Shunning human contact

As someone who has worked in retail and fundraising for years and was out somewhere after work all the time, I am not the first person to be suspected of feeling unwell amidst other people. This weekend showed me that it costs lots of energy when there are too many human beings around, especially when I can’t just leave like when there are guests in my home. A few years ago I didn’t even feel that, now that I care for myself better I see just what I used to do to myself back then.

The ideal amount of people in a room for me are two to three, myself included. If there are more, I start getting nervous. It confuses me when there are several conversations going on at once as I feel as if everything slips away and I can listen to everything and nothing at the same time.

It’s easiest for me to just block other people out, for example I never take a bus or train without a book. When I’m reading I can pretend that I’m on my own and therefore am able to avoid the exhaustion that comes quickly when I have to pay attention to all the people around me. Not to mention that I always feel like I’m being watched which doesn’t exactly help.

In restaurants the ideal place for me to sit is the one where I can survey everything, nobody can stand behind me and I don’t have to listen to conversations that take place on other tables. Most of the time that’s the corner seat although that one can lead to a feeling of being caged, depending on my neighbour. Also not good.

At parties I often catch myself thinking how it would be so much nicer to be in a quiet cafe with the person I’m talking to and I often leave early as I feel that people and impressions just float past me (except for when I’m dancing, everything’s fine then). Alcohol makes it easier to relax in groups but it forces me to pay even more attention to keeping my emotions under control than usual so it’s not really useful at the end of the day.

All in all I have to admit that I avoid the kind of encounters where I know I would be stressed out (big parties, especially in my own flat, markets, museums, busy, cramped restaurants, full trains,….). I don’t like feeling the panic long before it actually gets too much, I don’t see any reason for doing things other people like if the best I can achieve is an “it was okay”.

And this is not a specific panic disorder-, BPD- or depression symptom. I think many people feel that way, with or without a diagnosis. It’s just that I notice my symptoms getting worse when I’m with too many people. This doesn’t mean I want to avoid these situations completely – locking myself away is not a solution but in contrast to the past I don’t think I have to stay at parties because everyone else is having fun. Maybe I’m just a seventy-year-old caught in a mid-twenty’s body, I don’t know.
But it would be wonderful if large groups of people could tidily be paying attention to one thing only like in cinemas or concerts as those things work just fine for me 😀

What is that like for you people with different diagnoses? Everyone with social anxiety can certainly write a book about it. I know people with BPD who like to intoxicate themselves with other people, who enjoy others and forget themselves. And people with depression who always find others to be tiring, also in small doses.
I think this is very interesting – how different disorders have an impact on one’s social behaviour…and vice versa, so thanks for all the comments I might find here 🙂


9 thoughts on “Shunning human contact

  1. Hey! I enjoyed reading your post. I have bpd too and ironically I’m a mental health therapist. I totally understand how you feel I’m the same way. I used to LOVE being around lots of people, I loved partying and socializing, I hated being alone. I was like this all through out college, and I never imagined it would change. I’m 24 now, and after I finished my masters, and was diagnosed with full blown bpd, I became the complete opposite. I hate going out, I hate being around people, especially crowds of people. I don’t drink at all anymore because I hate bars (way too many people) and loud music. I really truly enjoy spending time by myself, reading, studying and writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. The only time it becomes a problem is if you meet criteria for social phobic disorder, but neither of us do. I feel like I finished that chapter of my life, and it was time to move on to a new, more professional one :). But way before I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. I still have anxiety occasionally, but its not as bad. Looking back on it, I think that my lifestyle, always being surrounded by people and chaos, had a lot to do with my anxiety. I feel like a 50 year old living in a 24 year old’s body, but I’m happy and that’s all that matters. Do whatever makes you happy, you can’t go wrong with that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, hats off, I guess when you have BPD and also are a therapist it must be really hard to think about anything else!
      Anyway, thank you for your kind answer, first of all, it’s always nice to hear that I’m not alone (although I know that in a rational way), and second I’m glad that someone could relate to this as I sometimes feel I can’t find the right words when it’s about difficult topics.
      And it’s nice to hear that you feel better today, I’m glad for you and it’s also encouraging for me.
      I wish you all the best and that your anxiety vanishes completely and that you’ll be able to help lots of people in your job 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much, that was so nice it really means a lot to me I appreciate it! And I’m glad you know your not alone, there are so many people that feel the same way, they just have a hard time expressing it. And when you can’t find the right words to say, you can always write 🙂 I’m glad that I was able to encourage you, I wish you all the best as well!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a mild case of Tourette syndrome. And I have some sort of anxiety disorder. I cannot stand going to the mall. I get completely over stimulated and want to scream. Going out to dinner if it is loud and there is music playing that is over stimulating too. I like quiet get togethers and small groups. I totally can relate to your post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, thanks for this answer and your kind words. I don’t get why people need background music all the time either (although sometimes I’d prefer just the music without the people :D)…
      Hope you’re okay and wish you lots of nice small groups to talk to. All the best!


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