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5 Video Call Habits of Highly Anxious People

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Stop me when this sounds familiar: You’re joining a Zoom (or another video call) meeting for work, with friends, or anyone at all, and your anxiety gets the notification that it’s time to come and play.

Anxiety sucks, and it doesn’t take a break from making you question every little thing you do just because you’re talking to others via the marvelous medium of internet video calls instead of “real life.” That’s been particularly true over the past few years (since, you know, everything with COVID-19). I don’t know about you, but social anxiety never lets me have a break, even if I know the people on the call extremely well.

So, speaking for myself and maybe you too, here are five habits you might have on video calls if you’re a highly anxious person like me.

1. Checking your own video feed.

Oh boy. I’m constantly scared about this one. You’re in the call and trying to pay attention to what’s being said, but your eyes keep flicking to your own video feed like you’re Narcissus and you’re obsessed with your own reflection.

I swear, I’m not vain. In fact, I’m constantly checking how I look in case there’s something for me to worry about: “I smiled there now; I hate my smile. What does it look like? Oh god, look at your teeth. When did you last brush them? Why is your hair so weird? You’re resting your head on your hand. Nobody else is doing it! Stop it! Wait, is it obvious you’re looking at your own video? Stop looking! Stop it! OK, one more look.”

I feel like an anxious mess during video calls.

2. Not actually disabling the self-video feed.

You’d think, given the distress caused by all of the above, that I’d disable the ability to see my own video feed. That would be wise, right? Yeah, no. My anxiety tells me that I absolutely must be able to monitor my own video because, otherwise, how would I know if I look or do something “weird?”

Believe me, I’ve tried disabling my own video display, but it doesn’t take long before I get so anxious that I need to reenable it. I swear, if it wasn’t an option, I’d polish my laptop’s screen so highly that I’d be able to see my own reflection anyway. Come to think of it, maybe it would get me to actually clean the fingerprints from my laptop’s screen.

3. Stimming.

There’s nothing wrong with stimming. Lots of people do it for various reasons, from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism to anxiety itself. There exists a multitude of different stim and fidget toys to do so with, such as the classic fidget spinners, cubes, putty, and even magnetic cubes.

And, if you don’t have one on hand, there’s my personal favorite stand-in: the pen. It has the added bonus of making you look like you’re taking notes (or maybe you are). But, of course, this comes with its own dangers and triggers, namely numbers one and two on this list. Do I look “silly” right now? Am I in danger of biting through the pen and covering my mouth with ink in full view of my colleagues? There have been times I’ve been stimming and I’ve dropped the fidget tool on the keyboard or floor, making a loud noise and thus scaring myself in the process. Or, if I have nothing on hand, I bite my nails. That’s a whole other anxiety worry.

4. Extreme hesitance before speaking.

This one takes me right back to my school days. It might not be the case for smaller or one-to-one calls, but every time I feel ready to unmute myself and join the conversation… I stop. Maybe someone else started speaking first, and I want to be polite (of course) and not continue talking over them. Maybe I just second-guessed myself due to a pesky lack of self-belief. Whatever the reason, I commonly pause, unmute myself… then mute myself again. Sometimes, I’ll go through this dance three or four times before the conversation has invariably moved on and I feel like a fool and a failure.

Oh, and I know there’s a “raise hand” option on Zoom. Somehow, that’s even more anxiety-provoking!

5. Masking.

On the inside, I feel like an anxious mess during video calls. I can feel myself shaking, I’m sweating, I’m constantly looking at my own feed, I’m stimming… and I feel like everybody on the call can surely see how anxious I am, especially if I do grasp enough confidence to take a more active role. However, on the outside? Somehow, by some miracle, I’ve been told I look… calm? What?

You may already know why; I’ve probably become so proficient at masking my anxiety that people haven’t got a clue. I’ve even had people doubt that I have anxiety at all because to the outside world, I’m calm and collected, maybe even confident. But masking takes energy, even when it’s done automatically. Afterward comes the crash. Woe to the days I have multiple calls in short succession! 

Be a little kinder with yourself.

There’s a lot I could add here besides the above; I could talk about the hyperawareness of how everybody responds to something I’ve said, watching for any clues that they think I’m silly. I could talk about the hesitance to even be on camera, or worrying about what might be behind me. (Thank goodness for virtual backgrounds, right?) My point is this: If you’re a highly anxious person like me, you might be able to relate to the above struggles. And hey, you’re not alone. Anxiety makes social interaction really tough. Every time you join a video call, you’re an absolute champion. I’m proud of you!

Be a little kinder with yourself for your video call habits that come from anxiety. I’ll try and do the same. Sure, we check our video feeds and panic every time we need to join the conversation, but we’re still there, and that makes us Mighty.

Can you relate? Do you have any other video call habits due to anxiety? Let me know in the comments below!

Getty Images photo via Morsa Images

Originally published: May 9, 2022
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