People Anxiety: When People And Situations Cause You Anxiety

You might be asking why I used the term people anxiety? Because situations and/or persons you encounter can at times be a source of anxiety.  Present situations and even memories of past interactions that didn’t go well can cause you worry.

Do you think that using the term people anxiety is far fetched?

Consider the following, obtained from

“Despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.” If you think about it, it is precisely describing the feeling of anxiety towards people, whether it is fear about going to a social gathering or anxiety about an interaction you’re having or had in the past.

Here’s the process in a nutshell:

When such situations upset you (whether it be a specific situation or an individual’s behaviour), you are likely making “should statements.”

Making “should statements” is: “Concentrating on what you think ‘should’ or ought to be rather than the actual situation you are faced with, or having rigid rules which you think should always apply no matter what the circumstances are.”

I’m not suggesting that all aspects of your anxiety involving people are caused from making should statements, but getting them in check will allow you to move forward with far less “people anxiety” in such situations.

Fortunately you no longer need to suffer because I will show you how to unravel these should statements.

I’ve developed a strategy which I call the “Questioning Technique.  You can use it whenever someone’s behaviour or a situation bothers you.

There’s a caveat: the technique requires you to be honest with yourself.

The steps are below.

Ask yourself:

1. Did you cause or contribute to the existence of the negative event or behaviour of the person?
2. If yes, what could you have done differently? Keep in mind that you now have the benefit of hindsight (at times people might beat themselves up over things in the past and this is called “hindsight bias” — it’s much easier to think about a particular situation.

3. Regardless of whether you’ve answered yes or no above, analyze your thinking and locate the “Should” rules that are driving your frustration about the event.  Then replace these should rules with more realistic statements.  Should rules apply to how you process your behaviour and/or other people’s behaviour. [For a detailed breakdown of this Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) process please click here and bookmark this spot so that you can come back to it.]

4. Finally, what are the general lesson(s) or take-home-ideas that you can use for future reference?  The idea here is that if something or someone bothers you, check to see if there is a lesson or take-home-message to get, regardless of who’s to blame.  This does not necessarily assume any responsibility on your part for causing the event; rather, the idea is that a lesson, or take-home-idea, can be taken from every life experience and thus every experience is valuable. Essentially lesson(s) that can form part of your life lessons which can be used for future reference at any time.

When you think about it, there’s really only one benefit of worrying: self-reflection of your behaviour, which, if possible, allows you to go back and make amends, or, in future have a different approach when the same situation, if it happens again.

This technique is the best way to have the benefits of hindsight without the worry, in my opinion.  This technique works to replace a negative encounter into a positive one because:

1. You have carried out CBT.
2. You now have a clear alternative strategy that actually allows you to gain advantages from the negative experience.
3. You can move forward and truly live the life you wish to live without being inhibited by the negative experience.

Some points to keep in mind about people and anxiety:

People are individuals and “should” rules cannot be applied unanimously.  (This is due to the fact that “Should” beliefs are a cognitive distortion.)

Diversity / contrast exist, and will always exist. There is nothing you can do about it.  Let me be clear: there is nothing you can do about diversity and contrast in the world but you can certainly let go of trying to control such things.  This realization can be very freeing.  For myself it was something worth writing down.

Utilizing the Questioning Technique allows you to turn a negative event into a positive one, feel better, be more productive and move forward to lead the life you really want to lead.  I think that if you start using the Questioning Technique on a consistent basis you’ll find it’s quite beneficial for dealing with people and anxiety.

Have you found this helpful? If so, I would encourage you to sign-up for my free newsletter (below) which shares an overall and comprehensive approach to anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia.


Anxiety Attacks and Anxiety Disorders. Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment. Retrieved August 4, 2012, from: