M. is a 44-year-old “genius” with complex systems in Silicon Valley who recently graduated from his therapy with me for public speaking anxiety. In his final session he told me that one of the reasons for his success was the concept of “measurability” as he “has an engineering brain”. I decided to take this concept and apply it to my patients. As my practice has been 99% online during the last five years, I surveyed my patients from around the country during the last week. I asked them to measure their “concern” about the virus on a scale of 1-10. Here are some results.
B., age 21, a college sophomore in Georgia with pervasive social anxiety, A, age 15, an adolescent who has recovered from selective mutism, living near Houston, Texas, A, a 17-year-old female in Los Angeles, with pervasive social anxiety and avoidant personality, and J. a 30 year old lawyer in Manhattan with zero social life outside of his family, were not even able to give me numbers as all were relishing the idea of social isolation with no social stress.
As these individuals’ function at a relatively low level socially, despite their intellectual intelligence which is high, their responses did not surprise me given their relatively primitive attitude toward socializing.
S. is a 53-year-old CEO of a global company living in Long Island who is working on his performance anxiety. He said his concern is a “5” as his family is safe. In addition, he felt “excitement” regarding his management challenge, referencing back to 2008. Another public speaking patient is S who is a 45-year-old financial analyst. He also lives on Long Island. He has three young children. I must say his answer was “mind blowing” to me. His said “0; I’m confused. I don’t understand the big deal. It’s only a virus”. It’s certainly a good thing that his wife has a totally different attitude.
N. a 27-year-old with long term depression and anxiety living in Manhattan gave a “10”. He was “paralyzed”. He was concerned that people close to him could die. In addition, he recently started dating a young woman whom he was very serious about. The virus has put the situation on hold creating extreme frustration.
C. age 38, a scientist in North Carolina is working on her public speaking anxiety and erythrophobia (fear of blushing). She gave it an “8-9” as she lived with her older in laws. She was concerned about transmitting to them.
E. a 19-year-old living in Queens, New York is in the process of recovering from her chronic social anxiety and depression. Her parents are Libertarians. Their concern is a “1-2” as they believe “that the virus is a hoax facilitated by the media against Trump”. E. gives it a “9”. She is especially frustrated that she was resolving her school phobia and now the process is on hold.
J., a 45-year-old in Washington D.C., is another public speaking patient who works in a large corporation. He is in a very empowered state because he is now free from the public speaking anxiety that last year caused him to leave work abruptly. He was especially energized and empathic to “those who are suffering”; saying that he wants to influence his corporation to help those in need. His concern was a “9”.
It’s disturbingly ironic that having worked with social anxiety for over four decades I now have to encourage people to refine their social distancing skills.
Be Smart. Be Safe.