Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today comes to us from Paula in Missouri. I always get angry and get anxiety while being looked at in public. What can I do?
Many people with anxiety disorders have agitation and anxiety when in public. They often are afraid and they will have a panic attack in public and will be embarrassed by being out of control.
Many people feel they will also not receive the medical care they need if they have a panic attack in public. In addition, anxiety can also create a feeling that the person is being looked at or judged, and this can create anger and anxiety. In order to decrease anger and anxiety regarding feeling looked at by people in the public, the person must look at the situation differently.
Cognitive restructuring is needed to change this perception. To begin cognitive restructuring, first ask, “Is that person really looking at me?” Making eye contact with the person does not mean they are thinking about the other person or judging. In fact, many times the eye contact is initiated by the person with anxiety without their knowledge. Change the thought to “Of course, that person is not looking or thinking about me. They don’t know me, and I’m not important to their life.”
Second, ask, “Why would this person have a reason to judge me?” The truthful answer is that the person doesn’t have any connection and, in most cases, has not thought or had an emotional response to the encounter. The encounter is random and the other person has already forgotten and moved on about their business.
Most people have many encounters in a day, and most of them are forgotten within moments of the occurrence because they’re not notable to the person. Use the same cognitive restructuring. Change the thought to “Of course, that person is not looking or thinking about me. They don’t know me, and I’m not important to their life.”
Third, ask, “Does this person’s thoughts or feelings about me really matter?” Again, the truth is “no.” Change the thought to “Of course, that person is not looking or thinking about me. They don’t know me, and I’m not important to their life.”
Everybody occasionally gets angry and learning to deal with it is important, not just restructuring. Some ways to deal with anger can be found at AnxietyBoss.com.