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  1. #1
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    Difficulty with eye contact

    I was wondering, can one make friends/have relationships regardless of the fact that one can't make proper eye contact? I have this weird thing (not sure if it's OCD, ADD, has to do with low confidence/anxiety/depression) but I can't make eye contact. I know many people can't make eye contact and still continue living, making friends etc, but my problem is not only that I can't make eye contact, but I keep focusing on the nose. I always am distracted and focus on it. It is horribly distracting but it has almost been years and cannot stop it.
    I feel, yes one can still make friends but I fear people get tired of this 'habit' after a while. Any feedback would be great!

    I am aware that eye contact is diffucult for some people who are shy and suffer from social anxiety, but is there anyone out there who REALLY has a problem with looking at eyes?? I WANT to look at eyes, but for some reason am always focusing on noses (i know it's strange, but they stick out the most and are distracting..). It is such a depressing habit which has been tormenting me and really affecting my relationships/mood. It may sound ridiculous but it is such a horrible...nearly obsession. I try to look at eyebrows or mouths instead but it doesn't work. People always notice my habit. I am not keen on doing hypnosis or anything. I feel it has something to do with social anxiety. It just started one day...and I cannot make normal unconscious eye contact from that day....
    Last edited by David Baxter; March 21st, 2018 at 12:08 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Does anyone else have difficulty focusing on eyes when looking/speaking to others

    Yes.
    With me it's because of the way my father's eyes were when he was angry.
    And that neither of my parents had eye contact. And my mum's eyes were cold and dad's eyes were small and angry. ['piggy eyes' mum called them]
    And because I was always avoiding the gaze of bullies.
    Then group facilitators were always on at me to have eye contact.
    Sometimes I can look at people's eyes I trust - like my therapist - and am deeply touched by the humaness there.
    But still the trauma runs deep and I am scared of both love and hatred........

  3. #3
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    Re: Does anyone else have difficulty focusing on eyes when looking/speaking to others

    I suspect that's actually quite common. First, human social interaction evolved from primates and other mammals, where direct eye gaze was a challenge to authority. That's why, in other species, animals will look down and avoid direct eye contact for the most part. I think we've inherited that l;egacy.

    A second reason is that many humans find being the recipient of direct eye contact uncomfortable and so we learn to avoid it to trry to put the other person at ease.

    Of course, in strong emotional interactions (e.g., debates about topics where you are passionate) or socially intimate moments with close friends or spouses, those rules get usually relaxed. My comments are primarily about strangers and acquaintances in normal conversation.

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    Re: Difficulty with eye contact

    You might also want to review the feedback you received in this thread from 2005.

  5. #5
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    Re: Difficulty with eye contact

    I have had the same problem for around eighteen years, since i became a teenager. It varies depending on who i am speaking to and how i am feeling within myself.
    I have trouble looking at my boss sometimes as i do not know him that well, but on the other hand i have trouble looking at my father who i have known all my life. Also certain friends are difficult to look at.
    It's a tough one to put a finger on so i would say that all situations remind me of my past somehow and therefore remind me of feelings of weakness. When i say my past i mean an accumulation of events that have similar meaning for example, my opinions of my father over a period of eight years and the feelings circling it or bullies continuously mocking me. Current evens trigger off memories in my head that bring up negative feelings, these feelings influence my confidence and composure.
    That's how it is for me at the moment, hope it helps.

  6. #6
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    Re: Difficulty with eye contact

    Eye contact is a constant bother for me. Even if I'm feeling great when I leave the house, it's only a matter of time before I have to look someone in the eyes, then I look away too soon, and I go right back to feeling like the weaker person in the interaction.

    I definitely agree with Dr. Baxter that eye contact behaviour is primal and so it sparks a lot of uncomfortable emotion in people. There's all kinds of dominance and social issues at stake with a single glance.

    I get really bothered by not knowing how to just have natural eye contact. I bet my anxiety of the problem has the same trajectory as most of you as well, which goes something like this:

    You know your uncomfortable with eye contact, so you artificaially try and maintain eye contact for longer, but since you believe your weak and other people probably pick up on this, they refuse to be "stared down" by you and humiliate you by highlighting your increased eye contact and smirking or treating you as lesser from that point on in the conversation, or they just completely avoid eye contact and you feel like you've just been really creepy (at least that's how it happens for me), soooo then you might say "screw it all" and just avoid eye contact as much as possible, but this only compounds your feelings of isolation since people respond strongly and negatively to you avoiding their eyes. so then your left in a constant limbo where you have to deal with the "psychic" blows to your confidence every day when these situations inevtably work out against your favour. I dunno, maybe this is all B.S, but that's how it goes down for me. Though I've found that of all the fronts on which I have zero confidence, this is one where I've actually made some good progress.

    This is because I realized that I was sick of giving other people the chance to belittle me, and worse, I was disgusted with the constant fact that 99% of people will jump at the chance to insult you and cut you down in any way possible if given the slightest chance to do so (Crabs in the bucket baby)

    soooooo, I started to walk through the minefield of uncomfortable eye contact not worrying about the consequences. I stared long and hard and anyone who I thought was having a laugh about me, or anyone who was trying to just re-assert some unspoken dominance over me, to let them know that i had figured this game out and was sick and tired of being the little one. You know what? They sense that drive, and they fear it. Not to say I'm trying to just reverse the roles and be the mindlessly dominant jerk, but simply that I'm staking out a claim for myself, one that I will not let other's violate in any way. One word of advice if you're going to try something like this, be mindful in yor "adventure" i.e- don't try sharpen your tools when your on a darkened subway platform at night, more like, try it at work, on the subway on the way to work, or even just at the grocery store.

    p.s- another thing that helps is to stop thinking abotu eye contact at all, just breathe, and concentrate on what's being said. pretend your an alien who just took over a humans body and you've never been in this situation before (and therefore, never been let down by it). Essentially , just get into the natural flow of things, and your eyes will work out when to look and when to look away on their own. Basically, if something is making you uncomfortable,change the situation, even if it just means looking away for a second or tow,and don't beat yourself up for it, just feel good that your finally figuring it out
    Last edited by ladylore; November 2nd, 2007 at 02:09 PM. Reason: changed all caps to lower case

  7. #7
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    Re: Difficulty with eye contact

    Hi Worrysome,

    I have one more thing to add in the mix. Glancing at an individual instead of continuously looking at someone is also a sign of respect in some cultures. I grew up in a town that was predominently First Nations. In this particular community I grew up learning that even in general conversation looking at someone in the eye for a long period of time was a sign of disrespect. I still find it hard myself to look at someone in the eyes - its uncomfortable at times.

    So, as you can see, there are many reasons why people may have a hard time looking at someone squarely in the eyes. Great inquiry.

  8. #8
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    Re: Difficulty with eye contact

    Quote Originally Posted by HotthenCold View Post
    You know your uncomfortable with eye contact, so you artificaially try and maintain eye contact for longer, but since you believe your weak and other people probably pick up on this, they refuse to be "stared down" by you and humiliate you by highlighting your increased eye contact and smirking or treating you as lesser from that point on in the conversation, or they just completely avoid eye contact and you feel like you've just been really creepy (at least that's how it happens for me), soooo then you might say "screw it all" and just avoid eye contact as much as possible, but this only compounds your feelings of isolation since people respond strongly and negatively to you avoiding their eyes. so then your left in a constant limbo where you have to deal with the "psychic" blows to your confidence every day when these situations inevtably work out against your favour. I dunno, maybe this is all B.S, but that's how it goes down for me. Though I've found that of all the fronts on which I have zero confidence, this is one where I've actually made some good progress.
    I'll be damned. This sounds exactly like me. This has been an issue for me for some time now and it too has altered my sense of a normal life. It really is a dusgusting feeling and I think you know exactly what I am talking about because it almost seems like you took the words out of my mouth. So, is this something that must be combated (if not by the way you do it) using some form of medication? Perhaps talking to a psychiatrist?

    This combined with the "too shy" person in me, has cause no end to my grief.

  9. #9
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    Cool Re: Difficulty with eye contact

    I can't go to a psychiatrist because I never look them in the eyes either and not for long even if I'm in a daring mood. I find it very hard to open up to them about my true feelings. I always get the feeling like they wouldn't be interested in my boring life, or my non-sense complaining. So I just stay away and try to deal with my life as an exstreemly shy person who's too intimidated to make eye contact. And I do isolate myself a lot. However I like going out, its only that I don't care for contact with others where I might have to try and talk.

  10. #10
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    Re: Difficulty with eye contact

    Quote Originally Posted by ShyLady View Post
    I can't go to a psychiatrist because I never look them in the eyes either and not for long even if I'm in a daring mood.
    this shouldn't have to keep you from seeing one. you could simply explain the first time you meet them that you have real difficulty with this.

    I find it very hard to open up to them about my true feelings. I always get the feeling like they wouldn't be interested in my boring life, or my non-sense complaining.
    it takes time to learn to trust the person you are seeing before you feel safe enough to open up. that's totally ok. it's the way it works.

    also i think a good therapist wouldn't be judging you the way you are judging yourself. how do you know you have a boring life? you might think it is, but you're a brand new person to the therapist.
    ~ our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall - confucius
    ~ it is the journey, not the destination, that matters
    ~ keep hanging on, the sun will come shining through for you again

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