Your question: Why do I get anxious around a certain person?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Anxiety is an unpleasant experience because although it is necessary for our survival, it also triggers a series of physical and psychological symptoms that cause us discomfort. In short, anxiety is a reaction of the body to a real or imagined threat. Our brain sends signals to our body to act when it considers that a situation, thing, animal or person could harm us in some way.

Therefore, even if the situation itself is not dangerous or frightening, anxiety makes you feel that it is. There are many ways to experience anxiety, in this blog we will focus on anxiety that arises when interacting with specific people. It should be noted that this is not the same as social anxiety, as in anxiety the fear or worry of interacting is generated, i.e. it is not with specific people.

There can be many reasons why someone in particular generates anxiety for you, and it all relates to your belief system around that person. For example, if you believe that person is threatening, if you are romantically attracted to that person, if you have had negative experiences with that person in the past, or if that person is someone who brings up personal insecurities.

Either way, anxiety can be treated and lessened so that it does not impede daily functioning.

What questions should you ask yourself?

To get to the source of anything, people must question themselves. In your case, you need to answer a series of questions to find out where your anxiety is going with this particular person and what you can do to solve it.

Who is this person?

You should specify whether the person in question is an acquaintance, e.g., family member, partner, friend, boss, teacher or classmate. In this case, there is something in the dynamic between you and this person that triggers your anxiety. This does not necessarily imply that the person is aggressive towards you, it may also represent a persistent concern about that person.

For example, the anxiety that your teacher generates in you is caused because he/she is demanding at the time of evaluations, the anxiety that your partner generates in you is caused because they have a pending conversation that you are afraid to confront, the anxiety that your father generates in you is caused because he has been ill recently, and you are afraid that something serious might happen to him.

Why are you anxious?

Now, you must answer the reason why that person in question. This may be difficult to do, because in states of anxiety the mind becomes fuzzy and it is hard to concentrate. But you should try to focus on what are the specific details related to the person in question that makes you anxious.

It is useful to keep a diary in which you write down what was happening at the time of the anxiety episode. For example, you received a severe scolding from your boss and that triggered your anxiety, in the future you are likely to feel anxious just being around your boss.

What if it’s a stranger?

If a stranger is the cause of your anxiety, the origin is probably related to personal insecurities. For example, if you see an attractive person who exudes confidence, you may feel anxious about being around that person simply because you are attracted to him or her, or you may feel self-conscious about not being like him or her.

It is also possible that the origin of your anxiety about a stranger is related to the fact that you find them intimidating because of their physical appearance, and although they have not caused you direct harm, they’re mere presence makes you uncomfortable.

Could it be social anxiety?

On the other hand, if the feeling of anxiety appears with more than one person, and is related to concern or fear of being judged by others in social settings, it could be a problem of social anxiety. Social anxiety occurs when the person faces difficulties in performing normally in social settings, and situations such as a class presentation, a work meeting or a party with friends can become an overwhelming experience (1).

How can you confront your anxiety related to a certain person?

You can’t control what other people do, but you can control your reactions to it. Therefore, working with anxiety is a very individual thing. If your anxiety persists, it is advisable to seek professional attention. Here are some techniques you can apply to lessen your feelings of anxiety when you are around a particular person:

Examine your thoughts

If you have already found the person causing your anxiety and the source of your anxiety, you have already taken a valuable step. Now, you should be aware that, when you surround yourself with the person who causes your anxiety, you will have thoughts that will make you feel fear. Those thoughts you must confront, for example, if you think “my boss is going to scold me today,” the rational response would be “if I haven’t done anything wrong at my job why would he scold me?”

Improve your communication strategies.

It is likely that your anxiety has been maintained because you do not have assertive communication. Being clear and direct with the people who cause us discomfort serves to vent your pent-up emotions and possibly to generate changes in the dynamics. If, for example, your sister who has rude attitudes is the cause of your anxiety, you should consider making it clear to her that her attitudes make you feel bad.

Reinforce your self-esteem and confidence

If the person causing your anxiety is a stranger that you find attractive or intimidating, either because of their attractiveness, intelligence, or because they convey confidence, the work should be with your self-worth. You must remind yourself first, that you have positive qualities and second, that comparisons with other people are useless because at first glance we do not know the defects of that person who seems perfect.

In my experience…

Having anxiety about a specific person can be very overwhelming, since in most cases you are unable to simply avoid or ignore the person in question. Therefore, the work with your anxiety should be focused on your own improvement and desire to improve, finding specific strategies that allow you to have control when you feel episodes of anxiety caused by that person.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this message proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health.

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