Coming Across As Self Absorbed With An Anxiety Disorder
I have a lot of introspective thoughts and I worry that in the past this has inevitably come across during conversations as me being self absorbed. There, I’ve said it. I guess that a lot of people can relate to this somewhat, but for a person with an anxiety disorder, introspective thinking can take on a whole new meaning. Being locked in this repetitive thought process has seriously distracted me from the important things in life and has even led to arguments. The insult that tends to get most thrown at me during a disagreement is that I am “selfish.” On some levels I can see how this could come across. During times when I am wrapped up in my own anxious thoughts, I can admittedly be less than fully aware of the hurt of others.
Introspective Thoughts Can Appear As Being Self-Absorbed
It’s not an easy thing to admit that my thoughts can be so inward facing. As a reasonably educated human living in a forward thinking, connected age I am of course, quite rightly, expected to prioritise thinking about the big global concerns and to devote my time and attention to them. I’m not a vain person in any sense and my repetitive, introspective thought processes are overwhelmingly negative. This apparent self absorption is therefore naturally a bit of an embarrassment for me, particularly as so many of my friends repeatedly show remarkable and admirable selflessness.
My self absorption is on two levels. The first level is that I constantly evaluate and reevaluate how I’ve failed or succeeded in various social situations. I will play even the drabbest, everyday conversations over and over in my head. I will over analyse the minor details of my every action and word to death My partner will often tease me for pestering him about how I’ve “come across” in an email or a text message or whether I looked as though I fitted in at a party. The truth is, a social mishap can haunt me for years. I still break out into a sweat thinking about my many nerdy high school blunders or the various impassioned and pretentious outbursts of my university days.
Of course, being embarrassed is a normal part of life and is a actually pretty necessary in order to remember your mistakes on an emotional level and learn from them. Also, the comedic value that such situations can bring often makes the embarrassing situation worth it just for the silly story you can later tell to friends. However, when it get to the stage where even the most trivial of public humiliations is preventing you from fully engaging and empathising with others then this can be extremely debilitating.
The second level of my self absorption is where I am constantly thinking about myself on a broader scale, wondering where I fit and where I belong, even in the most banal of situations. Choosing a meal from a restaurant menu can become an existential crisis. As a person with serious anxiety I find that even at nearly twenty five years old I am still very unfamiliar with myself. The problem is that I find that I am much less secure in my identity than I might otherwise have been. I have put on so many masks for so long that the real me feels somewhat like a rarely seen acquaintance. When the real Jules peeks out cautiously, I get super excited to see her, and indeed try to keep her there for as long as possible. I find myself making mental lists about things that she likes, things that make her laugh.
If you have a friend who has an anxiety disorder then you may very well be able to recognise these behaviours in them. Try not to judge them too harshly or to pull them out of themselves too roughly. This will only make them retreat further into their head. Support them, listen to them and above all, let them know that you see and love the real them (How To Help Someone With A Mental Illness). If you are a sufferer of anxiety who can relate to my latest article, then there are a few simple things that can be done to bring yourself out of your own head.
What You Can Do To Stop Appearing Self-Absorbed
First of all, the best possible first move that I can suggest is to find a cause, or indeed multiple causes, to focus your attention on whether that be poverty or women’s rights. Not only will this help to focus your mind, this will also give you a sense of purpose and identity which is vital for tackling anxious thoughts. Secondly, I would suggest reading widely and regularly. The insight into another person’s thought processes that comes with reading a good novel is invaluable when trying to understand your own mind and, in my experience, is a great way of connecting with others and understanding that you are not alone.
Banim, J. (2016, January 10). Coming Across As Self Absorbed With An Anxiety Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, March 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2016/01/coming-across-as-self-absorbed-with-an-anxiety-disorder
Author: Julia Banim
Thank you Julia. I'm 33 and have felt the same way for most of my life. I wish others could understand my selfishness more as self preservation but unfortunately I just lost my girlfriend because of my selfishness. I hope more anxious people out there recognize their anxiety before it's too late...because no one really understands what it's like unless you've gone through it yourself. Keep posting and thank you for doing so, the connection with others with anxiety is crucial to benefiting our community.
I don't worry about it anymore. I worry about a lot of things but seeming self-absorbed isn't one of them. I'm the only one who knows what I live with. Ultimately, I'm the only one who really understands (and sometimes, the only one who even cares) what I'm going through so, if I'm self-absorbed it's because I have no choice.
I really needed this right now. Thanks Lori,
This is very honest and accurate. Really needed to read this right now. Thanks for sharing.
Although, I think it could be seen as selfish to take up causes so that one don’t appear self-centred. I think there are generally selfish and generally unselfish people suffering from anxiety. Helping others is so important but using others to prove that we’re not selfish could be harmful. Still, it is definitely helpful for anxiety-sufferers to find ways to remind ourselves that the world doesn’t revolve around us, which can hopefully relieve some of our unfounded fears. Maybe that lesson can be learned through charitable efforts.
Wow! Thank you for writing this! I was thinking about this exact topic yesterday. When I interact with coworkers, I find myself talking a lot about my college experience and how I wish I could go back. Sometimes, I go on and on without responding appropriately to social cues. Then I remember that some people are still in school or never went to college. So I feel guilty for bragging about my degree and moaning about not having a job in my field.
Thank you. I have GAD and BPD and this morning my husband called me selfish in a disagreement and really hurt because I'm the most unselfish person ever. I am hyper-aware of others' feelings and situations so being called selfish when really I struggle heavily with mental illness is heartbreaking. It was comforting to read that this is a misconception of anxiety that others experience as well. Thank you again for sharing.
Even it was a short article and it was a few years ago, it really does hit home. I know I at least suffer from anxiety and depression and I am constantly going through that endless cycle in my head. To the point that I occasionaly flinch when someone calls me because I keep thing I did something wrong, there's no other reason someone would try to get my attention out of a "friendly social interaction". Or when someone does something intentionally or not to upset enough that i get mad/frustrated at them. but then turn back around and say I'm actually being so self-centeted that I trick myself into trying to make myself seem like a victim because I want sympathy I don't deserve because it's my fault at the end of it all or I just want the attention. But then I'll try to reassure myself that's wrong, that i do really just care about doing the best by people and making them happy, satisfied, or content. But then the cycle repeats itself.
And I'm so unsure what's the truth I end up acting in a way that makes me seem uncaring and selfish. I'm even currently dealing with the reproductions of that horrible cycle even after over 13 years I've dealing with my mental issues and trying to get it fixed with medications and therapy.
But reading another opinion about the subject from a source that doesn't know me or how some type of motivation to "baby the sad child" is very reassuring, and motivates me more to try and find out what is the real me and fix things because maybe I'm not as self-centeted as I think I am.
I’m inside my head all the time. I hide my feelings so my anxiety isn’t a burden but then it comes out in a giant burp of emotions from the sheer force of trying to keep everything in and compartmentalized. I’m a ghost in the house until some emotional burn comes out then the internal review starts. I hate it.
From my own experience as being in a relationship with someone with GAD, my advice would be to not think of your anxiety as a burden. After all, you did not choose it.
I would strongly encourage you to share your feelings; let your partner or those close to you know what is going on. And also pls understand that whatever their reaction is or may be, that is not your responsibility. That is their stuff, not yours. If you are worried about being judged, don’t be. As long as you know that you are doing your best in any given moment, that is where your responsibility ends.
It is much better to let those close to you what is going on with you as opposed to bottling it all up.
I wish you well.
I am in a relationship with someone who has suffered with GAD most of his adult life. The relationship is relatively new (7 months). I struggle with it sometimes - I know that his GAD is not who he really is, he is an incredibly kind caring person with truly a heart of gold. But there are def moments when he withdraws, when the anxiety takes over and he gets v impatient and angry in a way and there are def moments where his words and actions come across as v self absorbed. I am myself going through a bit of a rough patch in my life and at times when I am not strong enough, his GAD gets to me.
I must admit that had it not been for my own spiritual journey that I have been on the past few years I would prob have a very tough time handling it and I feel selfish to admit that I may have already walked away.
But I know through my own study that the anxiety is not who he truly is, that what matters is the being behind all of it. And in a way I feel that by putting my own issues aside and focus on helping him heal and get through his anxiety, I can be a more loving and supportive person myself.