Lack of understanding from work colleagues

Hi everyone I've been on here for a while but this is my first post and I would appreciate some advice. I suffered from work related stress and had 10 months off work to recover I found that meds didn't help but sessions of cbt did and I returned 6 months ago. I still suffer from social anxiety and find large crowds difficult to cope with along side any social gatherings , which is not helping me with my work colleagues who tell me that even after 6 months still feel they have to tread on eggshells when talking to me. I've tried to talk to them but they suggest I be more sociable with them which I find difficult. They don't seem to understand how anxiety affects me so they mainly keep quiet and don't engage me in conversation which just makes me feel more upset and more isolated . Could anyone give me any tips to try and overcome this , it's getting to a point where I'm dreading going to work and I can't afford to take too much time off as they were so understanding last time. Thank you x


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8 Replies

  • Hello.

    I would say this is there problem not yours. If they know what you have been through and how you feel then they should be more understanding. I would maybe speak to someone you trust and say to them that just because you are not yourself doesn't mean they have to act differently around you, theu should talk to you like they talk to anyone else but that for now you can't cope with large social gatherings. I've always made it clear to my work friends that when I'm at work I'm there to work so treat me as you would normally treat me.

    Hope this is of some help.

    L x

  • I think this is quite common. People do feel uncomfortable when they know someone has been, or still is mentally ill. I think we need understanding to go both ways. They feel uncomfortable and don't know what to do or say for the best so they choose not to say anything. Knowing this is how people often react when they feel uncomfortable about something we can take responsibility for trying to help them overcome this. Maybe tell them if it's ok to ask you how you're doing if they're concerned but make it clear that you don't expect them to. You said they don't "engage you in conversation" but maybe they would say you don't "make any effort to include yourself in conversations". Speak to one colleague who you trust and ask them to try to include you in conversations. Don't blame them, just say you want to join in but find it really difficult at the moment and it might help if they brought you in to the conversations. Most people will try to help if you let them know what would help. It sounds like they're not sure what to do for the best at the moment. Maybe when you're not joining in conversations they think that they would make you feel worse if they spoke to you directly, putting you on the spot when you'd prefer not to speak. It could all be down to lack of understanding and we can't expect them to understand what we're feeling or what would help us if we don't tell them.

  • Thank you yes you are right I have tried to talk to a few of them and explain that I just want to be treated the same but sadly this has not happened its like you can't win either way.... Be social and chatty even though they don't respond like they used to and let me join in a conversation or be quiet and they then wonder if you're okay but don't know what to say to me.... It is a difficult situation and one which I think companies need to address and make employees more aware and understanding of this condition.

  • Most people are kind,fortunately ,and if you have several work colleagues then there are bound to be kind and understanding people among them.

    I would take an opportune moment to talk to one of the more friendly and tell them that you are now over the worst of a very bad spell but still feel some anxiety in crowds and social situations and would appreciate their help in bringing you more into the social conversation in the workplace. Tell them that you feel they are all walking on eggshells and its making you feel more anxious ,nervous and isolated.

    Sometimes telling it like is is the best way to try and tackle the situation. If you approach a couple of workmates on these lines they are bound to spread the word and things should improve as ,remember again.most people are kind.

    Also don't forget to buy everyone doughnuts on your birthday or some special excuse and hand them round personally. Its hard to walk on eggshells when accepting a doughnut. Most people are anybody's for a doughnut.

    You are fortunate that your employers were so understanding and this sounds like a job you should try and keep and also eventually enjoy again. It is difficult dealing with crowds and social gatherings for probably 50% of people, you're not alone, but if you try and put others at ease you'll find it puts you more at ease.


  • Hi I completely agree with the other replies. Can you bring yourself to open a conversation with any of them? You could ask them for example what they did at the weekend, or make a comment about the weather or something. Also if in doubt just smile. This makes people feel more at ease with you. x

  • Has there been any adjustments at work to help with the problem long term , I've recently been off with a similar problem x

  • Thanks everyone for your help and support I will try to be more communicative. Unfortunately I have woke up from a bad nights sleep and my anxiety has got worse and I just can't face going in and facing them today. I know I have to and the longer I leave it the worse it will be but I just can't face it and feel like a failure for giving in to it. I'll call my gp and see what he says. Thanks again

  • Try not to think of this as a negative. It could give you an opening to explain how you feel and how much you're still struggling when you return which might improve things. I hope your GP is helpful. Are you on any medication for anxiety? I take medication for anxiety before I go to work otherwise I wouldn't get there. I don't always need to take it later in the day but I have it if I need it.

    One thing that helps me is slowing my breathing down. If I feel myself getting anxious I leave the office and concentrate on taking deep breaths and slowing my breathing down. It works really well. It's worth doing this daily, just practice and be aware of your breathing. You can find plenty of pages on the web explaining how to do it and why it helps.

    Do you have any ongoing support? You might be able to get a support worker through Access to Work. They meet with you a few times, can be contacted for support on the phone or via email. They can attend work meetings with you if you think that would help. It's only for 6 months I think but it might help you explain the problems and change things enough so that you can manage better at work.

    I do understand how difficult work can be when you're feeling anxious or depressed. I've walked out of three jobs due to anxiety, literally things got too much for me and I wrote my letter of resignation without any further thought within a matter of minute. If you think you might be at risk of doing the same let them know and ask them to hold any resignation letter for a short period of time before acting on it. If they're aware that you might act impulsively as a result of your illness they should be willing to do this for you. I really hope things improve for you. Anxiety was still present when I'd left my jobs, I had anxiety when I started new jobs and I had similar problems with new colleagues. Leaving a job isn't always the good solution that it might seem when you're unhappy.

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