence. To estimate the costs to the NHS of training therapists to deliver CT-SAD-A and the mean cost per adolescent treated. To examine the feasibility of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to compare CT-SAD-A with the general form of cognitive-behavioural therapy that is more commonly used.”

“If empathy is impaired in socially anxious individuals, appropriate emotional reaction to and interpretation of social cues is hampered. This in turn, might negatively impact social interactions thus reinforcing the socially anxious individual’s fear of acting inappropriately. An alternative line of reasoning might be that being unable to correctly infer the other persons’ emotional state provokes uncertainty and anxiety in social interactions (Hezel & McNally, 2014), thus fostering fear in and avoidance of social interactions. Altered empathic functioning might thus play a role in both the development and maintenance of SAD.”

Seasonal work in Europe – a young worker with social anxiety symptoms shares her passion

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Howth by Hanna* ©

25-year old Hanna* has just returned to her au pair job in Ireland having spent Christmas with her family in Hungary. She has been working in Ireland since early 2019 and spoke to me about her experiences of seasonal and fixed term jobs in different European countries. She has not been diagnosed with social anxiety but considers herself socially anxious.

I work for a family like au pair (minding kids, doing housework etc.). This is my first time working like au pair. My duties are cleaning the house, mind kids, cooking meals, doing the laundry. That’s a pretty tiring job, especially minding 4 kids but the family is very friendly. I like it so far. 

In my current job I work 9 hours per day, I have 2.5 hour lunch break and my weekends are free but some Sunday I have to babysit a few hours. Very tiring job but anyway not that stressful. They are nice but the kids are crazy :_D Sometimes I really stressed out because of them…but you know one day I will go home and don’t give a shit about them anymore 😀

Sometimes it’s really uncomfortable (having meals with the family).. but I got used with it. I’m very bad at small talk so I just try to answer shortly and close it down xD I more like to eat alone. (When talking to people) I feel nervous and sometimes I talk stupid things or just forget the words what I wanted to say.

I don’t like to go to crowded places but it’s getting easier with time. For me practise helped a lot, I interacted more and more with people so after a while it wasn’t that bad. But if I spend a lot of time alone it’s hard again. I had sleepless nights too 😀 I always have. Sometimes it’s really hard…. I could sleep only with sleeping pills.

I don’t think I’m a strong character I’m just able to adapt to most of the situations. After a while I get used with things. I try to solve it alone (social anxiety).

I had to be learn how to be capable under pressure…

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Image by Hanna* ©

When I was in High School I didn’t really think about it (working abroad). I started to learn cosmetology so I needed practise in it. I’ve seen how bad are the Hungarian payments so I decided I will try to get a job abroad. I always loved traveling anyway.

I was 21 years old (when I first worked abroad). I’ve got a job in a restaurant like bartender and I also had to prepare food like cutting fruits, cakes etc. At first it was very scary, this restaurant was a very busy place most of the time but we had so much to do that I was more tired than anxious. Living with strangers wasn’t a big deal because I had my own room so I could spend some time alone. 

I worked usually 9 hours (per day, in catering roles) but sometimes I had to do overtime what usually wasn’t paid at all. It was told that we have to stay (as long as) we having guests but we got the same money in the end of the month. I had 1 day off. 

I had to learn how to be capable under pressure but at first it was really hard to work like this. That’s not a surprise why some hotel/restaurant looking for workers all the time. People spend there working some months and they’ve enough 😀 

My boss was an idiot again (in my last job, as a cleaner and receptionist in a hotel in Switzerland) but I getting used with it.. it’s always the same. When a workplace was really bad I just quit. 

I like traveling itself and discover a new country

I worked like receptionist in Norway, but I only had to work in the reception in the mornings then I cleaned the rooms. I didn’t have fix hours, it depended on how busy was the hotel but I worked maximum 8 hours per day and sometimes I had even 2 or 3 freedays.

My workmates (there) was the best, they were kind, sometimes we watched movies together or went to car trip. I don’t like parties I rather go hiking or watch a movie at home. I made some (friends) but I don’t really keep contact with all of them. It feels like we were connected because of the same job and after a while we don’t have any common themes anymore.

I have some friend in Hungary. When I’m at home we usually meet and go somewhere but anyway we keep contact on Facebook. 

I gonna stay in my country (after the au pair contract in Ireland ends this year) for a while just to relax after it so I don’t think I gonna apply for anything. 

I have a long list about countries what I want to visit. I like traveling itself and discover a new country. I visited some really nice place (in Ireland) like Howth, Tick nock, Enniskerry, Drogheda etc. (When travelling), I try to avoid dangerous situations. Always having a map with me so I won’t lost in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately never had any bad situations, I think it’s not only about how do you prepare (there are things what you can’t be prepared of) but maybe about luck as well.

For me the most important is to get meal and accommodation where I work because anyway a lot of money would go on them. Then I check the tasks if I having any experience in them. Then the payment.

*The interview with Hanna (not her real name) was conducted online during December 2019 and January 2020.

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Poolbeg by Hanna* ©

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Dublin Mountains by Hanna* ©