Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I Want to be Alone or Introversion for Beginners

I read this on Martyn Clayton's blog and he very graciously allowed me to re-post it here. I think it has some wonderful information.

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat any time and be yourself”
Herman Hesse

Working from home I’m sometimes asked ;“Don’t you get lonely ?”by people who clearly would be lonely if they had to do the same. The simple answer to that is , no I don’t. Not at all, not in the slightest, in fact quite the opposite. I love working alone, I love working from home. I love the isolation and the need to be self-disciplined. I even get a sense of excitement as I begin each working day wondering what kind of possibilities it might turn up, what ideas I might have, how existing projects might develop.The short periods of time when I haven’t worked alone I’ve been unhappy, bloody miserable in fact. Working with other people leaves me feeling drained, restricted, limited and verging on the depressed. My ideas dry up and I feel bored. Just as I imagine people who love a busy work environment and the input of colleagues would hate working from home. It’s different strokes for different folks. Sometimes people refuse to believe that I could be happy, presuming I must be in denial or ill, or quite possibly mad.It always used to puzzle me as to why I preferred to work this way. I even wondered in the early days if there might be something wrong with me. Surely it couldn’t be ‘normal’ to want to spend so much time alone, particularly where work was concerned.The breakthrough for me came when I took a psychological profiling test as part of a college course. The test revealed that I scored very highly on the introversion scale and the description of the responses of a typical person fitting this profile read as if they had been written just for me. So, should I choose to accept it , I had a name for the way my head worked, but what kind of a name was it ?Introversion. It made me think of serial killers ,fifty-something blokes who still lived with their mothers and hermits. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the way my brain’s wired.Since then however , the more I’ve researched the subject, the happier I’ve become about this one particular accident of birth. There has been a shed-full (introverts love a good shed) of scientific research into the subject beginning with the psychologist, Carl Jung back in the early 20th century. Although he focused primarily on sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling; introversion and extroversion were important components of his mental or psychological traits theory. Although most people will exhibit traits of both extroversion and introversion in the daily lives, there is usually one dominant trait that usually reflects how an individual prefers to operate in the world. The introvert's main focus is within his/her head, in the internal world of ideas and concepts; the extrovert's primary focus is on the external world of people and activities. Introverts get their energy from themselves and are drained by people; extroverts get their energy from other people and are drained by being alone.The two don’t sit in polar opposition, but instead run along a scale. People in the middle of the scale illustrating equal measures of introverted and extroverted qualities are known as ’ambiverts’ . My other half, who is also an introvert is less introverted than me, but an awful lot more introverted than the average extrovert. When she returns from her bustling working environment she needs plenty of quiet downtime apart from the rest of the world to recharge her batteries.One reason why introverts tend to get such a bad press and are so generally misunderstood is because we are in the minority. Definite introverts represent only one in four of the general population, but interestingly represent a majority within the exceptionally gifted. There are good evolutionary reasons as to why the population should break down in this way. The division has been described as one of ‘warriors’ (extroverts) and ‘counsellors’ (introverts). For a society to survive it needs the players in the field, and they need to be numerous and ultimately expendable. The warriors need the advice and inspiration of the counsellors if they are to fully understand their world and what is required of them. Without introversion the stock of great world literature, art and scientific discovery would be severely denuded and humanity would still be living in the dark ages. To be a Newton or a Darwin you need to be able spend hours, days, weeks, months, years in your own company totally possessed by the single ultimate idea that will change world history. Extroverts would find that impossible.This is all well and good you might be thinking, but isn’t this introversion just an excuse for shyness , social phobia or downright rudeness ? That would be presuming that introversion is somehow a ‘personal lifestyle choice’ like whether or not to get married or have kids. The key point in all of this is that introverts are born not made. Scientific research into the brains of introverts and extroverts has revealed some key differences in the way they are wired. These differences have even been spotted in babies. The information as to which orientation their baby’s brain has revealed has been kept from the families so as not to prejudice the child’s upbringing. As the children grow, sure enough they begin to clearly exhibit behaviour patterns that mirror their brain patterns.Introverts have more blood flow to their brain and more blood flow indicates greater stimulation. Anytime blood flows to a particular part of your body, after a cut finger for instance, the area becomes more sensitive. Introverts’ blood also flows to different parts of their brain particularly those associated with remembering, internal thoughts and planning. Not only does introverts’ and extroverts’ blood travel on separate pathways, each pathway requires a different neurotransmitter. Extroverts have a low sensitivity to the brains ’happy drug’ dopamine. They require vast quantities of it to enable themselves to function and it is released through experience, activity and sociability. It acts as a reward circuit - do something the brain enjoys and receive a reward of happy juice. Introverts on the other hand have a much shorter dopamine pathway and are highly sensitive to it. Rather than seek out dopamine hits, introverts have to limit the amount of the chemical released to maintain a balance. Introverts often talk of ‘feeling overwhelmed’ by experience , extroverts are frequently bored. Whilst the introverts dopamine pathway is shorter than the extroverts, the pathway of another key neurotransmitter is longer. Acetylcholine is the oil that makes the memory machine function. It is the chemical that switches on the deep REM sleep and initiates dreams. It helps the brain recover from exertion and the utilisation of our energy stores. The introvert brain is wired to seek out more energy conserving acetylcholine and less experience seeking dopamine if it is to be kept in a state of happy equilibrium. Introverts need quiet time alone if they are to keep functioning.Which brings me back to working from home. Technology used to be enemy of the introvert. It was technology that made factory hands out of shepherds and coal miners out of peasant farmers but it’s now technological advance that is opening up opportunity for the introverted to fashion their own working world. It’s no surprise then that one of the chief drivers of this change and the wealthiest man on the planet, Bill Gates, is himself an introvert.Introversion is a dark continent for the average extrovert. Introverts can’t be up to any good spending all that time locked away can they ? They can’t be truly happy ? It just can’t be healthy can it ? A confusion exacerbated by the fact that introverts who have arranged their lives to suit their orientation do seem happy. As they need less dopamine to be content, they often appear blissfully so when compared to the average extrovert. On the other hand an introvert forced into an extrovert model of the good life is a miserable creature. As too is an extrovert ignored, rejected or forced into a lonely existence by circumstance. Understanding how your own brain and those of your loved ones are wired would appear pretty vital in promoting good mental well-being. A square peg will never slot into a round hole no matter how much you try and force it.So if you suspect you have an introvert in the family, don’t try and force them into group activities or endlessly ask them if “they’re alright” (they’d be quite alright if you’d just shut up for a bit) but try instead to value them for who they are. They may well be a genius, or will at the very least have something interesting to say if they trust you enough to share it . As a general rule they are not about to murder you in your bed , in fact the profile of the serial killer is generally that of the “rejected extrovert” not the introvert. We just couldn’t be bothered with the extra hassle.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My Story

First, I want to apologize for not posting in a while. Life kept getting in the way, and then to be quite honest- I forgot.

I said that I would tell my story, my struggle with this disease and what I believe to be at the root of everything. So here it goes.

I'm the youngest of four children. There's 11 years difference between I and the only other girl, and 7 years difference between the next to the youngest and myself. So I was really the baby of the family. It was not a perfect childhood - no abuse mind you and I know that there are others who had it worse than I did - but it affected me none-the-less. My brothers were not intentionally cruel - but they were very sarcastic and insulting in their humor. I was constantly told how stupid and ugly I was. This happens to a lot of kids too and they are not overly affected by it. The difference is that those children probably had other sources telling them that they were smart or pretty/handsome. I didn't. With nothing but negative feedback coming in it becomes sort of a brainwashing phenomenon. Case in point. I can sing. This I will tell you with no hesitation. Could I win American Idol? No, but I can sing. You won't cringe or cover your ears. While my brothers were telling me that I couldn't sing I had positive feedback from church members, choir directors, etc. So they couldn't touch that part of me. But that feedback was missing from other aspects of my life, so they were allowed to fester like an open wound throughout most of my life. I still struggle with it. And it doesn't matter what "evidence" to the contrary you may throw my way (i.e. my college degree, my President's Scholar and Dean's list certificate) deep down I still feel like I don't deserve them, it was a mistake and someone will discover it and take them away. And it doesn't matter how silly that may sound, it's just my "reality". If I did something stupid (as most kids will) I was constantly reminded of it, ridiculed for it and made to feel a fool. This is hard for a child, especially in the formative years. I learned that if my family would ridicule me when I do something wrong, what would strangers do. I became afraid of doing things in public for fear of being laughed at.

But that doesn't explain everything. I have a cliche coming up, but sometimes cliches are there because there is an iota of truth to them. A lot of my problems originate from my father. He wasn't a bad man - in fact, had he been my uncle he would have been a favorite uncle. And as a father he did the best he could, the best he knew how. Mazlow's Hierarchy of needs is a list of things that a person needs in order to reach self-actualization. My father provided me with only one - I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in my stomach. He provided. He saw that as his only job where I was concerned. Raising me was my mother's job. He once said that if there were anything wrong with me, it was my mother's fault because that was her job. He really didn't know what to do with girls. He took my brother's hunting, fishing, playing golf, bowling, but did nothing with me. I kind of got the idea that I wasn't as good as the guys. But that wasn't the worse. My father never finished school - not even middle school I think. This was common of people during the Depression, they had to work. This left him with a pretty big inferiority complex when it came to intelligence. Nobody was allowed to know more than he did. If they did he would tell them that they were wrong, didn't know what they were talking about. No matter what evidence they shoved in front of him. So I was constantly told by him that I was wrong. My father was intelligent. Not "book-learned" intelligent, but by life. He was a carpenter - a master carpenter and was good at what he did. He could run his finger down a column of numbers and have the total at the end - all in his head. One of the other things that he did was whenever I would do something he would point out everything that I did wrong, not what was right about it, no "good try". I learned that trying wasn't good enough, wasn't even acceptable. If you couldn't do it right, don't bother doing it at all. Imagine trying to live your life with that philosophy. You can't. Eventually you break down, your body refuses to let you do anything.

That's how I became agoraphobic. That's why I can only go places that I know exactly what door to go in, where exactly to park my car, what I am expected to do. Anything else pushes me into a panic. Some people suffer from depression, agoraphobia, shyness, etc because of genetics. Others, like myself, are created. I struggle every day with this, I refuse to give in entirely (I've had to make compromises because of the lack of medication/therapy). I've often said if I could just get the same amount of money that I make working outside of the home, for taking care of my mother, I would quit. But I know that I can't stop working entirely - I must work at least 4 hours. If not, I won't leave the house unless necessary and I would only get worse.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Pathological Shyness vs. Social Phobia

The question was what is the major difference between pathological shyness and social phobia. This one was actually quite easy once I started digging. Pathological shyness is sort of like a branch of social phobia as linguistics is a branch of Anthropology (if I understand it right). Anyway, after perusing the information I decided that I couldn't break it down any better than the website. So I suggest you go there to read about the different levels of shyness and social phobia. When you can't improve on a product, just go with the original.

The Health Center is where I found most of this information.

Next posting will be sometime this week. I've decided that this will just be a weekly posting, not daily. Those of you who do not have blogs - blogger will tell me every time you post, so go ahead and leave a question and I'll try to answer you.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Adrenaline and Stress

Brandy asked a question on the last post about why she couldn't sleep the night before group and why she was exhausted afterward. It seems to happen before participating in activities that cause her stress. That leads me to believe that the culprit of these reactions all boils down to one word - adrenaline. Also referred to as epinephrine, this hormone occurs naturally in the body and plays a vital role in the fight or flight responses in our body. Fight or flight happens as a response to threatening or exciting conditions. As well as fear, adrenaline can also be increased by anger. This hormone plays an important role in short-term stress reaction. Everyone has heard stories about mothers who miraculously lifts cars off of their children after accidents. This is adrenaline. Brandy sees the group as a frightening event because of her shyness. The night before the event, her subconscious is already, for lack of a better term, battening down the hatches in order to prepare her for group the next day. Her body is going into fight or flight mode, sort of a pre-panic attack syndrome. This is actually a good thing as it is adrenaline which helps her to attend these functions. But the lack of sleep the night before can be detrimental to the body and can also adveresly affect her bodies ability to cope with the stress. We can't turn off the sub-conscious. It controls us, not the other way around. What we can do is use mechanisms to help us control our responses to our sub-conscious actions. What I would suggest for you Brandy, is to lay off the caffeine the day before and day of the event. Caffeine increases the levels of adrenaline. Also, try a warm bath with lavender at bedtime the night before group. See if you can get DH to give you a soothing, relaxing massage. Take melantonin or some other over the counter sleep aid, nothing strong, just something to help your body relax. You may also want to look into meditation or relaxation tapes to listen to before you retire for the night. There are many things you can do to help your body relax now that you know what is causing the disturbance.

Exhausted afterward? Of course you are, your body has been in the fight/flight mode, adrenaline levels have gone skyward. You can think of it as stress "attacking" your body and you using adrenaline to fight it off. It is known that the "let-down" after increases in adrenaline can cause exhaustion. And that's just it - your body is "letting down" after high stress levels. Maybe by getting a little more sleep the night before will help with this. Otherwise - you'll just have to arrange time to take a nap - I know that's hard with children, but maybe something can be worked out. Just a couple of hours to allow your body time to "re-set" its buttons. If anyone else has any ideas, please let us know.

Brandy - I'll answer your other question - the major difference between pathological shyness and social phobia - tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Since I'm not that familiar with just being shy, I've relied here on The Health Center website for this blog. All information comes from an article called Shyness: An Introduction to symptoms byFrank J. Bruno Ph.D, professor of psychology.

The social psychologist Philip O. Zimbardo has given the Stanford Shyness Survey to more than 5,000 persons worldwide. His results suggest, as indicated above, that shyness is a common problem. Approximately 80 percent of his subjects said that they experienced shyness some of the time. About 25 percent reported that they were shy in almost all social situations.

The common experience of being shy in a few social situations is called situational shyness and is not considered to be a behavioral problem. Feeling shy in almost all situations is called chronic shyness, and it is, of course, a problem. This kind of shyness can also be called dispositional shyness because it is a personality trait. The two terms can be used interchangeably with little or no loss of meaning.

It is possible to extend the trait of shyness into a more abnormal realm. Pathological shyness is the kind of shyness exhibited by a person who becomes very withdrawn from others and avoids all unnecessary contact with other persons. Also, the term social introversion is sometimes used to label the tendency to move away from people and into one’s own private psychological world.

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a personality test widely used in psychiatry and clinical psychology to measure pathological traits, has on it a set of clinical scales, scales of measurement that report the degree of disturbance an individual has in given personality areas. One of these scales is a measure of social introversion. A high level of social introversion suggests that an individual suffers from either chronic or pathological shyness.

This is a brief intro to the subject. I wasn't aware that there was so much involved in defining shyness! Nor that there were so many forms of the condition. Tomorrow we'll talk about chronic shyness.

Have a great day folks!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

No Post

Had some tragic news this morning so will not be doing the post on shyness. Please come back tomorrow and it will be up.

Thank you.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Panic Attacks

The aforementioned Webster's defines panic as a sudden overpowering fright; esp: a sudden unreasoning terror often accompanied by mass flight. It's definition of attack is to set upon or work against forcefully. So the panic - or overpowering fright - works upon you forcefully by using "symptoms" to defeat you. This is a simplistic way of looking at the disorder, of course, but very effective in understanding what occurs. Remember that anxiety is not an illness - it's a behavioural condition. There is something that interferes with the brain synapsis - little electrical sparks that causes the body to react in a given way. It is normal to experience anxiety - it contributes to survival, the fight or flight principal. It is when these feelings are overwhelming that it becomes a problem. It's important to remember that if these symptoms occur while experiencing anxiety then it's a panic attack - they do not cause the attack, the attack causes them, and it is not an underlying medical condition. In other words, a medical condition would cause the anxiety, occur first with anxiety being the result. It's also essential that you understand that you cannot die from this although you may feel like it. I know that's not a lot of comfort and, personally, doesn't make the sensations any better, but it could lessen your anxiety when having an attack.

Some people can actually suffer from an axiety disorder without ever experiencing any of these symptoms, or they can be so mild that they are not aware that they are actually having a panic attack. Others only display a few, while some will suffer a full spectrum of symptoms. No matter how many of these you experience it is still a panic attack. Below are the most common symptoms of panic attacks.

1. Rapid heart beat, pounding heart or palpitations
2. Sweating
3. Shaking visibly or inside
4. Choking sensations or lump in throat
5. Smothering or shortness of breath sensations
6. Chest pain or discomfort
7. Nausea, bloating, indigestion or abdominal discomfort.
8. Dizziness or unsteadiness
9. Feeling light-headed
10. Derealisation (feeling unreal or dreamy)
11. Depersonalisation (feeling outside yourself or like you don't exist)
12. Fear of losing control or going crazy
13. Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations) in face, extremities or body
14. Chills or hot flushes
15. Skin losing color
16. Blushing or skin blotches
17. Urgently needing to urinate or defecate