June 6, 2013 at 9:24 am #14761
A recent article published in a respected journal – Cognitive Therapy and Research (Langer & Rodebaugh, 2013) – entitled ‘Social anxiety and gaze avoidance: Averting gaze but not anxiety’ provides interesting conclusions that individuals with social anxiety might consider. The authors noted that there is much evidence that individuals with social anxiety tend to avoid eye contact during at least some social encounters. However, the function of this behaviour remains unclear. Cognitive theories of social anxiety suggest that avoiding eye contact – gaze avoidance – may function as an attempt to avoid signs of social threat. What you can’t see can’t hurt you. This piece of research was interested if finding out if this strategy worked – was it effective for reducing anxiety and, if it is effective, how long did it last?; was it just a short term fix or did it result in lasting effects. What these authors found was that being asked to make less eye contact – rather than more – was the most anxiety-provoking condition for participants with high levels of social anxiety in social encounters. They concluded that avoiding eye contact in an effort to regulate anxiety is an ineffective strategy over time for individuals with social anxiety. It doesn’t work! In fact, it makes matters worse. So, the message seems to be that working on better eye contact during social encounters will reduce anxiety over time.
August 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm #14855
It’s very tough to do, often I tried to run before walking to big a task too soon, which caused distress. Baby steps I eventually started in a town away from me gradually building to my hometown.
August 22, 2013 at 6:27 pm #14858
I completely agree – its very hard to do, especially if one has been avoiding eye-contact for years. Moreover, it good to see you’re aware of a dynamic that is so common with social anxiety – trying to run before one is able to walk. The crash from the fall after this is so disillusioning! Baby steps is most definitely the way forward. Working slowly but constantly at gradually improving your eye contact is best. Remember – it’s impossible to stare when someone is talking to you. Hold eye contact when the other is talking. When talking yourself – if you can! – then it’s the 10 second rule. Hold eye contact for no more than 10 seconds. To go beyond this is to stare and is perceived as aggressive.
November 6, 2015 at 3:33 pm #15465
My name is Mike and I am new to this site. I have had Anxiety issues now for a long time and just the last couple of comments were interesting to me as the experience of browsing the topics but being very hesitant about participating is in itself very symptomatic of someone with anxiety issues.
Even the thought of engaging openly via a website is a bit scary. Also one of my issues is a constant see sawing of my own evaluation of myself. Some days i will say to myself, hey things are not too bad and i am engaging not too bad with people (so don’t need help, i say to myself) and other days i feel it difficult to go anywhere, without being self-conscious, scared, even paranoid, etc.
So if anyone else feels like me, then you are not on your own!
November 21, 2015 at 1:53 pm #15477
Isn’t avoiding eye contact just a way of showing submissiveness? I know I do this too, but only when I feel especially worthless, while I’m pretty sure that on better days I make eye contact just fine. I don’t think it’s really something to worry about, and should go away by itself once the main problem is fixed.
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