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Upcoming Freshman - Dealing with Anxiety, and Body Dysmorphia.

LiddleLiddle Registered User Posts: 0 New Member
Due to a syndrome I was born with (causing me to look a bit different than others) I have been dealing with anxiety (panic attacks, etc) for quite awhile now, especially throughout high school. It caused me to hold back in many situations, as I had a huge fear of being judged and talked about by peers. My grades began to slip, my absences increased, I was always unhappy, and sort of gave up on a lot of things. In high school I never had too many friends, wasn't very social, never went out of my comfort zone. Did enough just to make it by. Although I tend to be pretty social, I try not to isolate myself TOO much. I had many acquaintances, but I only graduated with 2-3 close friends. Honestly, I was actually surprised to even get into a University, but my acceptance gave me a burst of energy.

A few months ago I began going to a therapist where I was told that I had generalized anxiety, OCD, and body dysmorphia. Which I have begin taking the SSRI, Zoloft for. Which has indeed helped, but as I do have a syndrome that basically feeds my anxiety and body dysmorphia it can be a little difficult even with the medication. I've decided to do a random roommate in hopes this will help me open up to meeting new people of different backgrounds, take me out of my comfort zone socially (etc), I really want college to be a fresh start, I don't want my anxiety to hinder me, and define who I am. Because I am much more than my anxiety. I am just extremely scared that my social life will be the same as it was in high school. Somehow, I just always seem to never make solid connections with others, as many people my age are only up for superficial conversation and small talk. I guess you can say I'm pretty picky about who I give the title of "friends" to.

I guess what I'm asking is, what are tips to expand my social life in college? How can I stop focusing on everything wrong with myself and focus on the things people may love about me?

Replies to: Upcoming Freshman - Dealing with Anxiety, and Body Dysmorphia.

  • astute12astute12 Registered User Posts: 651 Member
    First off, congrats in deciding to not let your anxiety hold you back! This is a really brave and hard thing to do. I would look for info on line about CBT or Cognitive Based Therapy -- it has a lot of helpful methods for getting out of your own head and seeing things more clearly. Black and white thinking, catastrophizing, negative thinking are things that CBT helps with. There are lots of CBT worksheets on line that you may find helpful. You ARE more than your anxiety!
  • bjkmombjkmom Registered User Posts: 7,805 Senior Member
    First and foremost, what does your therapist say? To me, his or her advice trumps every single thing you'll read here.

    Two, I think your first step on campus-- or even from home before you go-- is to get in touch with the mental health office on campus and get a therapist. Just as I would advise a kid with a chronic illness to take care of his physical health, you need to pay particular care of your mental health. And that means being comfortable with someone on campus before any issues come up.

    As far as the question you actually asked: I think I would find activities that bring out the best in us-- volunteer work. The types of people who do lots of volunteer work are probably the people you want-- the people who aren't there for the "superficial conversation and small talk." And you would have an automatic conversation topic at the beginning-- the work you're doing and the importance of it.

    The best of luck to you!
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,504 Senior Member
    edited June 2017
    Are you referring to BDD? Do you have visual distortions, meaning do you see parts not the whole when you look at yourself or others? This often goes along with facial blindness, do you have that?

    BDD is treated with antidepressants, yes. It also flares during times of stress and transition and may very well calm down once you are settled on campus.

    I think it's smart to have a counselor on campus but otherwise your idea of a fresh start will most likely pay off. Give yourself time, and try to participate in orientation activities. Doing something that helps others is often very therapeuti, as bjkmom wrote.

    Good luck!
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 13,692 Forum Champion
    This is my general "how to make friends advice"

    1) During Orientation, go to as many activities as you can. Ask people in your hall way if they are going. Introduce yourself..they are looking for friends too. "Hey, I am Pat...what are you majoring in?"

    2) Go to the Activities Fair and sign up for a bunch of clubs that are of interest. They may not all pan out, but don't eliminate anything yet. If you are into music/D&D/running/church/whatever, you can find other people who are interested too. Service clubs are great because you spend time working together.

    3) Talk to the people on your floor....Get some cookies and offer them "Hey I have cookies, anyone want some?" and then strike up a conversation about where they are from, what they are majoring in, etc. People like to talk about themselves...let them. Don't make it too long...move on to others.

    4) At dinner time, ask your roommate/people on your hall if they are going to dining hall. Go with them. See if people in your dorm generally sit in the same area.. Join them.

    5) Go to any dorm activities your RA has set up. If you are still having issues, talk to your RA. See if they have ideas. If not suggest that they have one. Maybe a movie and pizza?

    6) Join your dorm's intramural (or any intramural) team.

    7) Talk to others in your classes...exchange numbers so that if either of you miss you can exchange notes... Ask what someone got on a homework question (that you did too)...once you get to know them, ask if they want to form a study group.

    8) If this isn't working, go to the Counseling Center...they are ready to help freshman this time of year. Don't think you are a loser because you have to go...this is something you pay for! Get the benefit! You may need to learn some new social skills. They may also have group talks on Homesickness or fitting in.

    9) Go to ongoing campus activities..concerts/movies/lectures/parties. Invite someone/group of people or just sign up and meet people for activities that might be off campus.

    10) See if your dorm/floor has a GroupMe Group set up...otherwise suggest to someone who is extraverted that it might be a good idea. Then people can send a group text that they are showing a movie in the lounge or are baking cupcakes in the kitchen.

    You may notice that all of these things take some action...they are not passive. You have to take initiative. But the risk is small...if someone says no, then just say "Maybe another time".
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 13,692 Forum Champion
    Also the social life in college is different than HS...HS is very much about "fitting in"...as an example if you wore sweatpants to HS people would comment...but in college you can practically show up in your pajamas and nobody bats an eyelash.
  • transfertobmctransfertobmc Registered User Posts: 61 Junior Member
    Hi! I agree with @bjkmom , your first step should be to reach out to campus resources and find out how they can help you adjust to college life! After being put on antidepressants, I thought I would automatically be okay in college so I tried to do everything by myself, which was a terrible mistake. Don't try to handle all these things alone as they can get quite overwhelming! Make sure you have a support system in place, but don't be discouraged if you don't make best friends right away. It's definitely a learning process and you are bound to find a crowd fit for you. Don't forget that you are never alone. More people than you know also have mental health issues and have the same fears as you. Does your college have a mental health awareness club? That may help you find a space where other people understand what you're going through.
    Email your teachers about your anxiety, etc. before classes start. It's nothing to be ashamed of, and if there's ever a situation where you need a mental health day, etc. it'll be easier to ask for assistance. I've found that they are usually very understanding if you are reasonable. This may help with the grade situation as well! Good luck next year, we all believe in you!
  • conceptcatconceptcat Registered User Posts: 18 Junior Member
    I gotta echo that, get connected with campus services ASAP for those times when you might fall back.. stress, midterms etc, or even if you have a crappy month. And well, they can help you before you have those issues too. I got free CBT from grad students in my college's psych program as well as free counseling and med management at my uni. While I would not recommend grad students for counseling or therapy, they can be quite good with CBT and it was helpful for my anxiety.

    The other thing I recommend is looking for support groups. Both IRL and online if needed. Search up DBSA and NAMI, including their young adult groups. But also your condition probably has support groups, if you are not in a big city you might need to go online for them but for me it has been SO helpful with depression.

    Oh, and it's so good you're not living off campus to start. I lived alone off campus and it was one of the biggest mistakes in my life to be honest. I was MISERABLE. And while everybody hates the dorms, that's where you're forced to bond and then when you do move off campus you have some friends! Okay, rant off...
  • WISdad23WISdad23 Registered User Posts: 941 Member
    It seems like you are already doing the best thing for anxiety - ignoring it when making life choices. I agree with maxing out services available through the school counseling office with CBT sessions and medication management. Verify how many sessions are free and subsequent fees before you start. You might be better off seeing a therapist at the school and then a psychiatrist in your home town for example.

    I don't agree with the advice of telling all your professors up front about mental health issues. It is none of their business. They need to know your personal details only if that affects your ability to pass the class. Otherwise, the work is your responsibility. You should avoid "mental health days" which indulge anxiety and tend to make it worse.

    In regard to social life: be less picky. If you struggle to socialize, then raising your bar of acceptability for friends won't help. Not saying you should be indiscriminate, but at the same time perfection is the enemy of good. Give people a chance when they seem well-intentioned. Participate in activities outside of class. Don't wait to be invited to things - invite others and develop a thick skin for perceived rejection.
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