Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from Evelyn in Meridian, Connecticut. I get extremely anxious when I’m talking to someone of authority, doctor, teacher, etc. How can I overcome this fear? Like I sweat and get a dry throat when talking to someone of authority.
People in authority are typically older, confident, self-assured and knowledgeable at their best; at their worst, they can be arrogant, self-absorbed, and just downright nasty. They all have their unique personalities which can be pleasant or unpleasant to deal with. Additionally, you might have anxiety about people in authority. The different anxiety types that could contribute to your fear of authority figures include social anxiety (especially performance anxiety), generalized anxiety, and post traumatic anxiety.
If you have some sort of social anxiety, particularly performance anxiety, then you may have nervousness and worry when talking or performing tasks in front of an authority figure. If you have social anxiety, then you may have the feeling that you are being socially scrutinized by the authority figure. If the authority figure is your boss, then you may have the fear that you are not satisfactorily completing the tasks of your job.
You may have generalized anxiety, as you may worry about your career, achievements, or pleasing people. If the authority figure is your mother or father, you may have the fear that you have not met their expectations of you, and you fear them because you feel that you are beneath them, and that they are embarrassed of you.
You may have post-traumatic anxiety, where you have experienced a trauma from an authority figure. So you may have an anxiety attack (like with the sweating and dry mouth you state above) each time you meet an authority figure, as it reminds you of the trauma.
How do you overcome this fear of authority figures? The answer depends on what type of anxiety you have…it could be generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD, also known as social phobia), or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And once you determine what type of anxiety you have, then you can address that anxiety in treatment. In addition, facing your fears, or exposure work, is needed to address your fear of authority figures.
If you don’t have an anxiety disorder, you still have these fears of authority figures, which may be based on the big difference in power, knowledge, and experience. You can counteract this by bringing someone with you that you trust as an advocate, so that your needs get addressed. Other ways to counteract the power differential is to research your problem or question beforehand, so that you don’t feel so uninformed, like when meeting with your doctor for a medical or emotional problem. At the end of the day, all authority figures are just like us…we are all the same, no matter the amount of credentials or accolades.
Stand tall, be confident, and prepare!