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25 Things Anxiety Makes People Do at the Grocery Store

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Grocery shopping seems simple: you go to the store, pick out the food you need (or want), pay for it and go home — maybe you struggle to carry all the bags of food into your house in just one trip, but that’s probably it. But for those who struggle with anxiety, shopping isn’t always that simple.

That’s why we asked people in our Mighty mental health community who struggle with anxiety to tell us something they do at the grocery store because of their anxiety. By talking about the small ways anxiety affects us that are often overlooked, we can continue to create an open dialogue of support and understanding for those who are struggling.

Here is what they had to say:

1. “I have to constantly review my shopping list so I know my exact path through the store, to make it as easy as possible to get in and get out. It’s also very nerve-wracking trying to pick fruit when there are others around me.” — Tiffany L.

2. “When I shop alone, I’ll pick up everything I need/want, put it in my basket and then walk around some more. Within 15 to 20 minutes, I’ve talked myself out of buying most of it and put it all back.” — Sharon E.

3. “I get uncharacteristically aggressive. I pass people, walk very fast and give people filthy looks if they barrel out of an aisle and almost run into me (or do). I just want to get my shopping done and get the hell out. It’s almost like I’m trying to protect myself from panic/anxiety by being intimidating or aggressive.” — Faith G.

4. “I step away from people as I walk by them, I smile but I try to keep as much space between myself and others. I’m constantly straightening the items on the shelves, which isn’t my anxiety just OCD. I’m always looking around me to make sure I’m either alone or not too many people are in an aisle with me.” — Joshua T.

5. “If someone walks up to the produce bin I’m looking for fruit in to get some for themselves, I leave the bin and go back when they are gone. The whole awkwardness of reaching across each other to squeeze fruit or the pressure of small talk just kills me.” — Heather H.

6. “I go in when it’s empty. I will purposely shop in a 24 hour store and go at 3 a.m. to avoid people and lines. The prices are higher, but I don’t have an anxiety attack.” — Erin J.

7. “I always worry my payment card will be declined, even when I know I’ve got money in there. Or that the alarms will go off when I haven’t stolen anything.” — Danielle G.

8. “Sometimes, if I see someone I know, I avoid them just so I won’t have to talk to them. The thought of it raises my anxiety level. Other days I am a cool cucumber and conversation is no problem.” — Lana M.

9. “I shop at Aldi because it is the smallest store by me. Otherwise, I will travel to other towns for the smaller store setting.” — Emily N.

10. “I try to grab a basket over a shopping cart so I can get in and out quicker and not have to be stuck with a huge cart in an aisle that’s too crowded. That’s when my anxiety really kicks in, when I feel trapped/stuck and can’t get to where I want to get.” — Freddie S.

11. “I often put my earphones in and try to use the automated cashiers whenever possible (cuts the waiting line by half and you can safely freak out a little, take your time to calm down, no need for conversation, more time to calmly put your groceries in your bag). I also always go with a grocery list that’s on my phone (no risk of forgetting it or losing it) so that even if I am brain-fogged I can easily remember what I need to get.” — Tiny L.

12. “I shop at the closest local grocery store in my area. A small one, so I prefer to go in when nobody else (except the cashier) is there. I studied for years so now I know what are the hours of the day are that are not very crowded.” — Ian S.

13. “I focus on my list. Every item I check off is one less item I need and one more item closer to checking out. I also try to go early before 10 a.m. on weekends before it gets crowded, or around 7 p.m. after work. I find the more crowded a store is, the worse off my anxiety is.” — Sarah C.

14. “[I] fill up my basket with things I don’t need, happily shopping away, until I overthink and overthink. My partner will be mad. I’m only going to put on weight if I eat this. Then nervously putting things back being cautious that nobody is watching me thinking I’m weird.” — Frances H.

15. “I rush to leave. Sometimes that means forgetting something or buying the wrong brand or item because I wasn’t paying enough attention. Shopping is something that usually calms me. Just walking and looking at things, daydreaming about a good life. But when I’m having a high anxiety day, I don’t want to be near people and it stresses me out.” — Violet S.

16. “Try to stay in isles and walk through them even if I don’t need anything, just to avoid being in such a huge open part of the store where everyone can see me. I have to be the one to push the cart because I hate having nothing in my hands, or at the very least, I have to have my phone in my hand.” — Jennifer K.

17. “I always have to carry my calming Doterra oils with me. Being in an area with a lot of people makes me feel anxious and uneasy. I also get through the store as soon as possible. Once I’m out, I feel like I can breathe again.” — Cassie M.

18. “I wear sunglasses so nobody can see my eyes and see how broken I am. Also, if people can’t make eye contact then they are less likely to talk to me. It just makes me feel safer.” — Michelle D.

19. “I tend to impulse buy. Even if it’s just one thing that wasn’t on my list, it makes me feel so much better.” — Anna C.

20. “If there are people in the way of something I want to buy, I’ll either pretend to be looking at something else that’s close by or I’ll straight up walk up and down the isle until they are out of the way.” — Rebecca S.

21. “If I see lots of cars in the parking lot and there are a lot of people there I’ll just leave unless I absolutely need what I’m going there for. I have horrific anxiety in crowds. Between sensory issues with the roar of tons of people talking in a store, people pushing past or being short with me, I freak. My son is 3 and autistic and he also has a horrible time in large crowds. He just clings to my mom and I or covers his ears with his hands.” — Sunshine M.

22. “I grab things from the back. I don’t like taking from the front, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I think someone has done something bad to the food. I also am in recovery for an eating disorder and struggle a lot grocery shopping alone so I bring someone with me.” — Livi M.

23. “I hate making others wait behind me. If the cashier needs to call for something or something goes wrong, I just want out asap.” — Peter I.

24. I give my fiancé the money/card so she can deal with the cashier while I go outside and have a cigarette to deal with the fact that I’ve been surrounded by people (very uncomfortably I might add) for such a long period of time.” — Devin B.

25. “I want to wear rubber gloves (but don’t) to keep from being shocked to death. I hate it! It’s like I’m wearing a shock collar and being corrected. I look at my cart as if it’s my enemy. Are you going to be nice to me or are you going to bite me?” — Jennifer B.

Can you relate?

Thinkstock photo via Kwangmoozaa

Originally published: September 28, 2017
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