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Arlin Cuncic

Procrastination and Social Anxiety Disorder

By March 12, 2011

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People procrastinate for many reasons, but the immediate goal is to bring a temporary sense of relief. The problem with procrastination is just that; the relief is temporary, and it is eventually replaced with anxiety about being behind in what you need to get done.

If you suffer with social anxiety disorder (SAD), you probably procrastinate out of fear of disapproval or failure. Perhaps you put off making phone calls, delay discussing difficult issues at work, or get behind scheduling health appointments, haircuts, or any other task that involves interacting with people.

Unfortunately, the typical solutions for procrastination don't work in these scenarios.

Breaking big tasks down into smaller chunks doesn't really apply when all you need to do is make a phone call. If you waste time at work trying to solve a problem on your own because you don't want to ask a coworker a question, no amount of planning or organization is going to help.

How then can you deal with procrastination caused by social anxiety?

First, realize that waiting for a better time to face others is not the solution. Waiting can make things worse. Personal relationships may suffer if problems are not dealt with early on. Work issues may become magnified if you don't ask for help. If there is no valid reason to put off talking to someone, then it is always better to do it right away.

What are some reasons you might think it is better to wait?

  • Thought: "If I call right now she might be busy. It's better to wait an hour as that is probably a quieter time of day for her"
  • Fact: Unless you know for sure that someone is busy, there is no reason to wait. You can't predict someone else's day.
  • Thought: "My coworker looks really busy. I don't want to bother him now, I will wait until after lunch"
  • Fact: Even if your coworker is busy now, he might be even busier after lunch. By telling him now that you need help, he can either respond right away, or plan a time to talk with you.

Recognize your thought patterns, and then come up with competing arguments about why you should go ahead anyway. Most of the time, taking action now is the right thing to do.

Nancy Schimelpfening, About.com's guide to depression also offers the following tips to help deal with procrastion:

  1. Make a list of tasks and prioritize what needs to be done.

  2. Reward yourself for completing difficult tasks.

  3. Use relaxation strategies to deal with anxiety about completing tasks.

Does your social anxiety cause you to procrastinate? What are you putting off doing right now?

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March 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm
(1) PKD88 says:

I am not sure I procrastinate as much as I just stay away from any situation that I worry I will be judged.

Is that the same thing?

March 15, 2011 at 8:11 am
(2) socialanxietydisorder says:

Staying away from the situation altogether would be called avoidance… procrastination is a form of avoidance, but the person is usually forced to face the situation eventually.

March 20, 2011 at 8:35 pm
(3) PKD88 says:

I am frozen in unemployment. I am unable to look for a job. I just stay home and avoid the whole thing.

I guess I am putting off the inevitable.

March 27, 2011 at 8:49 am
(4) Melanie says:

I’m guilty of procrastinating and avoidance. I know logically that putting things off won’t help in the long run but when I’m faced with having to do something that makes me anxious, logic just goes out the window and I end up telling myself I’ll deal with the consequences later.

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