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Archive for November 16th, 2017

The Anxiety Trap

I have intense fear of socializing and being vulnerable with other people, especially other women; men can be “intense” for me and so I fear them too, even though I know it’s irrational.  This may seem stupid, but I feel helpless and trapped.  Do you have any advice?

I’m sorry I’ve taken a week to answer you; I’ve been pretty rushed and I wanted to take the time to give you a proper answer.  Well, that’s not entirely honest; I haven’t just been busy, I’ve also been suffering from pretty severe anxiety and feelings of sorrow.  I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that you aren’t alone.  Many people, even people you respect and think of as wise or heroic, suffer from these kinds of feelings.  Now, the feelings aren’t always directed toward the same things; for example, I have no problem at all with socializing, but like you I have a great deal of trouble with allowing myself to be vulnerable with people I love (so forget it with strangers).  The feeling persists even with people who have never done anything to justify it; it’s a feeling born inside of me, fed by decades of frustrating social & familial interactions dating back to my childhood.  And yes, I feel very stupid about it, especially because everyone thinks I’m so strong and tough and they can’t imagine why I should be this way.

But I’m here to tell you that it isn’t stupid, not at all; it’s the way you’re wired.  I don’t know whether this is due to trauma or biochemistry (some anxiety disorders are neurological & have nothing to do with life experiences), but in either case I think you could probably benefit from therapy.  I’m not promising you it will be easy to find one; you may have to try a few before locating one who will understand you and whom you can trust (this is even more so for sex workers).  But I think it’s worth the effort.  The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has a list of “kink-aware professionals”, and at the bottom of that list you’ll find other links that may be helpful; you didn’t say you were kinky, but most professionals who are non-judgmental of kink will also be non-judgmental of sex work.  If you can’t find anyone on that list you might also try AASECT, but please be aware that many therapists in that list are NOT sex-positive despite setting themselves forth as therapists specializing in sexuality.  It’s also possible that medications may help; some people benefit from daily anti-anxiety medications, while others do better on take-as-needed medications like Xanax (or even cannabis, if you have a consistent source).  But even if you and your doctor decide meds are not the best option, just being able to talk to someone non-judgmental can do a world of good.

I wish you all the best, and I sincerely want you to write me back to keep me posted on how things go for you.  Above all, please understand that you aren’t alone, you aren’t weird, and your suffering isn’t hopeless.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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