Can People Tell When You’re Anxious?

don't judge meYesterday I was channel surfing and came across a documentary on MTV about 2 young people with social anxiety. It was very interesting to watch.

I’ve always wondered if people can tell when I feel anxious. In this documentary I was able to make some observations.

One person was a 21 year old girl named Nonie, and the other was a 26 year old guy named Scott. Both still lived at home with their respective parents as they were too anxious to be out on their own.

I really tuned in while watching the guy Scott. His goal was to be able to go out and meet a girl. Apparently he had never had a date and was worried that he would be alone forever.

He had been bullied at school as a young boy and never stood up for himself. This was the jist of what started his social anxiety…

I watched as he sat in a coffee shop with his mother, who was trying to give him a pep talk. She was encouraging him to make some small talk with the pretty waitress.

So the waitress walks over and asks if they would like anything to drink and the mom orders tea. Then the waitress looks at Scott to take his order and you can see how uncomfortable he is just to be asked what he wants to drink and to have the focus on him.

He has this uncomfortable smile on his face, like he wants to be able to connect so bad, but he can’t make eye contact. He looks down at the table and crossed his arms. Then sits up and forces himself to blurt out “I’ll have the same.”

The whole interaction lasted only a few seconds but I saw so much from the perspective of a recovering anxious person.

The waitress didn’t even notice him being uncomfortable.

He wasn’t really uncomfortable with this waitress at all. He was only there for a few minutes before she came over. His anxiety was all inward focused. He was having a battle inside himself the entire time.

His body language was very interesting, so closed off. The avoidance of eye contact was noticeable to me, because I have had this problem with social interaction myself and sometimes still do it.

The mom then asked the waitress, Do you go to school? And she replies with a big smile, “Yes I go to XYZ University!”

Mom goes, “That’s terrific! My son went there too!”

Waitress looks at the son, “Oh really, what was your major?”

Then he started panicking. He kept looking down while trying to answer her. All with that huge uncomfortable smile on his face.

I’m probably not retelling this completely accurately but as I sat there watching I just felt a lump welling up in my throat.

Oh my God, I have acted like that. And I felt so bad for that poor young man.

Throughout the show you see Scott in situations with girls at clubs with his friends and his attempts to talk and try to get a date.

I was just fascinated watching his body language. He was easy to read, I guess maybe that is just his personality or maybe because he’s a guy? I don’t know. But it was plain to see how uncomfortable he was. It was painful to watch.

The other storyline on the show was about the 21 year old girl, Nonie. You couldn’t tell she was anxious at all really when she interacted with people, although she was a big into avoiding things and got easily embarrassed at the things she perceived.

She avoided going into a pharmacy, choosing instead the drive-through where she would have much less interaction with people.  She avoided going into a pizza parlor until the other customers left.

However when interacting with a waitress or having a job interview, she was amazing at hiding her fear. You couldn’t detect that she was feeling anxious at all.

Yesterday afternoon I was in a grocery store and while I was going down an aisle, I heard the dreaded, “Hi Jill”.

It was a girl who lived way down the end of my street who recently moved away. We never knew each other well but I used to see her and chit chat when I used to walk my dog Buddy past her house years ago. She also has a dog.

So we caught up on our dogs and the kids. I felt anxious when she first said hi, because seeing neighbors in grocery stores has always been a social anxiety trigger for me.

But I was able to shrug off the weird feelings and talk to her. It felt good. I remember during our conversation I went within and checked how I was doing anxiety-wise. I was checking to see if I felt the urge to leave. It was only there a little.

Last weekend I was out of town at my mother’s house. She and I went shopping at the local mall, and we were in JC Penny’s. I had this weird flashback to the 1980s when I lived there and started to feel anxious. Then my mom walks over to me and says, “Marybeth Smally just said to say hello. She works over at the jewelry counter.”

My mom went to shop in a different department and I went into the dressing room feeling out of sorts about the prospect of seeing someone from my past in a store. My MO in the past was always to avoid seeing said people, lest I have a panic attack because I feel they might be judging me.

So I forced myself to try on the clothes I picked out, and then I forced myself to find the check out counter where Marybeth was.

It was not a big deal at all. I felt I acted a little bit like Scott from the documentary above, as what I wanted to say didn’t come out too easily. But I was happy to be able to see her and reconnect and we had a nice hug and man it was just really nice.

I’m so glad I didn’t avoid her! I have done that so so many times in the past. All that does is reinforce the social anxiety.

There was no way in hell she would have known I was anxious. I am so stealth, I could totally give Scott lessons :)

In the past I have wondered if people could tell I was anxious. Just recently someone made a comment in the ER where I work that “Jill never gets stressed.” Well I’ve had decades of honing my skills covering it up…Man if they only knew ;)

How are you with The Big Cover Up? Do you think people can tell when you’re anxious?

I wish you peace,

Jill G.

Ready to take action with an effective anxiety elimination program? I recommend and use the 60 Second Panic Solution. Please get started today and reclaim your life from fear.
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8 Responses to Can People Tell When You’re Anxious?

  1. maz says:

    Well done jilly for not running. My heart breaks for Scott so young praying he gets the help he needs and the famines she deserves. I know sometimes people know when I’m anxious because I go very quiet and into my own head to try to sort myself out. Ofcourse when all else fails I actually tell them I’m anxious I figure if they know they won’t be offended when I am quiet. Saying a prayer for those two kids and all people who have anxiety. Great post as usual jilly. Luv mazx

    • JillG says:

      Maz you’re such a classy English lady, going quiet to sort yourself out. I always feel like a loud three dollar bill, or a rodeo circus clown, in my ridiculousness. Thank you for the kind support, I am glad I didn’t run either :)

  2. maz says:

    Just had a smile to myself. When I read you were chanel surfing I thought you had taken spin class to another level. I guess because I’m in the uk I saw you surfing up the English chanel. Thought I’d share my blonde moment

    • JillG says:

      Laughing out loud! If only! Laying on the couch in front of the television is about as far from useful exercise at it gets. The only workout is flexing my arm as I empty the potato chip bag.

  3. maz says:

    Oh jilly I’m not classy at all. I go quiet to sort myself out then when that fails I beat your three dollar bill any day I’m like a screaming banshee then the floodgates open until I’ve cried a river . Very classy by which time I look like I’ve gone 3 round with mike Tyson omg. You could have saved me a crisp oh they are called potato chips over the pond either way I love them. Have a good day hun x

    • JillG says:

      Oh Maz – laughing with you never at you. You are truly a soul sister and one of the best friends I never met. Have a great day hon xxx

  4. maz says:

    Aw bless you Hun you have a great one too marra (remember it means friend) x

  5. Tonya says:

    Hey Jill,

    I know you can’t really give me medical advice but just wanted to tell you I saw the new doctor today, well it was a nurse pract. I told her about how my anxiety has returned full fledge. We talked the gammet about medications. I told her my experience with benzos and this was my 3rd year I have been off them. I am at a crossroads with taking meds. I told her I am at the point of being so afraid to take anything and nothing else really seemed to work. She said I shouldn’t be so worried about taking benzos and gave me a prescrip. for them. I am so confused now. It took me 3 years of pure hell and withdrawal and I swore I would never take them again. But she says since nothing else seemed to work for me I should give them a try again. I thought they weren’t supposed to be for long term use, so I am scared to take them again. I am feeling like no one can help me and I will have this forever. Any advice if I am too scared to take meds. Thanks!

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