Blank Mind - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-16-2007, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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Blank Mind

Does anybody else here have a "blank mind syndrome" where their mind goes nonstop on various subjects when alone, but when in the presence of a person/people and are required to interact, suddenly your mind goes completely blank?

I don't know how to cope with this when I talk to someone face to face. I can have a complete conversation with a person in my mind and come up with good questions to ask, but I can't remember any of them when is see them in real life. This makes it nearly implossible to carry on a conversation with some one at school, a friend, or even get through a therapy session without long awkward pauses.

So far the only trick I have to help me is to write out a script for phone conversations, and if it is a tech support related call I right down my name, address, phone number, and any relavent data that I normally have memorized because I'm likely to forget or stutter when giving out information.

Carrying around a notepad with "common conversation topics" and pulling it out when in social situations is not practical, so does anyone have suggestions one how not to appear to be a mindless zombie around people?
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post #2 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-16-2007, 09:28 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

I unfortunately don't have much advice to give, but I do know exactly what you mean. Your description of "blank mind syndrome" sounds like me exactly. I can never think of anything to say when I'm with another person, though when I'm alone I have a pretty active mind. I've also done things like write down my phone number and address before making a call that I knew would ask for them, just to be sure I didn't stutter when they asked.

The only thing I've found to help a bit is to basically try to guess what the other person will ask and come up with lots of possible responses/questions beforehand. I pretty much imagine myself having whatever encounter I'm preparing for and imagine all the things they might say and how I'd respond until I've had dozen of imaginary conversations with them and will hopefully have some "path" to follow no matter how the conversation goes. This works OK for meetings at work and other structured interactions, not so well in a social setting though.

I have heard something that seems to help in more informal social settings. I've seen it stated several ways, but the one I remember is from "How to Win Friends and Influence People." To paraphrase, "You can make more friends in a week by being genuinely interested in other people than you can in a year by trying to make other people interested in you." I'm not sure how well it works in forming long-term friendships, but it does help to keep conversation flowing. Just simple, non-profound questions about the other person seem to work OK. It also keeps the other person talking so you don't have to.

As far as not remembering what you've come up with beforehand, maybe you're trying to remember too much? For normal social encounters, I usually try to come up with 1-2 questions beforehand that I can ask the other person so they're easy to remember (though this only works for me when I already sort of know the other person. I'm not very good at conversations with total strangers).

Well, anyway, not sure that was much help. I do know exactly how you feel, though. I hope someday I figure out how to have normal conversations without so much preparation.
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post #3 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-16-2007, 09:59 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

god this could have been written by me. Just today I was trying to talk to someone and I just completely blanked on everything I wanted to say. I can see where I want to go in my mind, but something is stopping me from getting there - I get flustered and start to hear how stupid I sound and how little sense I'm making. It's embarrrrrrraaassssssiiiiiinnngggg.
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post #4 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-16-2007, 11:50 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

Originally Posted by matt404
I unfortunately don't have much advice to give, but I do know exactly what you mean.
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post #5 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-18-2007, 02:27 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

This is a problem I've always had too, ever since school days. And right now I have it, I read an interesting post, think of lots of things I'd like to say, hit the "reply" button and immediately draw a blank. Very frustrating! Its like I can't translate whats in my head into meaningful sentances.
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post #6 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 12:59 AM
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Re: Blank Mind

*interested in more responses.
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post #7 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 08:48 AM
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Re: Blank Mind

I jot down topics I want to discuss with people on the phone before calling sometimes so there will be no pregnant pauses. I also make notes of topics to discuss with people face-to-face as well. If something interesting happened to me and I think "x" number of people would like to hear it I will give the anecdote a title and list the names of people who might want to hear it and cross off their names after I tell them. That way I won't forget and tell the same story twice to someone. BTW, a friend caught me glancing at my "convo notes" in his presence once. Funny.

"If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world." -Syd Banks
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post #8 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 06:50 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

Yup a very common occurance. This especially happens to me when I'm in a classroom environment and there is a discussion going on. God forbid I get called on for input. Though I can usually come up with something now whereas when I was a kid I would just remain completely silent.

Also this "blank mind syndrome" occurs when I'm meeting someone for the first time.

What's interesting is when I am feeling strong emotions I don't have the blank mind problem. If I am angry, anxious (in a focused way) or happy it is much easier to throw off any timid feelings I might have.
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post #9 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 06:53 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

In my english course a couple of semsters back, the professor grouped us into 2 pairs (the worst kind of group ever). Anyways, we were reading a chapter together and asking each other questions about the chapter....I hadn't purchased my book yet so we shared and the whole time we were reading...all I can think was what the other guy was thinking of me. After reading the chapter...I was just silent lol and I dropped the class that night.

Also at work, when we are in conferences and brainstorming about how to solve a problem...I usually try to speak up of ways and as soon as I do....I can't get anything out and things start going blank and they stare at me and I start stuttering and it's a total mess. Some of the employees also I get the feeling they are laughing at me (at the stuttering lol). I learned to live with it though.
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post #10 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-26-2007, 07:33 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

I can really relate to this one. When I'm comfortable and in my own element, my mind goes and goes. When I have to have a convo with someone, I have a hard time getting thinking of anything useful to say.

I can really relate to forgetting things also. I like to be fully prepared for things before I go through with them. That is the only way I can feel really comfortable to go through with it. Otherwise, I'm stumbling over my words/thoughts.

"Riders on the storm; Into this house we're born; Into this world we're thrown. Like a dog without a bone; An actor out alone; Riders on the storm."
~ Jim Morrison ~
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post #11 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 09:29 AM
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Re: Blank Mind

I do this a lot. It's frustrating after realizing how much I could had contribute to the conversation. My suggestion would be to ask questions, which is one way of being invovled in the conversaton. I know we think that we have those interactive listening skills but just listening isn't enough.
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post #12 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 09:36 AM
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Re: Blank Mind

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post #13 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-27-2007, 11:30 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

Borrowed from ... geId=11751

Previous research has shown that anxiety can impair a person's ability to perform complex cognitive tasks, such as mathematical calculations or verbal tests, but it is not clear how. This study approaches the question from the perspective of cognitive psychology, focusing on the effects of anxiety on processing efficiency as well as performance effectiveness. In addition to laboratory experiments, the researchers examined how students with a range of anxiety levels coped with the real task of writing a compulsory coursework essay over a ten-week period. The findings have played an important role in the development of a new Attentional Control Theory, which argues that anxiety impairs the general attentional component of the working memory system, rather than the mechanisms involved in verbal or visual/spatial processing.

Key findings
  • In the first laboratory experiment, anxious students responded less quickly to secondary auditory stimuli whilst performing a main task, consistent with the notion that anxiety reduces available general attention resources. This suggests that the adverse effects of anxiety are greater on processing efficiency than performance effectiveness.[/*:m:14hphrbn]
  • The second laboratory experiment was designed to find out which components of Baddeley's working memory system were most affected by anxiety. The participants performed a complex visuo-spatial task at the same time as a series of secondary tasks, which required the use of different cognitive mechanisms (verbal, visuo-spatial or general attention). The results confirm that anxiety impairs the efficiency of the central attention mechanism, making it hard to perform two tasks that both use that component of working memory.[/*:m:14hphrbn]
  • The main emphasis of the third experiment was on examining performance efficiency and processing effectiveness in a real life academic situation. Students were required to write a coursework essay and to keep a diary of their working time and methods. There was no difference in the essay marks of participants with high or low anxiety scores, but the anxious students reported using less coherent and more disorganised work strategies. However, against prediction, there was no significant difference in the time spent on producing the work.[/*:m:14hphrbn]
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post #14 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-28-2007, 09:29 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

I think this is key to the cycle of SA. The 'mind blank' or freeze-response as I call it leads to social failure (i.e. people walking away from you at parties since you have no conversation). Social failure leads to low self-esteem, depression, loneliness, etc. Low self-esteem makes you more likely to freeze. Cycle continues.


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post #15 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-28-2007, 11:22 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

I know how not the freeze. Go into the microwave. Yep thats right. Go right into the darn diddly microwave.

This way you can mentally keep a visual thought within your brain head and it will allow you to overcome this natural freezing syndrome.

On certain occasions it may be necessary to take supplements to counteract the vitamin deficiency that occurs when using this method of mental substitution.
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post #16 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-29-2007, 04:22 AM
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Re: Blank Mind

Go into the microwave. Yep thats right. Go right into the darn diddly microwave.
Are you suggesting that people place their head within a microwave oven?
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post #17 of 117 (permalink) Old 10-29-2007, 06:58 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

"Can't cheat the mountain pilgrim. Mountains got it's own way"-Wil Geer{Jerimiah Johnson 1972)
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post #18 of 117 (permalink) Old 11-02-2007, 02:07 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

Here's a question if you were relaxed do you think the converstion would flow? The answer is, without a doubt, yes.
It's human nature to be distrusting of strangers so the feeling has a place and is there for a reason. Even perfectly normal, socially adjusted people have these same feelings, just not to the degree that S.A sufferers do. Just remember were only human you don't have to appear to be a superstar. We are all concerned about the same things so just relax.
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post #19 of 117 (permalink) Old 11-03-2007, 06:38 AM
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Re: Blank Mind

This is just like me. Of course after the moment has passed I can think of like ten things I could have said. My mind just goes blank and I can't pull anything out of it. Ugh.

Suffering in isolated silence...
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post #20 of 117 (permalink) Old 11-05-2007, 09:00 PM
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Re: Blank Mind

This totally happens to me after I've run out of things to ask someone.. and usually when I'm asking them I'm so busy thinking what my response is going to be and how I'm going to relate it to me so I can keep convo going that when it comes time for me to bring up a new subject I can't think of anything.. so I usually just ask more questions.. but I so badly want to be able to have that quick mind think on my feet kind of thing
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