Eye contact :(
May 30, 2014 12:56 PM Subscribe
I have this weird eye contact problem that has plagued me since I can remember. I find all eye contact in general to be really unpleasantly intimate and intense, but several times a day when I'm talking to someone (both familiar people and strangers), I have a moment of frisson where it feels like I'm boring into their eyes with my own. The freaky part is that every single time I have this experience, it throws the person off--they stammer, look away, close their eyes for longer than just a blink, lose their train of thought, etc. As far as I know, I'm not changing anything about my facial expression--this is all happening somehow within the eye contact realm.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I guess it should be noted that I'm female, middle aged, in the US, possibly somewhere on the spectrum, and have social anxiety and a whole slew of anxiety/trauma/depression issues besides.
But I do also know how eye contact is supposed to work. I definitely don't stare people down. I blink, and glance away from time to time. I do try to maintain a general gaze at them when they're speaking, then look away when I'm speaking. My general observation has been that when someone else is talking you should be looking into their eyes. (The whole trick of not looking directly into their eyes but at their nose or forehead doesn't work for me--I find it distracting in a whole different way.)
When I'm feeling super-comfortable with someone, none of this is an issue. I am listening to the person and thinking about what they're saying rather than paying attention to the ongoing patter in my head that is freaking out about "AAAAH! Eye contact!!!" But I am only this comfortable with a couple of people. For everyone else, including all relatives, acquaintances and coworkers, it's a constant struggle to not do the weird thing with my eyes.
Needless to say, this is severely isolating. I'm convinced people find me to be a stare-y weirdo. I have many other problems connecting with people, but I would say this is currently the biggest of them all.
I've tried to pay attention to others--like, if this is a thing then surely I would notice if other people were doing it as well? I do encounter a wide variety of people every day and some of them do have an intense, unpleasant demeanor about them that does seem tied in to their eye contact/how stare-y they are. So I try really hard to look away frequently when talking with others.
I've also seen therapists about this. I've been too embarrassed to mention this specific problem, but have talked about how eye contact is hard. For some reason, I find it really difficult to discuss when I'm also actually in the process of making eye contact with someone. I don't recall specifically what they told me about this problem, but with none of the therapists I saw did it end up being an ongoing topic of discussion.
After all that explanation, my question would be: does anyone else have this problem? Is there a "cure" for it?