9 Common Reasons People With Anxiety Don't Reach Out
Unfortunately, there are many reasons people with anxiety don’t reach out to friends, family, or other loved ones when their symptoms are acting up. As someone with anxiety, I can personally think of a bunch of reasons right off the top of my head.
You know what’s not on that list?
A lack of caring.
The truth is, your friends with anxiety care about you very much. We probably really want to reach out to you and tell you everything. We’re just … scared. That’s what anxiety is, after all: Intense fear.
We’re scared for lots of reasons, including the nine examples listed below. If you’re having trouble connecting with a friend struggling with anxiety, check out this list to understand what they’re going through a bit better.
Try to be patient and understanding, and remember that most people with anxiety want nothing more than to not be anxious like this. We really can’t help it, even if that doesn’t make sense to you.
1. We literally can’t speak.
I don’t know if this is one of the most common reasons people with anxiety don’t reach out, but it’s probably the number one culprit for me. It’s hard to explain, but I’m going to do my best because I know this can be really hard for people without anxiety to understand. Basically, when I get very, very anxious, my thoughts get … sticky. Imagine your hands are covered in giant balls of duct tape, and then someone tries to have a sign language conversation with you. It’s just not going to happen. That’s sort of what it feels like when I get too anxious to talk. It’s like my thoughts are so jumbled and scared, I can’t figure out what to say or how to say it and it all just gets stuck in my head.
2. We know we shouldn’t be anxious about whatever we’re anxious about.
The thing about anxiety is that it’s very illogical, and a lot of the time, the person with anxiety knows that, making it all the more frustrating. We know it’s “silly” to be scared of making a phone call, we know it’s ridiculous to be worried that our husband of 10 years has secretly hated us this whole time, we know. But that doesn’t stop the fear. So we don’t say anything because we don’t know how to have a productive conversation about something we know we shouldn’t even be anxious about.
3. We’ve already reached out to you about this same fear so many times, we’re afraid you’re getting sick of us.
Another frustrating thing about anxiety is the repetition of it all. This is another one of the most popular reasons people with anxiety don’t reach out because no matter how many times we’ve been anxious about something in the past, we continue to be anxious about that thing. So, if I’ve reached out to you in the past about my diagnosis anxiety, I hesitate to reach out to you again, especially if it’s only a week or two later and the fears are back. I mean, there’s nothing new to say, right? I’m just being anxious and “crazy,” as usual. (P.S. I am learning in therapy to speak to myself more kindly, but when I’m anxious, this is usually what I’m thinking.)
4. We just can’t hit send.
We’ve typed out a message to you 18 times now, but every time, just before we hit send, we delete everything. Then five minutes later, we type out a new message and almost send it again … but can’t quite make ourselves actually reach out the way we so desperately want to. We might be afraid of your judgment or we might be afraid we sound “stupid” or we might be afraid of bothering you, but regardless of why, we just can’t hit send. Know that we really do want to reach out. It’s just hard.
5. We feel like you didn’t really care last time we reached out.
Now, I’ve definitely tried to open up about my anxiety to someone only to have them react poorly. But I’ve also opened up to people who were totally understanding and nice, but my anxiety picked up on small things in their body language or tone that made me believe they didn’t care about me. To be honest, I’m not sure what to do about this one. I can’t help but pick up on those small things, and I really struggle to accept that those small changes might have nothing to do with me. Anxiety really is a bitch.
6. We’ve tried reaching out in the past and really did get a bad reaction.
Sometimes we read too much into a situation because of our anxiety, but other times, people really do react poorly when someone with anxiety tries to reach out. This is even more likely to be a very real problem for trauma survivors. A lot of the time, people with anxiety are afraid of scenarios that are wildly unlikely because of cognitive distortions, but sometimes we’re afraid of something because it’s already happened, and that makes that fear all the more powerful.
7. We’re drowning in self-loathing.
There are many reasons people with anxiety don’t reach out, but this one might be the most painful. Sometimes anxiety transforms into self-loathing, a complete and total hatred of ourselves, and we don’t see any point in reaching out to anyone because we are so unbelievably worthless. We hate ourselves so much, we can’t even fathom talking to someone and asking for support, because we don’t really think we deserve it.
8. We’re embarrassed.
Look, no one wants to be scared of these things that everyone else seems to do without a care in the world. No one wants to be a “fraidy-cat,” a “coward, “a “weakling.” We’re embarrassed, OK? Even if you aren’t thinking those things about us, at the end of the day, one of the main reasons people with anxiety don’t reach out is because we’re scared of things we know we “shouldn’t” be, and it’s hard to not be embarrassed about it.
9. We’re using avoidance to cope with our anxiety.
Sometimes, we don’t reach out to you because we’re desperately trying not to reach inward. We’re running from our fears by staying busy, by not thinking, by letting the anxiety run in the background. If we open up to you, the floodgates will break. We might break, and we might not be able to put ourselves back together. Even though avoidance isn’t a great coping mechanism, sometimes it’s all we’ve got.
If you relate to any of the reasons on this list, you aren’t alone. You aren’t “crazy.” The fear you feel is real and terrifying, and I feel for you. If you love someone with anxiety, I hope this list has helped you understand some of the reasons people with anxiety don’t reach out, even when they want to. We really do care about you, it’s just that sometimes our fear takes us over.
A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted.
Photo by Adrien Delforge on Unsplash