What does Eye Contact "Feel" like? - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-10-2016, 02:39 PM Thread Starter
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What does Eye Contact "Feel" like?

I was curious how people with Social Anxiety "perceive" Eye Contact.

As some background, I was diagnosed with Aspergers about 2 years ago. Before I was diagnosed with Aspergers (and, before I first learned of Aspergers), I never really thought much about Eye Contact. Sure, I had heard people use the term. And, I understood that it was important (because "they" said it was). I also was aware that it was important during job interviews (again, because "they" said it was). But I always thought it was "good enough" just to lock eyes for a second (the first time you met someone). I didn't realize that people needed to continually lock eyes during the course of a conversation.

Interestingly, before I learned about Aspergers, I never really thought about Eye Contact. But now, after learning about Aspergers, I have become much more aware of it. In fact, whenever I am conversing with people, I am now very aware that I don't make Eye Contact (typically, my eyes focus on the mouth or the nose). It has begun to bother me a bit. Yet, I really don't feel comfortable locking eyes with others. It feels very invasive.

As a note, I do occasionally look at other people's eyes. As an example, if there is an attractive woman, I might look at her eyes (though, I would never converse with her). If she happens to look back in my direction, I will immediately divert my eyes. And, occasionally, I will look into my wife's or children's eyes. But mostly, I avoid the eyes and stare at the mouth or nose area.

So, several months back, my therapist has suggested I may also have Social Anxiety. And, I was curious if my experiences with Eye Contact was common with people who have Social Anxiety.

I also realize it's possible that I used to have good Eye Contact (before I learned about Aspergers). And that I have taken on the symptoms of the condition. Though, I have doubts that this is the case.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-12-2016, 05:58 PM
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It feels like a floodlight being aimed right in my eyes. It feels like the other person will see inside me and know every horrible thing about me. It's a problem for me. I make occasional attempts at it, but it ends up feeling as awkward as avoiding it. If I'm around more than one person and not making eye contact, their reaction tends to be to face each other and exclude me from the conversation.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-12-2016, 06:00 PM
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 01:58 PM
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When I look at someone in the eyes, my eyes feel cramped up in a way. It's hard to explain, but it's sort of similar to the way your muscles feel when you try to touch your toes after not stretching/exercising in a while. It's not really painful-- just uncomfortable I guess.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 02:26 PM
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I have situational SA, and eye contact just feels like someone is looking at me. It's not a stressor by itself, though I find myself either looking away or keeping a lock on eye contact for longer than what's normal. I don't know or care to be normal with eye contact, this is harmless.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 08:36 PM
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Sometimes my eye contact is so good, it makes people uncomfortable because I appear to be listening so intently. I was never a person who was good at eye contact, and depending on the situation I might avoid eye contact, but in casual conversation, my eye-contact game is 110%. I think eye contact makes me feel more comfortable talking to people because it's something to *do* even if I have nothing to say in response, which is often.

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 10:12 PM
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I used to have that problem but somehow it got reversed, now I seek out eye contact with people in public. I look in peoples eyes a lot and it's weird.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 10:40 PM
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It feels like they are paying attention to what I'm saying to them. I dont have a problem with eye contact. When I look into someones eyes, it helps me to see what type of person they are. I dont like talking to people that are wearing sunglasses, it makes me feel awkward. Unless I'm also wearing sunglasses.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 10:43 PM
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I only have trouble making eye contact with people who I think will judge me and constantly scanning me for flaws. The one person that truly does this to the fullest extent is my mom. Thus she is the one person I have always had trouble looking her in the eye when talking to her. When I do and see her flaw seeking eyes, I get anxious and unease.

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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 10:49 PM
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When its from people I don't especially like, it feels invasive and rude. It makes me feel uncomfortable at best and confrontational if its over the top. A lot of it really has to do with environment as well. If I'm at work, I don't really like people standing near my desk staring at me, but if I go into a meeting with peers I don't really even notice it or care.
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 10:55 PM
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From women I don't know I always think it means they like me especially if it happens more than once.

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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 11:13 PM
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Oh God how I hate eye contact. It feels like people can read my thoughts. I KNOW they can't, but it feels like they can. It's very intrusive and threatening. Like they can know everything about me, like I'm made of glass.

I've noticed a similar behavior regarding my own eyes. When I go to the doctor and have to have an invasive or embarrassing procedure done--for example, involving nudity--I have to turn my head away and physically cover my eyes with my hand in order to tolerate it. It's almost like, if I can't see them, then they can't see me. I think this is part of what the deal is with eye contact. If I don't meet people's eyes, then they can't "see" me, i. e., I'm not exposed to them.

I'm diagnosed with SA, but not with Asperger's. However, Asperger's has been suggested to me more than once, including by my former therapist, and I suspect my issues with eye contact are a big part of why. My eye contact problems are so weird and pervasive that I just can't explain them away as mere social anxiety--they don't tend to diminish much with familiarity, for example. I had such trouble trying to explain this issue that they put me on an antipsychotic at first (Risperdal) and gave me the potential diagnosis of schizotypal personality disorder, but I really don't believe people are reading my mind or that I can become invisible if I avoid eye contact, it just feels like it. Or at least, that's the best way I can describe how it feels. :/ The bolded part of this post is really the best way I can put it.

Looking at any other part of the face is not an option, it's still too close to the eyes. If I can make out a person's face then I still feel exposed. When talking to people I'm not that familiar with, I'll usually stare off into space somewhere below their shoulder and to their side; the more anxious I become, the lower my stare goes until I'm looking at my feet. (This happened in therapy a lot.)

It's so bad it extends to my parents--whom I live with and always have (I occasionally make eye contact with them, but always feel awkward when doing so), and to people I know well (my former therapist, whom I saw for years?--I couldn't tell you what she looked like ), and even to inanimate objects (I used to feel like my posters and stuffed animals were staring at me, and had to cover them or turn them away--and I cannot bear to have my picture taken or especially to see recent pictures of myself, my eyes, ugh, it's horrible to stare back at myself!). I really hate dolls largely for this reason. And don't get me started on children and babies.

I'm okay looking at myself in mirrors, but only in private. Public bathroom mirrors are okay if nobody else is around. I avoid dressing rooms like the plague. That horrible wall-length mirror, and the gaping spaces above and below the doors!

One weird thing...this dread of eye contact doesn't extend to animals. Making eye contact with animals doesn't bother me at all. Though I'm aware that eye contact with an animal can be perceived as a threat so I'm careful about it. I'm also okay with looking at childhood photos of myself (maybe because they're from before I had SA, or because I look so different that I don't associate that person with the person I am now); just not recent ones.


Originally Posted by DiscardYourFear View Post
When I was in my teens, it was so bad I felt like the posters of musicians on my walls were staring at me and I could never look at them.
Oh goodness, I'm not the only one??

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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-14-2016, 11:45 PM
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If someone makes random eye contact toward me, I have to admit that it feels unnerving, like the person sees straight through me I can't help my reaction. However in normal conversation per se then I feel normal because at least there's a point to it.
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 01-15-2016, 12:04 AM
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