If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might have found yourself avoiding social situations and feeling a lot of anxiety when you’re forced to go out into the world. And if you consider yourself an empath, this could be magnified by your ability to sort of “feel” everyone around you. I know that’s been the case for me in the past. Whether you could be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD) or you just struggle with social situations, it could be a result of your toxic relationship.
Also called “social phobia,” social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes you to have an extreme, unrelenting fear of being watched and especially judged by people, including not only strangers but also people you know. This crippling fear can affect your ability to function in the world – whether at work, school, or any of your other daily activities. Many sufferers of SAD report that it is difficult for them to make and keep friends.
What does SAD have to do with narcissistic abuse recovery?
Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships can cause you to feel overwhelmed and isolated on their own, but they also cause what psychologists call a “toxic internal environment” that can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and a wide variety of other physical health problems. Social anxiety can be a side-effect of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) as well – and many survivors of narcissistic abuse suffer from C-PTSD.
Consider this: a 12.2-year study that launched in 1985 and followed more than 10,000 people found that people who reported being in unhealthy or negative relationships were far more likely to develop heart problems, including a fatal heart attack or cardiac event, than study participants who had healthier, less negative relationships.
And on a more practical level, since narcissists are so likely to isolate and control us in these relationships, we become hypervigilant of their moods and behaviors and this can leave us not only exhausted emotionally but also unwilling or unable to deal with other people during the relationship. This could be because we are too overwhelmed by the narcissist’s need for attention and supply or because we grow tired of trying to behave “correctly” in public (so that the narcissist doesn’t further abuse us when we get home). It could also be for a number of other reasons (or a combination of reasons).
What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD)?
According to NIMH, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
Be very afraid that other people will judge them
Stay away from places where there are other people
What does social anxiety disorder (SAD) feel like?
One of the worst aspects of suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder is the feeling that you are entirely isolated and alone in the world – even (and sometimes especially) if you’re in a room full of people. It can feel as if you are cut off from the world and your inner self. Worse, it feels like you have no control over the bad feelings and that you’re trapped forever in feeling anxious and alone.
It may be helpful to hear that even if you’re feeling alone, there are some symptoms that therapists have noted are the hallmarks of SAD and just about everyone suffers from them.
The feeling that no one understands you.
When you’re in the grip of social anxiety, it feels like you are cut off from everyone and that no one can understand what it feels like inside your head, not even your therapist or your best friend.
You’re trapped forever in anxiety
SAD transcends time and space. It feels as though you’re stuck in a cycle of perpetual anxiety, even though part of you knows that SAD doesn’t define you and that no matter how severe your current flare-up is, it will pass. Anxiety tells you that you are stuck and can’t move out of the trap you’re in, even if your rational mind understands it’s not like that.
You feel like a fish out of water.
Chronic anxiety feeds on negative messages that tell you over and over that you don’t belong, you don’t fit in, that there’s something wrong with you. The deeper you get into this negative mindset, the more isolated and alienated you feel, and you withdraw from friends and family. A vicious cycle sets in to keep you apart and deepen the feeling of alienation.
A negative mindset takes over
When you’re suffering from anxiety, you tend to look at the world through very gray-colored glasses. Your brain’s default setting becomes irrational and negative. You can misinterpret things people say or do, even kindly-meant advice from your therapist or counselor.
That can spill over into feeling like a failure. You can fall into a spiral of self-criticism and self-loathing, raking over perceived mistakes and failures from the past.
Social anxiety can make you feel as though you have a layer of psychological skin missing. You feel self-conscious like everyone is looking at you and judging you. You worry over every little detail of your behavior, your clothes, what you say and what you do.
The self-loathing and stress that comes with chronic social anxiety can make it virtually impossible to live in the moment and get on with enjoying life.
Note: Because this issue is so prevalent for narcissistic abuse survivors, I’m working on a new course on the subject over at Life Makeover Academy. I’m currently searching for people to beta-test the course. While it’s normally a $99 course, I’m offering it to people who are willing to beta-test it for half-price. If you are interested in testing the course and sharing your thoughts with me, you can click here to get lifetime access to the course (and all future updates/additional material) for just $49. Please note: the beta testing period will close at the end of July, when the course will be ready to roll out at full price, so get in there now if you are interested.
You might also enjoy this video I made on the topic.
“I think it’s important to get your surroundings as well as yourself into a positive state – meaning surround yourself with positive people, not the kind who are negative and jealous of everything you do.” ~Heidi Klum
Did you know your home can have a serious impact on your frame of mind, and in fact, on your mental and physical health in general? It’s true.
For example, dark and ugly rooms can make you feel sad and discouraged. Bright, cheery rooms rejuvenate you. Clutter makes you feel crazy and scattered.
Do you feel good about your environment?
Whether it’s at home or work, it matters – a lot more than you know! Not to worry if you don’t love it – there are plenty of ways to brighten your home and lighten your mood – and I’ve rounded up ten of the most effective for you.
But first, let’s discuss the psychology behind it, shall we? Because, of course, it all starts in your head.
The Psychological Effects of a Messy House
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says that “When we clear the physical clutter from our lives, we literally make way for inspiration and ‘good, orderly direction’ to enter.”
It’s more than just that, though – the way you keep and decorate your home can definitely affect you to the very core.
“The environment with which we surround ourselves is very often a direct expression of where we are emotionally and psycho-spiritually – our global state of mind,” said life coach and personal development expert Michael Formica in a 2008 Psychology Today report. “If we are distracted, we tend to lose things. If we are disorganized, the piles begin to collect. If we are feeling disconnected, the emails pile up, and the voicemails remain unreturned.”
10 Home Hacks to Boost Your Mood Instantly
1. Lighten up! Add more light. Light is one of the easiest ways to boost your mood. Increase the amount of light in a room by opening blinds and curtains. White blinds and curtains reflect the light.
2. Brighten up! Choose bright and cheerful paint colors. You may be creating drama with dark brown or black paint, but it won’t help your mood.
Dark colors aren’t the only issue because neutrals can also be dreary.
Brighter colors like yellow, pink, blue, and green can freshen up a room and give it an instant lift.
Your mood will also benefit from the change.
3. Happy art, happy you! Add happy artwork. Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” isn’t the type of artwork that lifts moods. Select art that makes you feel happy. Images of beautiful landscapes, animals, and abstract designs are popular choices. You can also frame your children’s artwork as a reminder of the joy they bring into your life.
4. Add flowers to brighten any room! Fresh flowers are preferred and will also add a nice fragrance to a room. However, they’re not the only option. Silk flowers come in a variety of realistic choices and can instantly brighten a room.
5. Be a switcher-upper! Rearrange or replace decorations. Does the vase from your aunt make you want to cry? Do you wish your decorations could get an upgrade?
Switch it up! Changing the decorations in your home can help you lift your mood. Replace old and hated objects or rearrange other items. Even a simple pillow swap for new pillows can make you feel better.
6. Get rid of clutter! Clutter can weigh you down emotionally and negatively influence your mood, even if you think you don’t notice it. If you clean your house and eliminate clutter, you’ll notice a big emotional change. Consider new storage ideas, such as bins under your bed, to prevent clutter from reappearing.
De-Cluttering Tips from Dr. Regina Lark, chairs the Education Committee of the National Association of Professional Organizer, and WiseBread.com.
Make it all about YOU! “You can make your space what you want to be,” Lark says. “But decluttering your space can’t be successful if you don’t have clarity of what your space will look like when you are done.”
Visualize it – on a board! “Create a vision board of your perfect space by either by cutting photos out of magazines or on Pinterest,” Lark says. “My vision has great art. My vision does not have two crock pots.”
Don’t go it alone! “Once you’ve created your vision for your space, enlist some help in the decision making process and to declutter. If this were pleasurable, you would do it in one second. Ask a friend whose taste you admire, to help you pare down your closet to only the clothes that make you look and feel great about yourself.”
Party on! There’s NO WRONG WAY! Just do it (with friends)! “Ironically, many people avoid decluttering because they are afraid that they are decluttering incorrectly,” Lark says. “To make the experience go faster have a declutter party with wine and snacks. Explain that you can accept criticism from friends at the party if it’s made with kindness. Take turns clearing each person’s home.”
7. Select your favorite SMELLS! Work with fragrance. If you don’t have allergies, then you can use fragrance for a positive change. Essential oils are one way to brighten your mood and modify the ambiance in a room.
Citrus oils like grapefruit and orange are linked to happier moods. Mint oils, such as peppermint, also have a similar effect. You can spray a small amount of the essential oils in the air to create a lasting impact. You can also add oils to a burner for another way to add fragrance..
Candles are also an awesome addition to any home environment. They can seriously enhance the ambiance. If you’ve got small kids, be sure to keep them up high – or just use the ones that have electronic flames. Some even come with a scent-emitting feature.
8. Photos add love energy! Add more pictures of your family and friends. If seeing an image of your loved ones instantly makes you smile, then consider adding more of their pictures to your home.
The refrigerator and fireplace mantel aren’t the only locations you can display pictures of your friends and family. You can add their photos to the walls, coffee tables, and side tables.
9. Bust down those walls! No, seriously! Remove a wall. If a wall is preventing one of the rooms from getting enough light, then removing it can help you feel better. When you don’t get enough exposure to light, it can literally disrupt your body’s natural functions and cause depression and insomnia, among other things – and that can lead to health problems.
10. Warm up your tootsies! Go big and add radiant heat to your floors. My Aunt Jan has a room in her house she calls the Florida room and it’s got radiant heat in the floor – it feels like heaven, especially when it’s cold outside.
Since I don’t personally have this one, I did a bit of research on it at one of my favorite sites as a homeowner – HealthyBuiltHomes.org. According to their experts, radiant heating is also called “underfloor heating,” and it “allows you to have warm floors throughout your home and reduces the amount of time your furnace or heating appliances must operate.”
Plus, “radiant floor heating will not only reduce your energy consumption within your home, it will also cut down on the wear and tear on your HVAC equipment.”
Like I said, while I’m in love with this idea, I haven’t implemented it at my own home just yet, so I’m not totally sure of the pricing – but you can get a custom quote from a local, trusted contractor in your area through HealthyBuildHomes.org – and it’s so easy – just visit their Radiant Floor Heating page to set it up.
Uplift your mood by making simple changes around your home. You’ll notice a difference in how you feel almost immediately – I promise!
How do you feel about where you live? What can you do to feel better about it? Tell me your thoughts in the comments, below.