I am a 28 year-old woman who works as a produce clerk at a grocery store. I’ve always been called “shy”, but lately it’s gotten to the point where I am so uncomfortable speaking to my co-workers about anything other than immediate work-related tasks, that I will work myself to death, just so I look too busy to talk to and no one will attempt to approach me. I can manage a nice smile and a “Good morning”, but beyond that, I panic. Everyone at work thinks I am just some weirdo who is overly obsessed with my job, and works too hard. I have heard some of them making jokes about me behind my back about how I am too good to talk to anyone. This only makes things more uncomfortable and creates a vicious cycle of me working even harder to avoid them. What can I do to put a stop to all of this? I work 40 hours each week, so the majority of my time is spent in this place of awkward discomfort, and I literally feel like it is ruining my life. I feel like quitting my job, but know that if I do so, the problem will just resurface with the new co-workers once I start another job somewhere else.
A. Nervousness, to some degree, in social situations is normal but your nervousness is causing you extreme distress. It’s beyond the normal level expected in social situations and may be indicative of a social anxiety disorder (SAD).
SAD is also referred to as social phobia. SAD involves feeling extreme anxiety, fear or embarrassment involving everyday social interactions. While it is difficult to offer a precise diagnosis over the Internet, SAD is a realistic possibility.
Social anxiety disorders respond well to psychotherapy and medication. Some individuals take medication to decrease their anxiety while simultaneously engaging in psychotherapy to address their self-esteem and confidence issues. Psychotherapy can teach you the necessary coping skills for dealing with stressful life situations.
You’ve become frightened of interacting with your coworkers but in reality there’s nothing to fear. Always try to force yourself to see the truth. Fear and anxiety thrive on irrational thinking. Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you to feel less anxious and fearful in social situations. Many people enter therapy because of fear-based problems. Therapy can be helpful and I would strongly recommend it. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Jun 2013
Randle, K. (2013). Just Shy or Something More?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/06/19/just-shy-or-something-more/