The Mighty Logo

13 Lies People With Social Anxiety Tell

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Social anxiety can be hard to explain to people who have never experienced it before. They don’t always understand how interacting with other people — something that is often considered fun and enjoyable — could make someone so anxious.

That’s why people dealing with social anxiety sometimes tell little lies as a way to justify their behavior or get out of an anxiety-provoking situation. Even though we shouldn’t have to lie, sometimes the lie is more accepted than what’s really going on. That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to tell us a lie they tell when they’re struggling with social anxiety — and why they tell it.

While lying isn’t always the answer, it’s important to remember that someone dealing with social anxiety is doing the best they can, and they deserve our support — even when we don’t fully understand what they’re experiencing. 

Here is what our community told us:

1. “I’m not feeling well.”

“‘I’m not feeling well’ can excuse me early or let me flake out altogether. It’s generally more accepted than ‘my anxiety is kicking in.’ And it’s not totally a lie, but it also doesn’t require much additional explanation.” — Lieryn B.

2. “I’m not home right now.”

“One thing I have told people who decided to come over unexpectedly and call when they are close to my home is that I’m not home. I hate lying to anyone, but I also can’t stand someone showing up unexpectedly where I have no time to clean up, prepare myself, etc.” — Dawn C.

3. “I’m fine.”

“‘I’m fine, just listening.’ I’ll get asked ‘What’s wrong?’ when a large group (more than four people) goes out and I’m not really talking, just sitting and staring down or playing with my drink. The reality is that I’m feeling too overwhelmed by the amount of conversations and people, I can’t focus, I feel like I’ll be judged or sound silly if I contribute.” — Megan G.

“‘I’m fine’ — this is the biggest lie I tell. I don’t want people sympathy and I really don’t like bothering anyone. When I’m out with my boyfriend I say ‘I’m fine’ so he doesn’t fuss, then I tell him the truth when we’re back home and alone. By then I’ve calmed down so he doesn’t make much of a fuss.” — Zara C.

4. “I have a headache.”

“‘I’m good, just tired.’ or ‘I have a headache.” Because I’m overwhelmed, it’s loud, there’s a lot of people I don’t know, and I want to disappear into the wall but will settle for going home.” — Courtney B.

“‘I’m OK, but my head hurts.’ For me, it lets them know I’m OK but I’m in pain. Not mentally but physically. Because physical pain is ‘better’ than mental pain — and more accepted. So if my social anxiety gets the best of me, I can just blame my headache and leave. Without any questions asked.” — Lauren P.

“‘I’m sorry, I can’t go anymore. I have a headache.’ Being around people can drain a lot of energy from me. When my anxiety is bad, staying inside and avoiding being social seems like the better option. I’ve been doing better at pushing through my anxiety, but it can be too much.” — Monica L.

5. “I understand.”

“‘Yeah I get what you’re saying.’ I used this at school all the time. Whether I was talking to a teacher who was trying to help me or a friend who was explaining something. I didn’t understand half the time, but I was to afraid to actually say I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to seem incapable or ‘stupid.’” — Alyssa B.

6. “I can’t do it.”

“‘I can’t do it.’ I often tell myself this when I’m anxious. Especially out in public. Big groups of people scare me, so I often convince myself that going out is impossible.” — Caitlin T.

“One of my previous worst was telling myself ‘I cant… [fill in the blank].” I called it “cant-stand-it-itis.” Such a dirty rotten lie. I can.” — Jim B.

7. “I’m just tired.”

“‘I’m just tired, don’t worry.’ It’s not a complete lie, as I am always tired. But when I get around more than two or three people, or I can’t move because of how many people are around me, it seems the only acceptable response to the inquiries as to why I’ve gotten so quiet and non-responsive.” — Vix E.

“‘I’m just out of it tonight,’ or, ‘I’m just really tired.’ I usually say this when I’m in the early stages of having an anxiety attack and trying to calm myself down so I can maybe stay for a socially-acceptable amount of time, but I need to focus and whoever is talking to me is not helping.” — Lauren D.

“‘I’m tired/I didn’t manage to sleep last night.’ It’s a socially acceptable answer and nobody can prove otherwise.” — Andrea G.

8. “I already have plans.”

“‘I already have plans.’ If I get asked to go to social gatherings, especially if it is somewhere unfamiliar with people I don’t know or don’t know well.” — Victoria M.

“I tend to tell people that I am not feeling well or I have somewhere else to be. It’s a lot easier to say this when my head is spinning out of control and I am about to breakdown. Always have a feeling that if I tell the truth, they will judge me and not invite me to do things anymore. Plus it leaves less room for people to ask questions.” — Sydney G.

9. “I might go.”

“‘I might go.’ My reply to my husband’s invitations to social gatherings that I have no intention of going to.” — Autumn S.

10. “I forgot what I was talking about.”

“When I am telling a specific friend something and all of the sudden the rest of my friends (four to eight more pair of eyes on me) start paying attention, I get overwhelmed by all the attention I am getting, so I just stare and tell them I got distracted and forgot what I was talking about so they stop staring at me. I start to feel ashamed of what I was talking about. I feel like they will say that it was something stupid.” — Rocio I.

11. “I just had a bad day.”

“I say I had a really bad day at work and need to just relax to get out of social situations. Working in a hospital makes it easy to ‘have a bad day.’” — Courtney F.

12. “I have a lot of work to get done.”

“‘I’ve got a lot of work to get done.’ It’s an excuse everyone is sympathetic to. It’s easier than explaining that I have social anxiety.” — Evonne T.

“‘I am working.’ It’s easy and no one asks too many questions.” — Dharmesh C.

13. “I missed your call.”

“‘Sorry, I missed your call.’ The phone rings. I see the call, but don’t have the courage to answer it.” — Cindy D.

What would you add?

Getty image via max-kegfire

Originally published: June 28, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home