Why Don’t People Like Me?

Updated December 29, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

"Why don’t people like me?” Many people find themselves asking this question in social situations. You might feel as though you’re on the outside looking in, as if everyone but you has a good friend or a group of friends to bond with. Maybe you feel like everyone is laughing at you or even like your “friends” are talking about you behind your back and secretly hate you. If this feeling is preventing you from feeling comfortable in situations that most people enjoy, there may be a reason for that. (Spoiler alert: it’s not because people don’t like you!) Instead, it might be due to social anxiety.

Feeling Isolated Due To Emotions Arising Out Of Social Anxiety?

What Is Social Anxiety?

Those who feel anxiety about friends not liking them are not alone. Social anxiety is the third largest mental health disorder in the world. This common disorder causes fear and anxiety before or during social situations like talking to new people, maintaining friendships, speaking in public, answering questions in class, talking on the phone, dating, and even eating in public. 

People with social anxiety often have an extreme fear of being ridiculed, judged, or humiliated during any of these social activities. They may worry people hate them. The fear of being rejected or embarrassed can cause such a panic that some people may not be able to go out in public at all. This fear can also manifest itself in physical symptoms such as pain or nausea, which prevent the person from being able to attend class, make new friends, get a job, talk to people, or have relationships.

However, you don’t have to be in a public social situation for your anxiety to flare or to experience worry. In fact, you can feel anxious just by thinking about scenarios or a moment that makes you uncomfortable. For example, you might trigger an anxiety attack by wondering if your friends like you, or if your relatives are talking negatively about you, or you may dissect text messages or a conversation as a sign someone may hate you. As a result of these worries, you may  not trust your friends in the future, and this cycle of fear and mistrust can perpetuate your anxiety.

Signs Of Social Anxiety

Some of the symptoms of social anxiety include:

  • Avoiding public places

  • Serious fear of being judged

  • Extreme self-consciousness

  • Agitation and anger

  • Fear of meeting new people

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Fear of speaking in public

  • Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting

  • Isolating yourself even from family and friends

  • Sweating or shaking

  • Rapid or irregular heart rate

  • Believing that others are laughing at you

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • Panic attacks (hyperventilating, chest pain, sweating, fear of something bad happening to you)

How Can Social Anxiety Make People Dislike Me?

Anxiety does not make you inherently unlikable. If you do struggle with anxiety, you have nothing to be ashamed of! However, when a person is in the grip of anxiety, they may engage in some behaviors that can be off-putting to other people. For example, if a friend opens your text and doesn’t reply right away to your message, you might panic and think that something is wrong or that they dislike you. As a result, you might send a barrage of text messages or phone calls to that friend asking if something is wrong. Similarly, if you feel like a friend is avoiding you or doesn’t message you enough, you might get upset with them and treat them differently the next time you hang out.

The problem with this behavior is that your fears may be take as overreactions. While there certainly can be times when other people aren’t kind to us, in most cases, it makes more sense that your friend was simply busy and they just couldn’t answer your text message right away. In those scenarios, people tend to be annoyed by the constant phone calls or texts, or and they might feel like you’ve crossed a line. Your friends might put up with this on a short-term basis and expect it from you, but if you persist with this behavior, your actions can give people the wrong idea and form unhealthy relationships. Instead of understanding that you’re anxious or worried, your friends might perceive you as pushy or annoying. This can disrupt your relationships and make you feel worse.

Similarly, if your anxiety is overwhelming, you might feel unable to leave the house. As a result, you might avoid your friends by canceling your plans with them or ignoring their calls. You might also regularly assume they are upset with you or hate you. You may ask them a lot of questions like, “Are you sure you’re not mad or upset at me?” or “Do you really like me?” in a frantic grab for reassurance. Over time, the cumulative effects of this behavior can pile up and your friends might avoid spending time with you. 

Having anxiety does not make you an inherently unlikable person. Anxiety is not a social death sentence; you can have anxiety and still have a very happy personal and professional life with lots of friends! But if you don’t get help for the symptoms you’re dealing with, you may engage in some behaviors that can damage your friendships or relationships and make you feel worse or more upset. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment for your anxiety.

What Causes Social Anxiety?

It’s tough to pin down a singular cause of anxiety because a variety of factors can come into play. For example, some experts believe it may be hereditary. If people in your family struggled with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, you may develop social anxiety either as a learned response to your environment, because of hereditary factors, or both. In fact, you are more likely to have just about any mental disorder if someone in your family has a mental illness. However, anxiety can also be caused by traumatic experiences. For example, if you were bullied as a child or experienced abuse at the hands of a parent or romantic partner, you may develop social anxiety.

Hereditary and social factors can both play a part in the development of anxiety, but they are not the only causes. Your brain chemistry can also cause you to experience high levels of anxiety. Experts in the field of neuroscience have observed that we feel anxious when our brains misinterpret certain stimuli. For example, if you see someone in a crowd laughing while you are talking, your brain’s fear response might kick in, causing you to think that they are laughing at you when they are laughing at something unrelated. But because your brain sends you the signal that you are in danger of discomfort or humiliation, you become anxious. 

Other recent studies have expounded on this theory and found that your brain structure can also cause the condition to manifest. The amygdala is the part of your brain that is responsible for regulating your fight or flight response. If your amygdala is damaged or overactive, it may erroneously send you danger signals when you aren’t in any danger, resulting in negative thoughts. For example, if you see a person laughing, your amygdala might send you a faulty cue, telling your brain that it’s time to be afraid. In response to these cues, you might engage in some of the behaviors we previously discussed because you feel that sending lots of texts or avoiding social situations will prevent your fears from coming true. However, they can actually affect your relationship with that friend or friend group.

As you can see from these examples, it’s hard to identify one singular cause of anxiety. Your environment, your experiences, and your brain chemistry all contribute to the development of social anxiety, so it’s important to address all of these factors during the treatment process.

How Can I Make It Stop?

Feeling Isolated Due To Emotions Arising Out Of Social Anxiety?

If you struggle with social anxiety, you’re probably wishing for an “opt out” button or a way to “unsubscribe” from this unpleasant feature that seems to have been downloaded to your brain. So, let’s take a look at some of the resources that are available if you want to “opt out” of anxiety. 

Because social anxiety can make you feel awkward or embarrassed, many people are reluctant to talk about the feelings they experience. People with anxiety who struggle may also attempt to cope by telling themselves it’s all in their mind – which  can be counterproductive. If you tell yourself that it’s “all in your head,” you might fall into the trap of believing that this is something you can and should fight on your own. Sadly, more than 35% of people with a social anxiety disorder say that they battled symptoms for more than 10 years before talking to someone about it.

But that statistic doesn’t have to apply to you! Anxiety is treatable. Although you can’t flip a switch and simply “turn off” your anxiety, with time and therapy, you can feel calmer. Therapy can also help you to change your life and achieve your goals. It might be difficult at first and you might feel like you have to work harder than other people to feel comfortable in social situations, but the important part is that you’re taking steps to get better – and that’s something to be really proud of! 

Therapy For Social Anxiety

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective strategies for treating social anxiety. CBT helps people with anxiety learn to reframe their thought processes, which can reduce anxiety. CBT has been found to improve symptoms of anxiety and increase quality of life. People living with social anxiety disorder typically need to see a counselor weekly for six to 12 weeks before they make progress. In most studies, interventions lasting 12-16 weeks had high rates of success.

Opening up to someone can be a new and different experience, but it’s healthy to your feelings with a professional who can help you work through them. Individuals with social anxiety may find it difficult to get out and go to see a therapist in-person. Studies have found that online CBT, such as through BetterHelp, is just as effective as in-person therapy, and offers some added benefits, such as not having to leave your home. It’s also important to remember that unnecessary stigma is one of the biggest reasons why people don’t seek help. With online therapy, it’s easy to get in touch with a therapist from the comfort of your own home and on your schedule.

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Takeaway

If you feel anxious and uncomfortable in social situations, you’re not alone. Speaking with a licensed therapist can soothe feelings of self-doubt. A professional BetterHelp therapist can help you develop self-confidence. Therapy can equip you with the tools you need and help you grow, thrive and combat your anxiety in every form.

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