Navigating the Medical System

Navigating the Medical System with Social Anxiety

Dealing with the medical system can be stressful even on a good day. Making appointments, getting referrals, wrangling with insurance companies over whether this prescription or that dosage is covered – it’s enough to make your head spin. If you suffer from social anxiety, these stressors become that much worse. This is a major problem, since it can lead to your anxiety actively interfering with your health.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this.

It might not always be easy, but like most of the challenges we face with social anxiety, it’s not insurmountable. The key is finding the right way for you to take on the unique situations you face in the medical system.

Making Appointments

One of the hardest parts of going to see a doctor is sometimes making the appointment in the first place. If you’re sick, you might worry that you’re not sick enough and it’s just going to be a wasted trip. If you’re concerned about something, then you might think the doctor won’t take it seriously. If it’s just a checkup, you can always wait until later, right? It’s easy to find reasons not to call the doctor’s office to set up an appointment.

If you have trouble making the call, try going by and making an appointment in person. This eliminates telephone anxiety and the receptionist will likely be very friendly and comforting. If the doctor’s office has a website, you may be able to schedule an appointment online, as well. If that’s not an option, consider getting a trusted friend or loved one to help you make the appointment.

This will not only get some of the pressure off you, it will also involve someone who can validate that your reason for going to the doctor is legitimate.

Finding a New Doctor

If you’re in a new area or can’t see your regular doctor for some reason, finding a new physician can be a major source of anxiety. We can turn to technology to help here, however. There are several places online that you can check out reviews for different practices. The reviews can alert you to which doctors are worth your time and which don’t leave patients with good experiences. If you have specific questions before making an appointment, in many cases you can even reach out via email.

It also may be worth asking your current doctors or other professionals for recommendations. You may even be able to get a referral, which will help you bridge the gap between your current doctor and the new doctor you must see.

Insurance Issues

Dealing with insurance companies is never fun and many times it must be done over the phone. It’s best to prepare for this before making the call by establishing as calm and quiet environment for yourself as possible.

Be prepared to be put on hold and take full advantage of the callback feature if it’s offered so you can just sit and wait for an agent to contact you. If you get your insurance through a local agency, you might also consider visiting in person instead of calling since you should be able to take care of a lot of issues face-to-face.

Making Your Voice Heard

Perhaps the biggest problem that social anxiety introduces into the medical system is the tendency to just stay quiet and go with the flow. Your anxiety might downplay problems you’re having or keep you from asking important questions. This can lead to potentially serious problems if symptoms go ignored or you can’t convey information to your doctors effectively.

Try writing things down beforehand. This will give you a quick reference to consult during your appointments. If necessary, you can even give your list to the doctor so you don’t have to read it. Your doctor will understand – more importantly, you’ll get the vital information across to him or her. Your anxiety can only control you if you let it. With a little work you can make sure you don’t let it.

The Power of the Word “No”

The Power of the Word “No”

Saying “No” isn’t easy. In fact, when you have social anxiety that simple little word can be all but overwhelming. You might think that the person you’re saying no to will hate you or will think you’re lazy or will assume you have something against them.

You may even find yourself compelled to give excuses or explain in detail why you had to say no. Sometimes you’ll even talk yourself into saying yes just to avoid the anxiety involved with the word no.

Saying No is Important

Above all else, remember that you have a right to say no. If someone wants something from you that you can’t give – be it money, time or anything else, it’s well within your rights to say no without any other explanation at all. They won’t hate you. Really. Of course, that’s easy to say – but how should you deal with it in the moment?

Commit Yourself

If you’re in a situation where you must say no, take a breath and remind yourself that it’s up to you what you do and don’t do. No one else is in control of your actions. It’s your decision and your decision is to say no. Kick out any thoughts that start with “But…” or “What if?” and tell yourself that you’ve made your decision.

Don’t wait too long before you give your answer; the longer you take, the longer you have to undermine your own confidence. Getting your answer out there is one of the hardest parts.

Stand by It

One big problem that many people with social anxiety have is a feeling of guilt when having to tell someone no. This is made worse if the person badgers you about it, asking you to reconsider and not accepting your answer. It’s important for your own well being that you stick with your decision, even in the face of repeated requests.

Explain that your answer is no and you’re not going to reconsider, then ask that they please stop. If the person refuses to honor your request, it may require putting some distance between the two of you.

Be Self-Positive

After you’ve put your answer out there, it’s important to remind yourself that you did the right thing. You may feel guilt, you may feel fear and you may feel your anxiety bubbling up, but it’s time to nip that in the bud. Tell yourself you made the right decision for yourself and you have nothing to feel bad about.

You don’t have to make excuses or try to justify things. Focus less on the “why” of it and more on the “right” of it so you don’t get lost in second-guessing your reasoning.

Sometimes you’ll still find yourself overcome when saying no, especially if what you were asked was something important. Even those without social anxiety struggle with saying no sometimes, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of here. The important thing is to cope with it when these feelings do rear their ugly head.

Think about what works in soothing your anxiety now. Perhaps it’s meditation, your favorite tea or a long walk. Just because the source of your anxiety is different doesn’t mean that your standby coping mechanisms won’t work. You may find that some things work better than others when dealing with anxiety from telling someone no.

It’s your right to say no when it’s the right answer for you.

Family Emergencies Shouldn’t Leave You Socially Confused

Family Emergencies Shouldn't Leave You Socially Confused

When something happens to someone in your family, it can be difficult, even in the best of times. In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote that “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” He described how the physical sensations associated with grieving and fear were so similar, including the fluttering you feel in your stomach and the restlessness that overcomes you. If you live with social anxiety, then the line between grief and fear becomes even more blurred.

Family can be an anchor when the world seems too turbulent, with years of trust and goodwill going a long way toward calming the storms you feel inside. That’s what makes it so difficult when someone that you’re close to is hurt, ill or otherwise in peril. Your anchor is ripped away, and you aren’t sure where to turn to get things back under control. It can be terrifying.

Family Hits Hard

Part of the problem with family emergencies is that you aren’t the only one affected by them. Your siblings, your parents and everyone else who was close to the family member in question are affected as well. This cuts you off from other potential sources of comfort, and surrounds you with people who may be looking for some comfort themselves. This will usually make things worse, since you’re still trying to find your way through what you’re feeling… you don’t have it in you to bear the burden of someone else’s grief as well. But it’s okay, because you don’t have to.

It’s Okay to Grieve

Close friends and family may be in shock or grieving, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what you’re going through. In fact, they may understand more now than they ever have before. If you need a break, just say so. No one is going to think less of you, no one is going to expect you to shoulder their burden. Just let people know that you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some time to yourself. They may be concerned about you, but you’ll find a lot of understanding as well.

Write a Letter

If a family member is in bad shape or passed away, your anxiety may make it difficult to work through the complex emotions that you’re feeling. You may feel that you don’t have anyone that you can talk to about it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get it out, though. Take the time to write a letter, separating yourself from everyone else to give yourself some privacy. Use a pencil and paper if you can, since the tactile sensation and sound of the pencil lead on the paper can be soothing.

Write out exactly what you’re feeling as though you were writing to the person you’re concerned about, and take as much time and space as you need. It doesn’t matter if you ramble or admit that you aren’t sure what to write about, just so long as you work on getting it out there.

Slow and Steady Progress

Loss and other family emergencies are very difficult, and it may seem as though nothing is going to be the same again. It’s important that you keep doing what you need to for yourself, though. If you’re on medication, keep taking it. If you see a therapist, keep attending your appointments.

Be honest with those who care about you, let them know that you’re still feeling overwhelmed and that you’ll update them as things change. Write more letters, or start keeping a journal. Just don’t give up on yourself. Each day, each conversation, each stroke of a pencil or pen is one small step closer to getting things back under control. Even if it takes time, those little steps will eventually get you where you need to go.

Finding the Light in the Dark Night of the Soul

Finding the Light in the Dark Night of the Soul

Tips for Suicide Prevention in People with Social Anxiety

Sometimes, the hardest part of life is just living it. When you’re living with social anxiety, however, it can seem like it’s too much to bear.

Dark moments can appear when you least expect them and you never know how long they’re going to last. During the darkest, you may even consider trying to take an easier way out just to get the pain to stop.

Thoughts about suicide can be terrifying, especially when they seem so overwhelming … it may seem like you simply have no other choice. There are ways to find help. Whatever you’re facing you can dealt with.

Treating Your Anxiety

A study reviewing data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found that 70 percent of respondents who reported a suicide attempt at some point in their life also suffered from an anxiety disorder. Treating your social anxiety can be a major step in preventing suicide.

There are several treatments available for social anxiety. Deciding which one is right for you is up to you and your doctor or mental health professional. The important thing is that you take that first step and seek treatment, then stick with the treatment you choose. Be honest with your doctor, since it can take some time to find the best treatment for your specific case; if something doesn’t seem to be working, let him or her know so that the two of you can make adjustments to your treatment regimen.

Someone to Confide In

When having suicidal thoughts, many believe it’s best not to talk about them because it will make others worry. You may think it’s a problem you can overcome on your own or that no one would understand the thoughts you’re having. You might be surprised at how understanding others can be, however. Talking about your feelings with someone else may reduce the likelihood of suicide.

Finding a friend to confide in can be difficult, especially if you have social anxiety; it’s hard enough to open up under normal circumstances. Make a list of people you trust and narrow that list down until you find the perfect candidate. If you have trouble discussing it in person, write it down in a letter, text or email.

Let the person know how important it is to you that you can trust them and tell them exactly what’s happening. If you’ve planned to kill yourself or have the means to do so, tell them this as well. It’s hard, but doing so might just save your life.

Call for Help

If you have no one to reach out to, there are suicide prevention hotlines that you can call 24 hours a day, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and several state, federal and organizational hotlines.

It can be very difficult to call and talk to a stranger, but if everything else has failed, it’s a very important call to make. Nobody on any of the hotlines is going to judge you – they’ll be glad you called and will offer you all the help possible. Allow them to talk you through it and don’t be afraid to mention your social anxiety if you feel overwhelmed by the conversation.

Take it one breath at a time and trust that someone who may have been in the same position can offer you whatever help you might need. You can do this.

Communicating with Anxiety

Communicating with Anxiety

Social anxiety can make a lot of seemingly easy things very difficult. Talking on the phone ranks high on the list of difficult tasks, in part because of the disconnect that exists when you can only hear the other party’s voice and not see their face or read their body language.

Some individuals with social anxiety struggle with using the phone, while others are completely unable to handle it. Fortunately, being able to use the phone isn’t nearly as essential as it used to be thanks to the accessibility of the Internet.

In our connected world, texting and messaging have replaced a lot of phone usage. Social media in general has eclipsed much of our communications and this can be seen as a positive of sorts for those who suffer from social anxiety. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some potential drawbacks to the growing use of social media and messaging apps for communication, though.

A Social Lubricant

Social anxiety makes it difficult to make connections. With social media, though, it’s easy: you click a button and all of a sudden you’re following someone or you’re on your way to being Facebook friends or you’ve made some other connection. It can be a struggle to make yourself click that button if the person you want to connect with isn’t expecting your request, but it’s still usually easier than initiating a conversation or otherwise making a real-world connection.

You don’t even have to start with a friend request or a follow to use social media as a social lubricant. Social media makes it easy to comment in an ongoing conversation without the awkward struggle of physically inserting yourself into the conversation.

Most social networking sites even give you the option of deleting a comment you’ve made if you decide that you want to take it back. Through social networking, it’s possible to become “friends” with people you know and those you don’t, both locally and around the world. Some of these online friendships can even become as real and intense as the real-world relationships those with social anxiety often struggle with.

A Safe Separation

Live communication can even be easier for those with social anxiety if a computer is involved. Streaming video chat by Skype or other media puts you front and center, but there’s still a separation – the person you’re talking to, while real, is still just a moving image on a screen. This creates enough of a disconnect to make communication easier for some, especially given the control they have over it. If things become too intense, it’s usually a simple matter to shut down the conversation or at least switch the conversation from streaming video to text chat.

This separation applies to all forms of social and modern media, not just streaming chat. Facebook, Twitter and similar sites are “safe” because the people you interact with appear as little more than words on a screen. While you may know some of your online friends in real life, the separation provided by digital media can help you avoid awkwardness when voicing your opinion. Even if your opinion is unpopular, you won’t have to discuss it face-to-face with other members of the conversation.

The Downside of Modern Media

The separation provided by social media and chat apps can have a profound effect on those with social anxiety, giving them an outlet to communicate freely without worrying about the judgment of their real-world peers. It can be freeing in many cases, allowing an individual to open up and connect with others in ways that never really seemed possible before. This can become isolating, however, especially when maintained as a primary means of communication over a long period of time. As with any isolation, this can have a negative impact on the individual’s mental health.

A study published in January 2016 found a significant association between social media use and increased instances of depression. The mechanism behind this association isn’t known at this time, although further study into the link is planned. It’s entirely possible that the isolation created by social media is a factor, however, as heavy social media use tends to have a dominating effect on the life of the user.

Care must be taken when using social media and other media options to facilitate communication. You certainly don’t want to lose yourself in that online world. Feel free to explore social media and other modern mediums as an alternate means of communication – just make sure you don’t let it take over your life.