Category Archives: science

How social anxiety disorder causes me to underestimate myself — and my friends

I struggle with social anxiety disorder. Just today, I freaked out when I got a voicemail message from my landlord. All it said was “call me back when you get a chance.” Very calm. Not threatening at all. And I’m also good friends with my landlord.

Yet, when I played the message, my first thought was “he hates me and wants to evict me.” I didn’t want to call him back. The only reason I did was because my heart was pounding, and if I didn’t call him back, I thought my heart would burst out of my chest. So I called him. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow, and all he wanted was help bringing some patio furniture inside. Once again, I blew things out of proportion. Once again, I underestimated myself — and my friend.

So, when I read about this new study from Washington University, it made a lot of sense to me. It turns out that it’s quite common for people with social anxiety disorder to underestimate what friends think about them. Researchers interviewed people with social anxiety disorder, as well as their friends. The bottom line: people with social anxiety think their friendship has deteriorated due to the disorder. Their friends, however, just perceive their relationship as different, as an acknowledgement that their friend is going through something difficult.

If I had a dollar for every social situation that I’ve ran out of because I felt as though I was some kind of freak of nature, I’d be a rich man. And the thing is, my social anxiety is often WORSE when I’m with friends and family. I’m afraid Crazy Alan will show up. I’m afraid they’ll see the crazy. I don’t want that. That’s why I often turn down invitations from friends and family to join them. If I asked them, that’s why they would probably perceive our relationship as being different.

Maybe studies like this will lead to more communication and better understanding among people with anxiety, and those who love them. I can only hope.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go help my landlord move some furniture.

For more info on the Washington University Studies, go to

Four psychological terms you’re probably misusing

Believe it or not, the stock market is never “schizophrenic.” And your eccentric neighbor is probably not a “psycho.” How many of us have misused these terms from time to time? I certainly have. This informative, entertaining video sheds light on what these terms REALLY mean.

Unlocking the GPS in our brains

Did you know that your brain has its own type of GPS system? It does. And today, the scientists who discovered it have won a Nobel Prize.

Ever since my most recent hospitalization for depression and anxiety, I’ve been fascinated with how the brain works. Ironically, here’s what I find most fascinating: the fact that, in 2014, even the best scientists still consider the brain to be a (pun intended) head-scratching mystery. Even with this Nobel-winning discovery, scientists are JUST NOW BEGGING to understand how people think and do and plan.

There’s an obvious link to mental illness, and especially treatment for mental illness. Anyone who’s ever taken meds for mental illness knows that even the good ones are far from perfect. At times, the side effects — everything from memory loss to addiction — are as troubling as the illness. But then, if there hasn’t been much understanding about how the brain works, it stands to reason that meds designed to help the brain would have some flaws.

To be clear, I am NOT saying that people should steer clear of meds. I take them myself, and I probably wouldn’t be alive without them. But boy, I’d love to see a day when better, more effective meds are created. The more scientists continue to discover about the brain, the faster that day will come.

For more information on the brain’s GPS, click here.

The science of depression, in less than 4 minutes

Ever since I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I’ve been kind of obsessed with learning more about how the brain works. That’s why I love videos like this one from asapSCIENCE. It’s fun, creative, and informative. It should be required viewing for everyone who’s ever told us to just “get over it.”

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