It was very interesting to watch the BBC show Aspergers and Me by Chris Packham last night. Still available in the UK on the iplayer for a while. I am a fan of his having watched almost all British wildlife shows for the last 40 odd years and already knew of his condition.
Nevertheless it was surprising how many things aspergers has in common with social anxiety. He struggles in social situations and has not been to a party for a decade. He would not even go to a wedding with his partner or the graduation of his step daughter. Yes, he has a partner but they live separately, He lives in a house in the middle of a wood with his dog. He was also bullied and a loner at school.
Different things create social ineptitude but the results are often the same. Loneliness, depression , misery. He talked about thinking of suicide and only staying alive for his dogs at one point. Thankfully being high functioning he was able to work in TV and on wildlife shows a subject which he become obsessed with at a young age.
He also looked at cures and treatment in America. These quotes are particular relevant.
“Its easier to change the individual than it is to change society.”
“All of these therapies are saying lets force these people(to change) rather than adapt to accommodate them.”
Which of course is the same with SA. if we cant adapt and get by (often in jobs far below our capabilities)then we often have to go though extensive therapy in order to fit in with normal people and be accepted by them. Yet if you even get offered CBT therapy you are considered lucky and some doctors have not even heard of social anxiety and its not even treated as a serious condition. I was in the top 10-20% of my school but ended up being in a manual job for 20 years and am now long term unemployed. I have never had a romantic relationship in my 45+ year life. I have only even had one adult female friend. So it just must be ALL my own fault because social anxiety is just shyness? Right?
Yet we are guilt tripped at every opportunity(often by those who claim to have recovered) for not doing the HARD WORK to recover which basically just means putting ourselves often through very humiliating and repeated social situations in the hope we get used to them and become normal. Yes just imagine Mr Bean trying to make awkward small talk to women at bus stops and in Tesco and you see how shit some CBT ideas can be for gaining confidence and actually make you even worse. Whenever we fail as we often do we are then told to just keep doing it until we learn. Some CBT courses are now only six weeks long and taught by nurses rather than trained therapists!
We are made to feel ashamed and not even worthy of a happy life if we dont WORK HARD which totally ignores we did not give ourselves social anxiety and most people who get relationships, have a normal family and go on to university and get decent jobs did not have to do the HARD WORK at all as their anxiety levels did not want to make them kill themselves to escape humiliation and embarrassment. Normal people enjoyed going to parties, going on dates and socialising. They did not hide in the toilets vomiting and punching themselves in the head when they were 18.
Severe social anxiety is not highly treatable with CBT. If you cant get people to even attend as it looks too hard(9 out of 10 people never even see a doctor) 1 in 4 pull out of therapy before the end as its too hard to complete and then most revert back to previous levels after two years then its not a cure.
Humiliation isn’t an irrational fear like that of spiders. Thats why social phobia is not the same.The humiliation of people throughout human history often resulted in suicide. Look at the humiliation heaped on virgins and loners in modern society for instance and also the long term unemployed. Then you mix in isolation and guilt and you have people pushed to the very edge.
If you stay isolated its not just because of this fear or phobia, irrational or otherwise, its because when you try and STILL act different as in weird and socially awkward, society as a whole does not let you in, they dont want you to be one of them so you stay on the outside, sometimes for good. You have been ostracised sometimes since you could first walk and its never changed.