To the outside eye, someone suffering from anxiety may appear to be rather “self-indulged,” finding a way to make all events, interactions and situations about themselves. Even when friends or family attempt to talk about their own lives, chances are, the anxious individual lacks the attention or compassion; either dismissing the conversation or finding a way to connect the story back to them.
To those outsiders, it can be difficult to understand and empathize with the behaviors of the seemingly selfish individual. As a result, misinterpretations and judgments may be made based on whats occurring on the surface.
But if we were to take a deeper look inside the anxious mind, it would tell a very different story.
For an individual who suffers from anxiety, their thoughts and actions actually ARE self consuming. What people may not recognize however, is that this behavior is not a result of overwhelming confidence, but rather, a deep insecurity and fear.
“Can I get a word in?”
When triggered by anxiety, an individual’s mind becomes unfiltered – rattling off every potential negative that could occur. The fixation becomes so intense that they feel the urgent need to release all of those worries verbally; hoping that whoever is around can help negate those fears and provide some sense of solace and peace.
But the unease is difficult to maintain, and begins to fixate on all that the individual could have done wrong to cause the situation, regardless of the validity behind it.
That’s how the anxious mind works – it assumes that the insecurities we possess are valid, that everyone around us is acutely aware of those downfalls and that they are the reason for every actual or potential negative experience.
The struggle for an outsider however, lies not only in the fact that the conversation has turned into a monologue, but also that their loved one has responded to a situation with such grandiosity and self focus.
For those who don’t suffer from anxiety, the conclusion to a seemingly trivial situation is simple. They are able to rationally find explanation or understanding that encompasses a more comprehensive outlook involving aspects outside of themselves and their own lives.
“Where did you go?”
At times, the anxious individual may also appear dismissive and disconnected from others. Ever have a conversation with someone and all of a sudden you feel like you “lost” them? That they abruptly stopped paying attention and are no longer interested in what you are saying?
Chances are, in that moment, the individual felt threatened or vulnerable, igniting a free flowing path of anxious worries and fears. Those thoughts become so intrusive that the individual no longer possesses the ability to see outside of their own mind. They become disconnected from the events, interactions and occurrences around them; working to simply maintain some semblance of functionality as their mind continues down an endless path of worry and over-analysis.
What Does That Mean For Me?
To the outsider trying to engage in a conversation with someone who seems distracted, uninterested or self centered, try your best to maintain some level of empathy, understanding and patience. In that moment, your loved one is disregulated and internally battling deep discomfort that they are unable to stabilize themselves.
When appropriate, simply make an observation – identifying that you are aware of the change in their disposition and that possibly, something is bothering them that they may want to talk about with you, or process privately.
To the individual who may be experiencing these symptoms, the work centers on mindfulness – being aware of the thoughts and feelings that are occurring internally. By identifying the anxious thoughts as just that – anxiety – we begin to minimize the amount of control that they have on our lives.
When we become aware of the sensations, we are also able to communicate the experience to those around us. By simply acknowledging that you are feeling triggered and need a moment to regroup, you address the issue as it is occurring.
It is not unusual to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable with showing vulnerabilities, but the reality is that in doing so, it will not only benefit your own mental health, but will work to strengthen the understanding, respect and compassion within your relationships.
Not everything is as it seems – and sometimes looking further than surface level provides us an opportunity to gain deeper insight into ourselves and others.
Do you or someone you know seem to be suffering from anxiety? We are here to help.
Nikki P. Woods, MSW, LCSW
Nikki Woods is a highly-sought after licensed clinical psychotherapist and founder of the Navesink Wellness Center in Rumson, New Jersey. After earning her Masters Degree at New York University, Nikki dedicated her career to studying the intricacies of the developing female mind. In her practice (both locally and globally), she empowers mothers to better support their daughters’ development, and assists young women in channeling their own voice – one built on self awareness, acceptance and love.
Her intuitive and insightful approach helps clients gain a greater sense of self worth, pursue life goals, improve relationship dysfunction, establish a more defined identity, and celebrate their own unique assets and capabilities. Her work has been featured in top publications such as Forbes and Inc. She works with patients both locally in Rumson, New Jersey as well as globally via her remote psychotherapy offerings.