Avoidance of new social situations


I've had this problem before coronavirus isolation, but now I'm realizing it's an actual problem and not something I can excuse away with "oh my back hurts" "oh I don't have time to drive there." There's a few groups and such I'd love to join and have wanted to for a while, writing groups I'm invited to and stuff for the local queer community. Any new opportunity I would cancel because of a trigger. I had signed up for a self defense class and said that I didn't want to go because it was designated women's and I'm nonbinary (although I get misgendered daily because the people I live with don't get it, so I could have just sucked it up and gone).

I avoided new groups because I don't believe people will accept me or I'll make myself look stupid. Or someone would be mean and stuff. So I'd make excuses about how I can't do this, but now that all I have to do is sign onto my computer of phone and be connected to people, I have no excuse. And yet I still am terrified to talk to all these new people and I feel like they're going to hate me if I talk to them. I feel like I'm not worthy to be in groups for my passion, that I'm not good enough to be in any groups, that I'm not good enough to be in volunteering groups, etc. It makes me physically ill from anxiety to think about joining these calls. I can't even talk to my professors on Zoom, because I feel like I'm an idiot when I do and I'm rude because I'm anxious. Like I do it anyways, but I've nearly thrown up afterwards from anxiety.

I don't want to be like this anymore. I don't know how to fix it. I'm in therapy and all but some things I don't talk about with my therapist yet. I'm going to talk to him about this next session, next week.


Just to say I struggle with similar issues, it's really hard.

I did have a patch of caring less about the opinion of others but it hasn't lasted much. I'd like to get some of that back.

Hope it helps talk with your T :)


Hi @Teasel ! I'm sorry you deal with similar stuff.

I forced myself to sign up for three things, each with a different lead person. I pushed myself by saying "it's only an hour and not a big commitment" and "if I don't like it, I can leave or I never have to do it again". I spread out the events across a few weeks, so it's only usually one event a week. That way I can recover if it goes badly! Although I'm starting to feel a little more positively about it all. It wasn't a big financial commitment either so I won't feel guilty about losing a few dollars!

As for professors and all, I'm still working on it. But I talk to my T tomorrow, so hopefully that'll help!


It really is cool that you've pushed yourself out of your comfort zone for this and it's great that you're feeling more positively towards it too, good for you :D

It struck me just now that the book I'm reading at the moment might be quite helpful for you with all of this. Look up The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. Its based on acceptance and commitment therapy and is so cool for helping with your mindset when pushing yourself out of your comfort zone like this.

Has some really cool tools to help too.

Wish you well ?
I have had some similar challenges (before COVID). I haven't figured it out (or had new opportunities to since COVID). But I have some thoughts. I'm nonbinary too and reality is a lot of spaces aren't necessarily safe for me as there's an added level of risk and disconnect. However, I have asked a group leader about their space and gender beforehand. I didn't end up going but they said it was a welcoming space. That said, I didn't know if it would mean if the group leader would stand up for me if someone else was a bigot against me. But reality is that can happen anywhere and I do better with an actual issue that happens in real life versus all the hypothetical bad situations I play out in advance. However, I have also found I will look for different groups that seem to be a perfect fit, then have some trigger or other issue and not go. But reality is deep down, I may not have actually wanted to go to that group. I just wanted to do something social and didn't have anywhere else to go. So maybe setting low expectations, calling in advance to see how safe the space is, holding group leaders accountable for that safety, knowing I can leave at any time, or go to a group and not go the last 10 feet in the door, could give me a sense of control. Nowadays, I wonder if there are digital social groups (I suppose of course there are), so I'm avoiding those as well. I just joined this site at least for some interaction and maybe to help others, however anonymously.


Hi @Strangelongtrip, I can relate to what your saying. Lack of confidence with social settings and a low sense of self esteem can have a profound influence/effect on us. I only attend one group at the moment. We meet once a week and go for a walk in the park. There's never more than 6 people because of covid restrictions. We talk about anything that comes up...or theres healthy silences whilst just taking in the view. Sometimes I actually find it difficult to talk.

I think it's important to make the effort whatever type of group it is because it builds your social skills and is good to keep in contact socially and meet new people with the possibility of making new friends/aquinta nces. Try not to think of yourself as an idiot. Your not and really that's just a negative cognitive distortion. Give yourself the chance to get out there and be involved! It's great that you've been invited to go to certain groups! Take advantage of that! ?
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@Strangelongtrip ,
Hello! I am nonbinary as well, glad to see at least three of us here found each other on this thread coincidentally (birds of a feather...)
The stress of social interactions you are describing sounds very difficult to navigate. I experience something very similar- I guess maybe it is social anxiety- especially in groups of people. If it's one on one or a few people I do a lot better.
The pandemic has definitely been a wrecking ball on my mental health and social life, but in some weird way it feels like a relief to have that as a valid "excuse" to not going out- which insinuates that my anxiety is not a valid reason to not push myself out of my comfort zone.

When I started getting in the zone of casting a wide social net and meeting a lot of people last summer, I gained a lot of confidence and made some really good connections. Every time, though, I had to bite my anxiety, avoidance, fear of awkwardness (which happens sometimes! And I just have to roll with it) and it felt somewhere on a scale varying from uncomfortable to panic-y and flighty.

If it was the latter and I started to go to panic mode- which happens sometimes because a core element of my ptsd is tied to trauma involving a predatory group of people- ie, projecting on to people, having intrusive thoughts, becoming paranoid, anxiety levels going so high that I am no longer present to the conversation, person or environment- I gotta go.

Sometimes I go to a thing and tell myself, I will just show up and see. I can leave at any time I choose. Sometimes all I want to do is go back home. Sometimes I go, feeling bad about it, intending to go back home, but then I end up feeling good and wanting to continue hanging out, and then that turns into another social event.
It sounds like you do a similar thing- by going and just telling yourself there's no pressure to stay or keep doing it- just show up.

Since the pandemic my ptsd has been really easily triggered due to stress. So the limited social events I go to in person, sometimes I need to take an anti anxiety med as needed. Like I did at my girlfriend's party recently, so I was not overwhelmed/overstimulated. Medication is useful for me because, like I said, social groups are a huge trigger for my trauma.

I dont know what would be useful for your stress around these situations. What helps you ground yourself? Sometimes when I realize that I'm going too much in my head, I can come back by just bringing it back to basics- focusing on my breath, feeling my hands on something, tapping my feet on the ground, feeling my physical space within an environment.

That sucks that zoom has been a cause of so much stress for you. Classes, in person, usually go poorly for me because of social related anxiety. So my 2 classes I'm doing online have been much smoother because I am not physically in a group dynamic that tends to be triggering for me.
Would your teachers be open you communicating through the chat in zoom? Sometimes I do that to interact, instead of speaking directly.

It sounds like you have a lot of insight into yourself, motivation to work on this towards your goals, and the foresight and compassion to plan ahead by giving yourself space and time to recover, as you said.

I'd love to hear an update from you.

And I want you to know that seeing your post about something that I so deeply struggle with, and your courage to resiliency to keep moving forward with it even though it's difficult and it's a pandemic, is truly inspiring to me.

Because of you, I am finding the motivation to hold myself accountable in joining in on a support group that I've been procrastinating.


Hi y'all thank you for your kind comments! As an update I've kept going to the zoom things, and a few discord things. It's getting easier, but I also have been turning my camera off a lot. I do a writing group every Saturday (I missed this one last week, but I'll join again next week), and have even done an entire career fair over video calls! I have another one this Friday. So overall improved!

I'm really good at texting new people, it's just video calls. I'm pretty good on phone calls too. It's just when people can see me. I've worked on it more I think part of it is probably dysphoria, I hate my voice, I don't feel like I "look"like myself, etc. I've been working on that as well! And I've been working on my self esteem, it's very hard and I'm making ok progress!
Situational uncertainty is my most disabling hypervigilance. I literally cease to be able to function, and it includes a no-win component I almost always get suicidal and often end up in the hospital. It it includes a feeling threatened and trapped aspect I have an emotional flashback where I cease to be rational. It is the hardest thing to change in my therapy.


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I avoided new groups because I don't believe people will accept me or I'll make myself look stupid.
I still struggle with this, as well.

This week I started applying to online volunteer tutor positions with the hope that I can get past enough of it to be able to start tutoring online as a job, at some point. The advantage of this situation is that it is not altogether social. Once I know precisely how to address getting started with a student, I can do that and not rely on my personality to get me through which seems to lower the stress level for me. I am hoping this can be a first step for me to stop being so socially avoidant, especially in virtual environments because I have a particular problem with cameras.

I was actually doing well socially before the pandemic but I was really working at it. And I was doing well for me, which is still pretty anti-social. But I was getting out and had made local friends, which was major progress. The virus hit and everything went south for me. It's been really hard.

I hope you can get involved with something and make some forward progress. It sucks to feel like social situations have the potential to be so damaging.
I hope you can get involved with something and make some forward progress

That's the hardest part, as it requires even the willingness to set aside ones comfort zone first. For me I had to box myself in therapy wise, giving up for me is being where i started which was absolutely literally giving up life. So each time my comfort zone gets challenged I have to decide "do I want to set my comfort zone aside for a moment" or "give up". Giving up once is no different than giving up all the time as once I do it the first time giving up becomes the easy answer to my discomfort. Deciding becomes my motivator, but it comes at a price, since I can't avoid the mental pain as I would in giving up, I have to deal with the mental pain, often having to reprocess the trauma.

For me its a very unsafe process, but I am in a supervised group home to facilitate this degree of trauma therapy safely. Not dealing with my trauma is not an option as it is giving up. The group home was the only answer for me. And that came with some pluses as life is less stressful, more stable.

This may not be the answer for many or most, but it is an approach that drives success albeit a painful process. So might be able to take something from this post. I know there are many on this forum that have over time seen me grow from the process I have to endure.