Eating with Social Anxiety

Sarah25th December 20216 min

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) has many symptoms that are different for everyone. It’s a bit like a pick and mix except you don’t get to choose which symptoms you get.

Difficulty eating around other people was one of my symptoms. I hated eating around people. I felt like they were judging my every bite. Like I was a really ugly, messy eater and I would be judged for it. Maybe something will get stuck in my teeth and everyone will be laughing behind my back? This is one symptom that I haven’t completely gotten rid of. In reality, I’m such a slow and careful eater and will often be the last sat at the table to finish my meals (this bothers other people more than it bothers me). It does come with the caveat of sometimes feeling the pressure that once everyone has finished eating their meals, they’d be watching me and waiting for me to finish.

I would like to point out eating at home isn’t an issue and I also don’t mind eating in front of friends and family. I have an issue with eating in front of people I’m not close to and with eating in public. I’m also a vegetarian and a bit of a fussy eater, which has always exacerbated this symptom of SAD for me. As you can imagine, considering eating is something you need to do on a daily basis, this has led to multiple problems, complications and compromises over the years. Today I’m blogging to give you an insight into this.

Eating around friends’ houses 

Eating round friends’ houses when I was younger was always something I dreaded – fussy eaters can relate. “What will she eat?” was the go-to question for the parents. I also heard my friend’s mam having a go at her once because she’d given me fruit for dessert and I was too polite to say I didn’t like/want it but I also didn’t eat it. My friend then got told off because it was a ‘waste of food’. Even going around friends’ houses as an adult gives us limited options for what they can make/what we can eat together. FYI it’s usually pizza.

Eating in Restaurants 

I would hate sitting with my back to the majority of people in a restaurant and would rather sit facing them, so I can see who’s looking at me - a double edged sword as this would also mean they could see me eating. This led to me being picky about where I would sit around the table. My boyfriend now lets me choose where I would like to sit first. I also fear it makes me look rude when I rush to the booth seat (because it means I’m not sitting with my back to the restaurant - not because it’s a comfier seat). 

When I was younger I would ask to go through the drive through at McDonalds and eat in the car, as I hated going into the building to eat in front of others. I don’t know why I said ‘when I was younger’ because I’d still do this now.

Eating in Public

I’ve never just ‘grabbed a bite to eat’ from Greggs and walked around town snacking on it whilst running errands. When friends would buy food, doughnuts etc to munch on whilst walking around shopping etc. I would always decline and eat later, in private.This has always made shopping trips with friends more awkward as we’d have to go into a cafe or restaurant to eat (the more pricey and time consuming option). 

Skip forward to my adult years and I rarely take food to work or team meetings. There’s no separate room to eat in at our team meetings, so I’ll often be the only one not eating around the table, instead I’ll wait until I get home to eat. This also makes me slightly dread our annual christmas meal, where we go to eat in a restaurant. 

I often have excuses for these behaviours, rather than explaining how I really feel. I guess the main takeaway from this, if you’re someone who can’t relate, is to be aware that people who feel and act in this way might be struggling with something. Anxiety symptoms can sometimes mean friends compromising or getting annoyed because it’s not always an easy ride. I am forever thankful to my friends and family who will work around my behaviours to make me feel more comfortable. If you know someone who acts similarly, I think it’s important to consider that something else might be going on, they might not tell you or want to explain, but your compassion and understanding will be appreciated. 

\ “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind”.

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