Some things

​to think about


Anxiety is a master of disguise. The butterflies in your stomach before a big date. The knot in your throat during that intense meeting. Even that pep in your step as you walk with nervous excitement into a party. And now, thanks to the pandemic, the ever-present freak-out thoughts go everywhere with us too.

Is everyone vaccinated? Wearing a mask? Symptom free? Honest about it?

Social situations were tough to navigate before the pandemic, especially for people with anxiety. How many times have you hugged the wall at a social gathering and avoided eye contact at all costs? Maybe you settled down enough to engage in a chat only to have to run away mid-conversation? Throw a mask on and so much for deep breaths to calm yourself!

It’s okay. You’re not rude; you’re just anxious.

Be kind to yourself and know this:

1. Everyone experiences anxiety.
2. Social anxiety is real and the pandemic hasn’t made it easier. 
3. Your behaviors are likely coping mechanisms you’ve developed to manage anxiety.

Sure, avoiding people may give the impression of “being standoffish” or “stuck up,” but the reality is people with anxiety find communication and socialization almost paralyzing at times. To cope with anxiety, someone might cut a conversation short, avoid eye contact, or even fail to find words to carry on a conversation.

Anxiety can crush good manners.

When you live with anxiety, you’re all too familiar with the feeling of always being on edge. You might feel like you can’t relax. Every interaction is a potential minefield and you’re always one wrong move away from complete disaster. This can lead to some behaviors that others might see as rude or impolite, even for those who have the best manners and intentions.

As we’ve said many times before, mental health can be messy and complicated. By being open about what’s really going on, we can build more honest relationships and foster better understanding.

Rude or Anxious? Canceling plans to stay home

One of the most common things people with anxiety do that can come across as rude is canceling plans. You might feel comfortable socializing with one person, but plans involving more than that can cause your comfort levels to plummet and your anxiety to skyrocket. You may even cancel at the last minute because you don’t feel like you can handle being around other people. Anxiety is powerful… but so is honesty.

If you’re working on developing better anxiety management skills and are finding you’re canceling plans more than keeping them, let the host know from the beginning. Something like, “I’m looking forward to spending time with you, but if I have to cancel, please know I don’t mean to be rude. I’m working on managing my anxiety, but sometimes it gets so bad I can’t keep commitments.” Being honest takes away the uncertainty that could otherwise inform someone’s perspective of your behavior.

Rude or Anxious? Forgetting to reply

You don’t mean to “ghost” people, but you forget to reply… way too much. It’s usually because you’re so consumed with your thoughts that the outside world falls totally off your radar. You might be worried about an upcoming meeting at work or overthinking a fight you had with your partner, and next thing you know, it’s been two weeks and you get a “wtf” text.

Not replying to someone’s text or email can come across as being rude, but anxiety makes it easy to lose track of time or get so caught up in thought that you never respond. If “ghosting” has become a problem for you, try to identify a communication method that works best for you. Maybe texts get lost in the abyss but leaving emails “unread” helps remind you to respond. Maybe phone calls are a powerful enough interruption to snatch you from your own thoughts. Maybe you need to allocate 10 minutes each day to give some attention to replying – set an alarm, start the timer, and take care of what you can in that time.

Rude or Anxious? Leaving events early

Social anxiety can make you think about leaving before you even arrive. It doesn’t matter if it’s your grandma’s small get-together or the annual office holiday party, you might feel so overwhelmed and anxious that leaving is the only way to avoid a full-blown panic attack.


     In some cases, you’ve stressed so much about the event beforehand that you’re too exhausted or too nervous to try when the moment arrives,” said bonmente’Lorena Hernandez, LCSW. “Leaving is literally the easiest way out, but it’s not the best.”

Think about why you do the dip. Does the small talk wear you out? Is it just too hard to pay attention? Is the pressure to “perform” exhausting? Do you feel like all eyes aarre on you and being extra judgy? Figuring out why you’ve gotta get outta there is the first step in finding a way to stay. 

If you just can’t muster the mingle, give your early departure some grace and avoid the Irish goodbye.No need to make a big scene as you head out, but a quick text letting the host know you had to go takes away any tinge of rude that your absence may leave behind.

Rude or Anxious? Avoiding eye contact

Looking at another person directly in the eyes can be extremely unsettling for someone with anxiety. It can feel like full blown scrutiny or powerful judgment. Not to mention if someone is looking in your eyes, they can probably see your anxiety all over your face!

Eye contact has long been interpreted as a sign of interest or respect, which is why a lack of it can be considered rude. If eye contact turns you into stone, turn it into a game. Try quick glances at someone’s eyes while chatting and then look away. Or make your target their eyebrows or the top of their nose instead of the eyes. Or put attention on a different focus in the room, like a light fixture or a painting… or that really great TikTok you saw earlier today.

Rude or Anxious? Zoning out of conversations

To the person talking, zoning out can come across as a lack of regard for what they’re saying. We all know how active listening makes us feel heard, but anxiety can turn active listening into a preoccupation that discombobulates your attention. You spend all the time you should be listening worrying about what to say, then worrying that you may say something dumb. And if you manage to actually spit some words out, your brain immediately starts replaying the whole exchange, and you get so wrapped up in the cycle of fret that it’s impossible not to zone out. 

But zoning out isn’t a act of rudeness as much as it is a coping mechanism. By zoning out, you decrease stimulation and try to give your overwhelmed brain a break. If you get caught zoned out, just tune back in with a “Oh gosh, I lost my train of thought there. What did you just say?” Sometimes zoning out can be a symptom of ADHD, so if it’s happening all the time, consider a professional evaluation.

Less Stigma, More Support!

Every day can be a balancing act for someone with anxiety.  You’re always trying to do what’s best for yourself while also considering how your condition might affect others. The truth is your discomfort or desire to be at home alone has nothing to do with your kindness and good intentions.

Mental health issues like anxiety can make you want to run and hide, to keep your emotions to yourself. But you deserve to overcome anxiety and thrive. If you or someone you love is looking for anxiety treatment in Long Beach, CA, our team is on the line waiting to talk with you. It all starts with a phone call – make it today!