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At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

Hi guys,

I'm 21 in December and was first diagnosed with social anxiety/depression at 13. I've been seeing psychologists/psychiatrists the entire time. When I finished school (at 18), I decided to really put in everything I had to treat my social anxiety by putting myself into uncomfortable situations whenever I can. I figured that by doing so, while i might hate it at the time, I'd keep getting better and better at dealing with social situations- that's the theory, right?

In 2017 I booked flights to Asia and travelled around for 3 months, staying in hostels. I was miserable every minute of it (my social anxiety sort of feeds my depression as I poorly manage SA symptoms/embarrass myself it triggers depressive episodes). When i returned to Australia I got up and tried again, getting myself a low-stress job working with only 3 other people my age as a night packer. I worked there for 5 months. The next year I started uni which was a big challenge for me, and attended almost every class, never connecting with anyone (not that I wasn't trying). This year was my second year of uni. At the start of the year, I started playing sports with the uni to challenge myself more. I've attended uni, and sport every week. Its a team sport and my brain shuts down from stress while i'm playing so I end up running around in circles while everyone watches on. I started volunteering. I joined another uni club. I organise catch ups with my school friends every 6 months or so (they don't send me invites anymore) because I havent been invited to anything since i was in high school. I went overseas by myself again, this time for two months. I would introduce myself to people all the time, make a fool of myself, I didn't care, as long as i was getting better. I'm at the point where I'm getting too depressed to keep trying to do all these things. I like to think I don't let anything influence my emotions without there being sufficient 'evidence' to avoid me being negative but the evidence feels like its piling and its all pointing to me. I've tried a bunch of different meds, and am constantly doing psychology. The main difference I've had in the past 5 years is new symptoms popping up when in social situations. It started with my brain turning off and maybe some sweating. Then after a few years my hands started shaking. Now my mouth and eyebrows have started twitching uncontrollably whenever smile or raise my eyebrows so that's lots of fun. Honestly at a loss for what i can do next.

SO the point of my message- has anyone been in similar situations and found their way out of them? In need of inspiration of curing the seemingly incurable.

Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

Hello there

Sorry to hear things aren't working for you but you are doing the right thing by talking about your experience you are very brave. Just remember to stay strong and that you can overcome this. Talking to someone about everything will help with the stress and even writing a list of things to do can help with stress. Remember  to use self care techniques such as breathing techniques-there is plenty of good phone apps, yoga, meditation etc these can help calm you down when your in an uncomfortable situation. I personally use the breathing techniques as it helps me to ease my anxiety and I also paint/draw aswell to help. Having a hobby that you enjoy will help you relax aswell-mine is art and craft. Things will get better stay positive and be strong.

Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

Hi @drinkbottle 


Social anxiety's an old "friend" of mine..


Firstly I just wanted to say that I've heard of people who've learned to live happily despite social anxiety, and people who have actually recovered from it fully, so it is definitely possible.

Also I'm totally amazed that you've even been able to try all of that - it sounds like you've been incredibly brave and persistent.


Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations can help, and I know a friend who made a lot of progress just doing that.

For me personally though, challenging myself too much and too quickly can just make me a lot more anxious. Recovery takes time, and it's important to give that to yourself.

Stuff like exposure therapy tends to be done in small, graded steps to avoid it getting too overwhelming.


One thing that I've found really helpful is working with an occupational therapist, as the work is a lot more practical than what I've done with a psychologist.

There's a bit more information on OTs here, if you're interested:


Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

Hey @drinkbottle,


First of all, I want to acknowledge that you have courageously tried many different methods to help you deal with your social anxiety and depression. You haven't given up, despite it being very difficult for you. I know that maybe the things you have done may not have worked as well as you were hoping (e.g. your trip to Asia). However, the fact that you actually went to Asia, and did so many other things that I'm guessing were pretty difficult for you, is amazing! So many people don't get that far.


I know that I would feel quite anxious going overseas by myself, or even joining a club or speaking to people at uni that I didn't know. I don't have a social anxiety disorder, but I'm a generally anxious person (even though I'd actually classify myself as quite extroverted). A lot of the things you've listed would be difficult for someone who wasn't experiencing social anxiety to do, especially all at once.


Being in uni can be a really difficult time for most people. You're transitioning away from the person you used to be in high school, and it's very normal for people to drift from the people they were friends with then (just due to their lives going in different directions, not having as much in common anymore, having less time) and that can be really hard to deal with. 


I know right now it seems like the evidence is pointing to you being the 'problem' so to speak, but I want you to know that you're doing SO much to help yourself get better. It can be so difficult not to believe the worst about ourselves, especially when we are getting seemingly convincing evidence from those around us. One thing that has been helping me a lot is reading up on self-compassion. Essentially it's the mindset of treating yourself like you would a good friend (rather than being self-indulgent). I think you are doing so much, but maybe you could have a think about ways you could be kind to yourself?

“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

Hi @drinkbottle! Welcome to the forums!

At 21, you've already achieved so much in your life. I think it was really courageous for you to travel to foreign countries at such a young age, even if you didn't enjoy the trip. It's amazing how you've put so much effort into job seeking, volunteering, joining groups, uni work and sport. Wow! Well done!

I don't have much to add but have you talked to a professional about your physical symptoms? Physical symptoms can be common when we're dealing with stress or anxiety, and sometimes we don't know what could be causing them. My sister experiences shaking, tremors and jerking, which were told were her body's way of protesting and protecting itself when she's in unpleasant situations (she has been diagnosed with functional neurological disorder). Seeing a doctor could help determine whether the shaking and twitching is a sign of a medical problem.

There are also a lot of self-help techniques for managing these kinds of symptoms which may or may not help you. Some of these could be:
- Distraction techniques such as

a. Counting backwards from 100 to 0 in sevens, '100,93, 86, 79' or fours '100,96,92 etc'

b. Picking up a magazine and start reading it

c. Playing a computer game on a mobile phone or some other device

e. Singing or humming a favourite song
d. Telling someone a story. You can also ask them to tell it back to you and correct their errors.
- Sensory grounding such as the 5 things game.
You could also feel something with your hands, especially something rough or textured, make yourself aware of the solid ground underneath your feet or the chair that you're sitting on, remind yourself where you are, what day of the week it is or who you are with and remind yourself that you're safe.
Has anything like this helped you in the past?

Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

@Tiny_leaf Thanks mate, I really appreciate the response.

I've never really thought of exposure therapy as something that you can do too fast (provided it's possible to put yourself in the situation in the first place) but that definitely adds up because being overwhelmed is definitely not helping my motivation or my depression. I will definitely keep that in mind.

Nor did I know that OTs dealt with anxiety so i will also check that out. You are full of wisdom!

Thanks again.

Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

Thankyou @MisoBear.

I am extremely grateful for every word you wrote. 

Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

@WheresMySquishy Thankyou for your response, massively appreciated.

I will definitely try and talk to my GP as I had assumed it was just a result of social anxiety and hadn't considered that there could be something else at play.

I've come across some of those self help techniques but some of them are new to me and I'll be sure to give them a try. Thankyou again!

Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

@drinkbottle no problem!

My well-meaning parents tried to force me into exposure therapy too quickly, so I kinda got a crash-course in what can go wrong there...

But my current OT is taking things a lot slower with me, which is actually helping me progress a lot faster. Brains are weird like that I guess.

Re: At wit's end- social anxiety (+ depression)

From my understanding exposure therapy is meant to be graded, meaning it's done incrementally in order to gradually get you more and more used to the feared object, situation etc. Whereas the idea of flooding is that you just get 'thrown into the deep end' and that you learn to cope with the situation in a sink or swim type way. I've not done ET myself but I have definitely done a similar thing with situations that make me anxious in my everyday life. In my experience, I think doing things gradually can be a lot better because you're not having to give up control as much and you can still push yourself without pushing yourself too far too soon. I think there's actually a big misconception that if we're not diving in the deep end straight away, then we're not being courageous. Taking things slow can be a really great way of doing things, being gentle and compassionate towards yourself. What you're dealing with is not easy, and by doing things more gradually you're allowing yourself to build up a more solid base of confidence in yourself. Does that make sense? 


I'm wondering if you've ever heard of Brene Brown? She's got a special on Netflix about how courage and vulnerability are interlinked concepts, i.e. that you can't be brave without first being vulnerable. If you're so inclined, I'd definitely recommend having a watch if you have the time, I learnt a lot!

“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down