Exposure doesnt work for me. - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 04:54 AM Thread Starter
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Exposure doesnt work for me.


So I thought, well the only way to fight your fears is by facing them right?

Well my whole life has been an exposure, and recently ive done tons of presentations and others stuff but at the end Im always back at square one

Im 19 atm but im on the verge of depression, I feel bad for those who had to endure with social anxiety up until their 30s-40s. Its like im living in hell.


sorry for being pessimistic, but its very hard to be optimistic with social anxiety (near impossible)


Quick vent thanks
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 10:19 AM
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well you did the presentations and other exposure even if you dont feel good about it or feel like it changed your anxiety. that proves you can do **** if you need to.

you dont really have to think about the future as it doesnt really exist.

although yes, these things do generally suck. anxiety curses and trump and climate crisis and covid-19 and the apocalypse. it's all pretty depressing. the happy people arent any better than the depressed people. definitely not!

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. ― Mother Teresa
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 10:36 AM
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Haphazardly running into your fears by having to do tons of presentations is exposure, but isn't exposure therapy. A therapist calibrates each exposure to gradually build it up, gives you tools to deal with it and guides you through the process.

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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul View Post
Haphazardly running into your fears by having to do tons of presentations is exposure, but isn't exposure therapy. A therapist calibrates each exposure to gradually build it up, gives you tools to deal with it and guides you through the process.
This, for sure.

I mean, you absolutely can get there without graduated exposure, but you would need to hammer a presentation pretty frequently, say a couple of times a week. But its definitely kinder, and less stressful to do graduated exposure, plus, you get less troublesome thoughts and self-criticism and emotions if you are gradually doing exposure.

Plus, you get the therapist there to deal with this stuff.

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well you did the presentations and other exposure even if you dont feel good about it or feel like it changed your anxiety.
And this too.

@Shadow123 A reduction in anxiety is ideal, but it isn't guaranteed. What if, at the end of the day, after trying every therapy you are left with having to tolerate higher levels of anxiety than other people? Well, that might be the reality you have, and then it seems you either have to do the stuff you want and experience the anxiety or don't experience the anxiety and avoid the stuff you want to do. There isn't too much of a choice in my opinion (though in my own case I chose avoidance for a very long time).

For me, personally, the goal here isn't to be rid of anxiety, its to do the things I want to do, and to live the life I want to live. If I must be anxious while I do these things, then that is my reality and wishing it away, or believing it to be unfair just gives me a reason to avoid.

I have found there is a paradox here (I think its a paradox anyway hah).. The more accepting of my anxiety I am, the more I am able to actually welcome it, give a space for it in my body (an ACT technique), the more I invite it, the less it bothers me. It goes quicker, but it also is less intense. But the paradox is, the more my goal is "getting rid of anxiety" the more anxious I am. The fight is what fuels it all.

And finally (hope this isn't too weird) an interesting perspective change can be to congratulate yourself for having the strength to do these presentations anyway. Anxiety can be like a gym you carry around with you in order to build your strength and courage. Gradual exposure can be seen not as trying to eliminate an uncomfortable feeling, but as training in order to develop the positive traits and values. You are young. Instead of seeing someone in their 30s or 40s struggling in pain, see someone who has been able to tolerate this level of discomfort, and move their life forwards in the way they want anyway. Such a person isn't someone to be pitied, its someone who is to be admired.

Compassion focused therapy audio, guided meditations:

https://balancedminds.com/audio/

Last edited by SplendidBob; 10-07-2020 at 01:17 PM. Reason: Not kind enough
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 01:24 PM
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Even seeing the word "presentation" gives me the heeby-jeebies. God I hate them.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 07:22 PM Thread Starter
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Haphazardly running into your fears by having to do tons of presentations is exposure, but isn't exposure therapy. A therapist calibrates each exposure to gradually build it up, gives you tools to deal with it and guides you through the process.
True I think I maybe went on the higher end of the scale lol.
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 08:00 PM
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So I thought, well the only way to fight your fears is by facing them right?

Well my whole life has been an exposure, and recently ive done tons of presentations and others stuff but at the end Im always back at square one

Im 19 atm but im on the verge of depression, I feel bad for those who had to endure with social anxiety up until their 30s-40s. Its like im living in hell.

Great job getting through your presentations and facing your fears.

People who dont have anxiety like to make it sound so easy that you just simply face your fears and your cured. Dosent work that way. You showed courage getting through it and you know if the situation comes up again where you have to give a presentations that you can get through it. Lot of people run away from the situation or never try. Ive been guilty of that. So great job.

I think exposure therapy helps but wont rid you of all your anxiety. It makes it so you can survive the experience.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 11:19 PM Thread Starter
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Great job getting through your presentations and facing your fears.

People who dont have anxiety like to make it sound so easy that you just simply face your fears and your cured. Dosent work that way. You showed courage getting through it and you know if the situation comes up again where you have to give a presentations that you can get through it. Lot of people run away from the situation or never try. Ive been guilty of that. So great job.

I think exposure therapy helps but wont rid you of all your anxiety. It makes it so you can survive the experience.
I agree. No one can get rid of anxiety 100%. but desensitization should help the least to make it more manageable. (unless I get lobotomy lol)(jk)
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 11:21 PM Thread Starter
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Even seeing the word "presentation" gives me the heeby-jeebies. God I hate them.
Depends, if im feeling very up in my mood I could do a presentation quite well
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-07-2020, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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This, for sure.

I mean, you absolutely can get there without graduated exposure, but you would need to hammer a presentation pretty frequently, say a couple of times a week. But its definitely kinder, and less stressful to do graduated exposure, plus, you get less troublesome thoughts and self-criticism and emotions if you are gradually doing exposure.

Plus, you get the therapist there to deal with this stuff.



And this too.

@Shadow123 A reduction in anxiety is ideal, but it isn't guaranteed. What if, at the end of the day, after trying every therapy you are left with having to tolerate higher levels of anxiety than other people? Well, that might be the reality you have, and then it seems you either have to do the stuff you want and experience the anxiety or don't experience the anxiety and avoid the stuff you want to do. There isn't too much of a choice in my opinion (though in my own case I chose avoidance for a very long time).

For me, personally, the goal here isn't to be rid of anxiety, its to do the things I want to do, and to live the life I want to live. If I must be anxious while I do these things, then that is my reality and wishing it away, or believing it to be unfair just gives me a reason to avoid.

I have found there is a paradox here (I think its a paradox anyway hah).. The more accepting of my anxiety I am, the more I am able to actually welcome it, give a space for it in my body (an ACT technique), the more I invite it, the less it bothers me. It goes quicker, but it also is less intense. But the paradox is, the more my goal is "getting rid of anxiety" the more anxious I am. The fight is what fuels it all.

And finally (hope this isn't too weird) an interesting perspective change can be to congratulate yourself for having the strength to do these presentations anyway. Anxiety can be like a gym you carry around with you in order to build your strength and courage. Gradual exposure can be seen not as trying to eliminate an uncomfortable feeling, but as training in order to develop the positive traits and values. You are young. Instead of seeing someone in their 30s or 40s struggling in pain, see someone who has been able to tolerate this level of discomfort, and move their life forwards in the way they want anyway. Such a person isn't someone to be pitied, its someone who is to be admired.
Anxiety exisits on a spectrum. I would say lots of people have mild anxiety (unless they are a sociopath). I do accept my anxiety, I am not tryin to get rid of it, I am just trying to make it more manageable if that make sense.

In regards to the bolded statement, honestly it doesnt sound like I have much of a choice.

I like the ACT thingy, very interesting.

Very neat info thanks.

Its good to know that I am not the only one suffering from this
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2020, 04:50 AM
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Anxiety exisits on a spectrum. I would say lots of people have mild anxiety (unless they are a sociopath). I do accept my anxiety, I am not tryin to get rid of it, I am just trying to make it more manageable if that make sense.
Exactly this. There is a difference between social anxiety, and social anxiety disorder. The disorder is when normal social anxiety starts interfering with the individual's life. What this actually means, I think, is the individual takes it on as an identity, as an illness, and starts to avoid (which leads to move avoidance, and more problems). I try therefore on here to push back a little bit in the other direction, to remind people that actually social anxiety is normal, and the goal isn't to actually defeat it, because nobody has defeated it. It's something to live with.

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In regards to the bolded statement, honestly it doesnt sound like I have much of a choice.
It really isn't. I took the other choice and it took me out of life for 20 years. I am only now recovering.

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I like the ACT thingy, very interesting.
It's a different perspective, and it does give some tools to help you cope (cognitive defusion) it can come across as "just man up", but its not that at all . It's more "stop fighting, and just move in the direction you want anyway" - its relaxing into something, rather than gritting your teeth and forcing things.

Manageable is the goal, and with this stuff, what you find is there is a huge amount of anxiety that comes from the fight, from the resistance, from the self criticism and so on. Its like if anxiety gives you 5/10 discomfort, the fight, the self-criticism, and the quest to eradicate it turn it into 8/10. (the anxiety is the "clean" harm, the fight is the "dirty" harm). Also includes the disruption to your life when you start avoiding.

But you aren't avoiding, you are doing, so I would try to see yourself as a strong person who is just carrying a bit of a heavier load than most. Something to be proud of, even if others cant see it.

Keep going!

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Very neat info thanks.
No worries

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Its good to know that I am not the only one suffering from this
So many people are.

Compassion focused therapy audio, guided meditations:

https://balancedminds.com/audio/
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2020, 07:01 AM
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Going through high-stress situations made me resort to unhealthy coping methods and left me with memories I'd rather not have. I can honestly say my life would have turned out better if I'd avoided the responsibility and found something else to do with my life instead of feeling compelled to put myself through the wringer time and again until I just crashed completely. But I'm sure it varies a lot between individuals.
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2020, 08:14 AM
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Going through high-stress situations made me resort to unhealthy coping methods and left me with memories I'd rather not have. I can honestly say my life would have turned out better if I'd avoided the responsibility and found something else to do with my life instead of feeling compelled to put myself through the wringer time and again until I just crashed completely.
Very good point. If your using coping methods such as drinking or doing drugs which a lot of people with SA do to lower their anxiety it can lead to a even worse outcome. Alcohol may reduce your anxiety but leads to its own problems. I know this myself
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2020, 08:26 AM
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Best example of exposure therapy and the debate as to whether it works well or not. Guy goes up to like 100 women in a day and asks them out. Gets rejected by pretty much all of them. Does this destroy his fear of rejection or just destroy his self confidence instead?
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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2020, 01:54 PM
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Best example of exposure therapy and the debate as to whether it works well or not. Guy goes up to like 100 women in a day and asks them out. Gets rejected by pretty much all of them. Does this destroy his fear of rejection or just destroy his self confidence instead?
https://youtu.be/-vZXgApsPCQ

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post #16 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2020, 04:13 PM
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Going through high-stress situations made me resort to unhealthy coping methods and left me with memories I'd rather not have. I can honestly say my life would have turned out better if I'd avoided the responsibility and found something else to do with my life instead of feeling compelled to put myself through the wringer time and again until I just crashed completely. But I'm sure it varies a lot between individuals.
Its brutal, and I am sorry you crashed. I have definitely got examples from my past where I pushed too far and ended up basically retraumatising myself. One such event basically destroyed a potential career for me!

The way I look at exposure now is like going to the gym. I very carefully progressively overload. Each week I try to do more. But only a little bit. My body and mind need to adapt. If I do too much if I ramp up volume or weight, I snap my **** up, or I get CNS fatigue, or it backfires, or in the case of exposure, I induce trauma and backslide.

My old psychologist got me to draw 3 circles. The inner one was my comfort zone, the outer one was my challenge zone, and the one outside that was the trauma zone. I wrote my tasks into the circles where they were anxiety wise, and each week picked ones in the challenge zone to do. I then did them daily. Each week I redrew my circles and observed the very slight shifts in movement over time which encouraged me and gave me some belief.

This really helped with a big lifelong phobia of mine. The process took maybe 4-5 months of near daily work. Often tiny things each day, but mostly consistent (usually i would do 5 things or so a week I guess).

I guess the difficulty is, carving out enough time, getting people on your side to encourage you, and being in the right place to take something like this as slowly as it needs to be taken. Life doesn't tend to be that generous in terms of time and space. Part of the reason why we struggle with anxiety is having this stuff basically forced on us, when its too much for us to handle.

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Best example of exposure therapy and the debate as to whether it works well or not. Guy goes up to like 100 women in a day and asks them out. Gets rejected by pretty much all of them. Does this destroy his fear of rejection or just destroy his self confidence instead?
I would guess that whether this helps or not might depend on a lot of tricky factors. One might be the attitude and values and beliefs of the person taking it on, as well as the support network they have available to them. If someone is doing this from a position of already feeling rejected by women, depressed, anxious, etc it wouldn't go as well as someone who is basically content, and mostly free of major issues with a good support network and a bunch of encouragement.

I also wonder if asking out women is too big a jump. For example, initiating conversation with 100 women might be a better step. Or smiling at 100 women, or saying hi to a woman a day, etc, and building up.

I appreciate that the idea is to desensitise to rejection, but, it would feel very all or nothing and very extreme to me, and it occurs to me now that maybe it isn't actually ideal to be desensitized to rejection anyway... hmm... what do you think?

Compassion focused therapy audio, guided meditations:

https://balancedminds.com/audio/
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post #17 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-08-2020, 10:19 PM Thread Starter
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Its brutal, and I am sorry you crashed. I have definitely got examples from my past where I pushed too far and ended up basically retraumatising myself. One such event basically destroyed a potential career for me!

The way I look at exposure now is like going to the gym. I very carefully progressively overload. Each week I try to do more. But only a little bit. My body and mind need to adapt. If I do too much if I ramp up volume or weight, I snap my **** up, or I get CNS fatigue, or it backfires, or in the case of exposure, I induce trauma and backslide.

My old psychologist got me to draw 3 circles. The inner one was my comfort zone, the outer one was my challenge zone, and the one outside that was the trauma zone. I wrote my tasks into the circles where they were anxiety wise, and each week picked ones in the challenge zone to do. I then did them daily. Each week I redrew my circles and observed the very slight shifts in movement over time which encouraged me and gave me some belief.

This really helped with a big lifelong phobia of mine. The process took maybe 4-5 months of near daily work. Often tiny things each day, but mostly consistent (usually i would do 5 things or so a week I guess).

I guess the difficulty is, carving out enough time, getting people on your side to encourage you, and being in the right place to take something like this as slowly as it needs to be taken. Life doesn't tend to be that generous in terms of time and space. Part of the reason why we struggle with anxiety is having this stuff basically forced on us, when its too much for us to handle.



I would guess that whether this helps or not might depend on a lot of tricky factors. One might be the attitude and values and beliefs of the person taking it on, as well as the support network they have available to them. If someone is doing this from a position of already feeling rejected by women, depressed, anxious, etc it wouldn't go as well as someone who is basically content, and mostly free of major issues with a good support network and a bunch of encouragement.

I also wonder if asking out women is too big a jump. For example, initiating conversation with 100 women might be a better step. Or smiling at 100 women, or saying hi to a woman a day, etc, and building up.

I appreciate that the idea is to desensitise to rejection, but, it would feel very all or nothing and very extreme to me, and it occurs to me now that maybe it isn't actually ideal to be desensitized to rejection anyway... hmm... what do you think?
The problem is that most people with SA could have this (which comes from genes):

Behavioral inhibition is a personality type that shows a tendency toward distress and nervousness in new situations. Behavioral inhibition in children includes shyness around unfamiliar people and withdrawal from new places.

So being rejected many time could cause the person to feel more withdrawn

I think for lots of people there is no work around anxiety, its mainly either facing it head on hoping it will decrease or just dealing it for life. medication could help
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post #18 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-10-2020, 11:55 AM
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I've had social anxiety for 27 long years. Thankfully I'm in a place where I'm able to manage myself for the most part, but it wasn't always that way. Take heart that it does get better when you keep learning and keep practicing.
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post #19 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-10-2020, 03:26 PM
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The only exposure that worked for me was during group therapy, in a very controlled environment.

I was never able to extend that beyond that environment though. I can't think of any exposure I did that actually made me more able to deal with new things. Or even things that therapists suggested that ended up working. The real world always seemed too messy and critical to "experiment" in.

None
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post #20 of 21 (permalink) Old 10-10-2020, 07:48 PM
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I've always been sort of sceptical of exposure therapy. It's funny how people say things like 'Look, you did it and it wasn't that hard, right? Now you can do it again.'

That's... not really how most things work. You don't exist in a vacuum, life is full of variables. You can walk down the street and not meet anyone you know. The next day you might meet five people you know. One day you can drive perfectly, the next you could stall at every junction.

I guess the key - since I really shouldn't be completely negative - is figuring out if you can get through it with minimal damage. The Dr Pepper theory, 'what's the worst that can happen?' Ofc, with anxiety our brains can run wild with that question, but the premise is sound. You said you can do the presentations, which is a major thing for most people. So maybe that's not where your anxiety lies. Maybe having presentation material, knowing what you're going to say etc, is easier (even in front of a crowd) than a conversation. I've found that a lot of anxiety stems from lack of control - with the presentations, it's all up to you. When other people come into play, you have to relinquish control and it puts you at a disadvantage if your brain can't handle tangents or unknowns.

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