Social Phobia: Turning One's Back To Life

Goths are often considered by "normal" people like being depressive, haughty and taciturn. Of course, that isn't true, but there are many Goths, just like people who are of other subcultures, who feel better away from most social interactions, and even those who suffer from more acute cases like social anxiety disorder.

Social Phobia becomes a problem when it interferes with the things you want or need to do, like studying, working, developing and keeping relationships, experiencing real life with all its positive and negative aspects.

In Japan, for instance, they have such a great number of people who withdrawl from social life, that they have a name for them, hikikomori, who shut themselves in their bedrooms, sometimes even refusing to talk to their parents, often for years.

A New York Times article has sad accounts of such people, like the story of Y.S.:

"After years of being bullied at school and having no friends, Y.S., who asked to be identified by his initials, retreated to his room at age 14, and proceeded to watch TV, surf the Internet and build model cars - for 13 years. When he finally left his room one April afternoon last year, he had spent half of his life as a shut-in."

So Kawakami asked him to write a letter about himself... he told her his birth date and that he loved making plastic model cars. He wrote: "I don't think the situation is good, but I don't know how to solve it. This might be a chance to change it. But I don't know if I can do it."

When Kawakami asked him to create a car for some children at a day-care center, two weeks later he gave her one, meticulously detailed and painted. "He seemed so pleased," she said. "It was as if he'd never been asked to do something for someone else before. He was sitting in his room all day where nothing was expected of him, and he did nothing to show his value."

And Takeshi, who spent 4 years in his room, told the reporter:

"Don't laugh, but musicians really helped me, especially Radiohead," he told me through an interpreter, before scribbling some lyrics in English in my notebook. "That's what encouraged me to leave my room."...

After Takeshi spent four years in his childhood bedroom, he was finally motivated to leave, he said, by his frustration with himself and by the Radiohead lyrics: "This is my final fit, my final bellyache." Then he said: "It's not hopeful, but I learned that the world is not such a good place, and regardless we have to move on. That caught my heart."

Sometimes change takes a long time to happen to the hikikomori, as the NY Times article reports:

...about 30 percent... won't leave their rooms and another 10 percent of those who do join the program (that helps hikikomori re-enter society) eventually return to the hikikomori life. "We usually limit our visits to a year, but if we see progress, we'll keep coming back," a counselor said.

One rental sister visited a 17-year-old for more than 18 months before he finally joined the program. And in one of the most extreme cases, Takeshi Watanabe of the Tokyo Mental Health Academy counseled a hikikomori for 10 years - 500 visits - until he persuaded him to leave home. He has since graduated from a university, works part time and last summer vacationed in Spain.

Some interesting facts about the social anxiety disorder are:

Social phobia can be generalized, when a person avoids most social situations, or specific, when a person is excessively anxious in certain types of social situations, like starting a conversation with a stranger.

There are several factors that can cause it. Those considered more important are the genetic makeup, the chemical processes of the brain and life experiences, when after experiencing situations in which we are singled out in a negative way, or have bad social experiences, we can develop negative opinions about them, and start having social anxiety.

There are several means to treat this disorder, from medications and therapies to social skills training. Experts advise that those who think they may suffer from it, look for the help of a psychiatrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

The following sites are worth visiting for more information:



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