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Do You Eat Due to Social Anxiety?


Ever go to a social event and find yourself so anxious you can’t imagine having a good time? Or feel so worried about what you’ll say and who’ll talk to you that you decide not to go at all? Many people who are socially anxious choose food over socializing because it feels more predictable and safe. 

If any of the above describes you or your situation, “How to overcome social anxiety” by Fallon Goodman will help you understand and manage your distress more effectively. She covers a great deal of ground in the article, starting with what social anxiety is: “At its core,” she says, “social anxiety is a fear of negative evaluation and rejection. When you feel socially anxious, you worry about what others think of you and hope you are making a good impression.”

This mindset is very common in dysregulated eaters who are often more concerned with what others think of them than with what they think of themselves. When they enter a new social situation, rather than wonder, “Will I like these people?,” they worry “Will these people like me?” This way of thinking is especially challenging for higher weight people who already feel stigmatized by society for their size. 

One of the major problems with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is that it can easily lead to loneliness. Refusing invitations, not seeking new friends, excessive fear of rejection, and feeling extreme physical and emotional discomfort around people, especially those you don’t know well, can turn into a life lived alone, with food your only comfort.

Goodman lays out criteria for assessing SAD. It involves persistent and distressing anxiety in numerous social situations, such as: “giving a presentation, performing in front of others, interacting with strangers, going on a date, engaging in small talk, or eating or drinking in front of others.” If you avoid situations to prevent heightened anxiety about being accepted or judged or are often highly uncomfortable when you’re around people and these symptoms have been around for at least six months, you probably meet the criteria for SAD.

Criteria are important because everyone feels anxious about being in certain situations at times. I know I do. But, for most people, the fear passes rather than persists. If this description fits you, I would advise you to seek therapy. Being socially anxious may be a large contributor to your eating problems and you may not even realize it. Learning how to reduce your social angst will go a long way toward helping you not to turn to food to comfort yourself. Becoming more comfortable with people will change your whole life.