Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: motivation, addiction, and social anxiety ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: motivation, addiction, and social anxiety
Category: Health
Asked by: azl42-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 17 Nov 2002 02:43 PST
Expires: 17 Dec 2002 02:43 PST
Question ID: 109260
I’m looking for advice regarding motivation, addiction, and social
anxiety as applied to me.  Therefore I will provide the following
background information that I feel is relevant. I am 19, male, a
college junior, living alone off-campus, studying Computer Science. I
have long had mild social anxiety (my anxiety being a function of the
number of people present and how well I know them). I am exceptionally
bright (IQ~130, SATs 1500 to quantify it). I also have a tendency to
get addicted to things for short(short in days but not in hours)
periods of time (things being television, computer games, programming,
etc.). I have not gotten addicted to anything harmful but it may be
notable that my father was an alcoholic (who admirably hasn’t touched
a drink in 18 years). I find it easy to preemptively avoid addictive
behavior (like by not owning a television) but hard to stop once I
started (an example of which being I decided to read for a little
while this afternoon to take a brief break from work and did not stop
my break until I finished the book slightly after when I normal go to
bed). I often have difficulty motivating myself to do school work. I
believe my lack of motivation/procrastination is encouraged by my
abilities to learn months of class work the night before a deadline or
exam (I do well with independent study and strict and frequent
deadlines….unfortunately I have been hard pressed to find independent
study programs that feature deadlines, none surely with deadlines that
would make me have to work consistently).

In high school, I knew all my classmates (all 40 of them) so social
anxiety was rarely a problem. The material in high school was easy
enough that my procrastination never caught up with me and left me
plenty of time for me to be addicted to innocuous things. Now in
college I face large groups of people I don’t know frequently (my
class size being raised from 40 to 10,000). I still, as of yet, have
not been “punished” by a course for my procrastination although I feel
I will soon meet my match. I also have been having doubts about my
major (loving programming but not logic) which hasn’t helped on the
motivational front. Hence, I have been experiencing more inner
conflict as of late. I seek help to motivating myself; to avoid
addiction “in the moment” and to feel comfortable in situations that
would raise my social anxiety.

Knowing from past successful dieting, I tend to react well to discrete
monitoring of related factors (in that case merely recording daily
weight and exercise in excel spreadsheets and charts). I have
considered writing a program to monitor my general activities, but my
initial attempts at writing the program alternatively met with
addictive concentration or procrastination, hence to produce my
solution I had to solve my problem first, a paradox I haven’t

In your answer I look for your advice rather than links to pure
information (as it is hard to filter information regarding oneself
without either falling prey to denial or to falsely apply symptoms to
yourself upon reading them…a man who is his on psychologist is more a
fool then the proverbial lawyer).

Whether my problems sound serious enough to warrant seeking a
psychologist or that a different forum would be better to voice these
concerns in, may be part of your answer.
Subject: Re: motivation, addiction, and social anxiety
Answered By: haversian-ga on 17 Nov 2002 04:57 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
You're describing me (a few years ago)!

While I can't be said to have "solved" the problem, I do have some
hopefully helpful suggestions for you.

First off, about once a month go do something completely out of
character.  You might find something you actually like, and the worst
that will happen is that you will waste your time and not have fun but
it sounds like you're having a hard time being productive anyway, so
this won't be much of a loss!  One of the hard parts about breaking a
habit like this is that your behavior patterns are reinforced by the
few people you do know fairly well, so throwing yourself in an
unfamiliar situation, with unfamiliar people, can be liberating.  It's
also a little scary, and most of the time isn't fun but you'll
surprise yourself at least once.  Order something you wouldn't dream
of at a restaurant.  Go to a club (I'm back from my first club
experience - still buzzing from second-hand nicotine and THC).  Pick a
random campus event and go say hi.  Be friendly.  It will be forced
and people will probably notice there's something a little off about
you, but keep at it.  If things go badly, remember that nobody there
knows you and you can try something else later.  Take an acting class.

Second, figure out what motivates you.  For me, using something I
dread doing as a motivator is sometimes effective - by putting off the
horrible thing, I assuage my procrastinating side, and can usually
force myself to do something else I need to get done in lieu of that. 
Schedule your assignments and whatnot so you have deadlines a few days
apart to minimize the problem of not being able to get 2 big projects
done at the last minute.

Third, interrupt yourself.  If you have a habit of banging on
something until it's done, set a timer.  If you've got a palm pilot,
there's an application called Big Clock (IMHO one of the best-designed
Palm app UIs I've seen) that you can set to beep in 10 minutes.  And
10 minutes later.  And 10 minutes later.  And 10 minutes later.

Fourth, cultivate friendships.  If you don't make friends quickly, you
won't have very many casual friends.  But that certainly does not mean
you cannot have a few very close friends.  Ask some of your more
outgoing friends to take you places (see suggestion 1).

(I can add more suggestions if you would like, but I think these are
plenty to overwhelm you for a while.  Ask if you need more!)

Nth, be patient!  You have spent 19 years becoming the person you are;
do not expect to change in 19 days.  If you're lucky you will see
noticeable improvement in one area after 19 weeks.  More likely, you
will notice a year or two from now that you aren't the same person you
were then and lots of things have changed.  At 19, you're trying to
figure out how to be an adult, and what adult to be - let that process
work its magic but try to help it along by trying new things.  And try
to be happy.  If you feel good spending 9 hours straight reading a
novel then do that.  Sure, it's reinforcing your addictive behavior
but denying yourself all activities that take more than 2 hours will
just make you a warped person - try to do your reading with the
expectation that it will take 9 hours, and plan for it appropriately.

These are, I suppose, fairly obvious suggestions.  But take heart -
they do work.

azl42-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Thanks for your suggestions; I was looking for an answer from someone
in the mental health field rather than computers (as I judge your
background is from what other questions you answer) but I was lucky
and received that perspective in a comment. Thanks fsw and good luck

Subject: Re: motivation, addiction, and social anxiety
From: funkywizard-ga on 17 Nov 2002 04:12 PST
I was intrigued by your question since I believe I share the majority
of the traits you have described and am likely to quit college as a
result of them. As such, I very much look forward to whatever answer
researchers can find for you, and wish you the best of luck with your
Subject: Re: motivation, addiction, and social anxiety
From: fsw-ga on 17 Nov 2002 07:30 PST
Hi azl42,

My background is in mental health, so your question was quite
interesting to me. Your self-description doesn't sound like a young
man with motivational problems. Someone who's accomplished as much as
you have in 19 years is probably highly motivated! But I understand
that perhaps you don't perceive yourself as motivated due to the
procrastination issue.

Your self-description doesn't sound like a major psychiatric disorder.
And it doesn't sound like an addiction per se. It may be more helpful
to consider your situation in terms of your possibly having certain
personality traits. For example, what you describe as “addictive”
behavior may actually be an avoidant or obsessive-compulsive
personality trait. Many highly successful adults have these traits to
some degree. But because you are “experiencing more inner conflict as
of late,” you may want to consider seeing a psychologist.

A psychologist may recommend psychological testing such as the MMPI
(Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory). This test will suggest
whether or not you have the traits mentioned above. If you do seek the
services of a psychologist, you may want to consider someone who
specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy. I say this because you
have identified the behavioral approach as successful in the past
(dieting). But you impress me as being too introspective to be fully
satisfied with pure behavior therapy alone, hence my suggestion that
you consider the cognitive-behavioral perspective if you opt to see a

Best wishes,
Subject: Re: motivation, addiction, and social anxiety
From: caecias-ga on 18 Nov 2002 13:34 PST
azl42-ga, I too, as well as many of my friends, have most of the
traits that you have described.  My group of friends are bright,
graduated from college with computer science degrees, and also have
both the short-term addiction you have described as well as the
motivational problems.  However, I don't think there is anything wrong
with any of us.  I would like to share some of the insights that I
have gathered in my five years since graduating from college and going
on to teach students like ourselves.

First, everyone has the same motivational problems that you are
describing.  Each person must strive to put aside those things they
would like to do right now and that have immediate benefits, and force
themselves to do those things which are uncomfortable, and have
long-term payoffs.  Although it seems easy to everyone other than you,
in actuality, each person is struggling to keep their priorities in
order.  Think about the number of people with Franklin Planners, and
other organizational systems.  If it was easy, there wouldn't be a
market for such things.

As to those people who really are on top of things, they simply have a
better system in place than you do.  They have the ability to
visualize their long-term goals and to understand the benefits that
their work will bring.  They also better understand that there is a
long-term discomfort involved in procrastination and a short-term
discomfort involved in doing a task that needs to be done. I would
like to tell you right now that it gets better after college.  At a
job you are responsible to someone other than yourself.  You get
quicker feedback in the form of praise or nasty e-mails, your work has
obvious and immediate benefits, and you get to go home after work and
in that way seperate your work from your home life.

I do believe that if it was not for my procrastination, I would have
received a higher GPA from college, but the fear you seem to have, and
that I had at the time, that you will eventually receive your
comeuppance, never materialized for me.

I believe that breaking down a large assignment into much smaller,
clearly defined, bite sized chunks, and giving yourself a deadline for
each chuck would be a strategy that would help you. Before you allow
yourself to play Vice City (or whatever you're currently entralled
with) at night, require yourself to check your deadlines, and complete
any tasks that you've given yourself.  If you listen really hard,
you'll be able to hear the same refrain across the entire campus;
"God, I REALLY don't want to do this."  Again, it will get easier
after college, when the tasks have more meaning.

In terms of social anxiety, this is also something that almost
everyone experiences.  I would much rather spend an evening with a few
or one close friend, then the uncomfortable meeting of new people at a
party.  The obvious thoughts go through my head: what if I make a fool
of myself, what if they think I'm an idiot, what if they simply don't
like me, what if I'm actually a worthless human being and they all
notice?  The majority of this is simply a function of your
self-confidence.  Feel better about yourself, and you'll have less
trouble meeting new people.

I find it much easier to talk to someone when the focus isn't on me. 
For instance, how about asking someone from class to study with you? 
You won't be as worried about people judging you when you're focused
on your work, plus, you'll have a definite date and time when you know
you'll be working.  Try meeting in the computer lab, where there will
be fewer distractions.  Try joining a basketball club, or LARPing, or
whatever hobby you may have where the focus will be on a structured
activity, and not on trotting out your life story, your major, where
you went to high school, etc.

Finally, your addictive personality.  I'm not convinced you have a
problem.  What student wouldn't rather play five hours of Final
Fantasy X rather than do a programming assignment?  I also didn't
watch TV for seven years while I went to college, and started a
career.  I found it impossible to turn off the TV once it was on.  I
now have a TV again, becuase I realized that if I didn't have the
possibility of having my faced glued to the TV, I was unable to put
down the book I was reading, or unable to get off the Internet.

A large part of that was that I really enjoyed reading, and browsing
the web, the other part is that I was avoiding doing other tasks that
I should be doing.  With no seperation between school and the rest of
your life, there's always something you should be doing rather than
playing.  Another possible strategy might be to give yourself work
hours.  Tell yourself your work day starts at 8am, take an hour lunch,
and don't go home until 5pm.  Work on your homework in a lab, or a
study hall or lounge.  Then when you go home, put your work away for
tomorrow, and give yourself permission to enjoy your evening.

I hear what you're saying about inner conflict.  Id, ego, and superego
rarely have the same goals.  You are only 19, and in a transitional
place in your life.  I certainly don't think that learning more about
yourself by visiting a therapist would be a bad idea, everyone should
do it at least once in their life, however I think a few books about
fighting procrastination might also be helpful.  I know this is a
popular topic for self-help authors.  Here's one on amazon you could
start looking at:

I want to let you know that it does get easier, but life is never
effortless.  I generally try to use this time after work to prep for
the next day and grade papers, but I too am procrastinating in writing
this response.  It might be interesting to see if there are any
studies of the kind of personalities that tend to be attracted to
different majors.  Let me know if I was helpful, or if I can be any
more help.


Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy