Sunday, 22 February 2009

Social Anxiety (Finally making sense)

Would I be correct in assuming that social anxiety for most aspies isnt just a vanity issue or a fear of being ridiculed, but more of a fear of the unknown, as to us, reading new people and coming to terms with a new personality is like learning a brand new skill for each person, and the number of skills one mortal being can have is not infinate? From what I have read I believe fear of the unknown is very much enhanced for people with Aspergers Syndrome which may be an executive functioning/weak centeral coherence issue, which is why we like routines and order, hate random noise, and have special predictable interests. This is just another example of it.

I have known a friend all my life and I not nervous around him, we hardly even say hello to each other it is just straight into the topic of choice! I am lucky in a sense that he has a few autistic-like traits minus the inability to interact with people, for example special interests, empathy issues, needing space, self absorbed etc so he isnt too bothered about my weirdness, as he is 'outside the box' too (which is a compliment).

With alot of people I come across I seem to make enemies without even doing or saying anything. I think this adds to the anxiety as well, and can lead to self doubt, as I would always wonder what the hell it is about me that just scares people off. Through intellectualizing the process due to recent aquired knowledge, the answer to this is blinkingly obvious.

People who I dont see regularly, and strangers (this can even include family members) make me incredibly nervous, and this has been the case as far as my memory allows. In my childhood I saw virtually all of my extended family at least once a fortnight, obviously at school the teachers and kids are seen every day, so this problem would not be apparent back then, but as people move on and go their seperate ways, and as the social web becomes more complicated, the problems start to surface.

At least with people who see me regularly I am guessing that they know what to expect from me and vice versa. I am nervous when I am looked at not because I think they are looking down on me because of my appearence, (which I previously thought a few years ago as that was all I could think of, but it isnt the issue now especially as my conciousness has been raised towards Aspergers Syndrome) but more the fact I am just unable to react properly with my face and eyes for that particular person, or quick enough, and even worse react to their counter reaction etc and then it ends up in a big mess, and leaves me thinking as though 'thats another person ive blown it with'. Failing for so long to realise every person has their unique subtlety when communicating their personality will lead to confusion and as a result of this ongoing set of events, social anxiety tightens the grip. The long held belief/assumption that everyone thinks like I do has been proved to be incorrect.

The way I have interacted with people, sometimes not being too friendly because I havent understood the way I was supposed to communicate effectively with them and they didnt understand that I didnt understand so due to this situation occuring many times in my life, it has had a big influence on me. Now I have realised it is the shape of my face and the way I move my body that makes all the difference. A far cry of assuming people are weird because they move around in a funny way, which appeared different depending on the person.

Social tasks most people take for granted are difficult and take up excessive amounts of time during complex social situations. It is as though I have several small excessively positive and negative characteristics all bundled together in such a way to produce, well, me.

This is different to generalised social phobia as I am not scared of talking to people, it usually just depends on how often I see that person, the place, my train of thought, the time and atmosphere (noises, distractions etc) at the time of communication, plus the amount of pre rehearsed phrases and rote behaviour I have prepared in advance to sustain an ongoing interaction. If any of these factors are weakened, the anxiety is more intense leading to chain reaction which can result in mental exhaustion and a need to withdraw. At least with my friend withdrawal isnt necessary, complete silence for a while doesnt bother either of us, as far as I know.

I think this conclusion at least for me, destroys the possibility of avoidant personality disorder because although social anxiety is the prime subject, it is aquired through different means and is not always present, although obviously it is there often enough to sometimes become unbearable. Probably repeating what ive said on previous blogs, but it helps reinforce my assumption.

1 comment:

A said...

In some situations, I am comfortable - usually if I know when a certain thing is going to start and end, who will be there, and what we will do. If I know the people that will be there, then there's not much anxiety. If I don't know them, and think there is an expectation that I should be making a lot of small talk, then I probably will be anxious, but if I don't know them and don't think there's an expectation, then there isn't much anxiety again. I did think at some points in my past that it could be social anxiety that I have, but I realise that I don't have a general anxiety around social situations, only specific types.