From the archives: I see angry people…

{{I’m busy this week and doing some traveling, so I probably won’t have as much time as I normally would to blog. As such, I’m pulling some posts out of the archives. I got a lot of positive feedback about this post, so I decided to dust it off and post it again. I hope you enjoy it.}}

I’ve read a number of studies that show people with eating disorders have difficulty reading emotions in other people. A new one came out this week. The general theme for people with anorexia is that they tend to be hypersensitive to anger–that is, they see people as angry, even when they’re not. No one really seems to know why this is, but it seems to be one of those general traits of people with EDs.

It’s something I know a lot about.

I don’t like social situations for any number of reasons (anxiety, etc), but I also tend to dislike them because I always feel that everyone hates me. Saying that they hate me is probably an overstatement, but I am usually very uncertain about how people feel about me. My brain tends to hone in on even the slightest hint of anger or ambivalence. I can never quite seem to tell what people think of me. On the one hand, my brain sees lots of anger. On the other hand, I often don’t see much angry behavior directed towards me. Or at least not a huge amount of it.

So yeah, social situations are very confusing and difficult for me.

It’s not just random social situations, either. I’ve often thought my mom was angry at me or yelling at me when she wasn’t. She might be stressed, even if it’s unrelated to me or the ED, but I interpret it as anger. And when someone is mad at me, I feel that they must hate me.

What this really means is that I feel I live in a hostile world. It’s scary, and it doesn’t help with my stress level. It helps to explain some of the reason I have lots of anxiety, and why I tend to isolate myself. Meeting new people means wading through even more uncertainty and feelings that someone is angry with me. Anorexia played into this by almost buffering me from these feelings.

I find reading these studies helpful because it helps me reframe social situations. Instead of leaping to conclusions that, in fact, people really do hate me, I can remind myself to wait for something more concrete than random worries. I can try to assess the situation before letting my emotions take over. I still don’t like social situations, but I’m getting better at dealing with them.

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5 Responses to “From the archives: I see angry people…”

  1. I shared this with my mom today, because like so many of your posts, it fits me to a tee. She said it was one of the most eyeopening things she has ever read and it helped her understand my behaviors a little bit better. Thanks, Carrie, for helping strengthen the relationship with my mom.

  2. I was trying to explain this to a friend last night, so perfect timing Carrie! I do this a lot – I also hear annoyance and ‘danger signals’, and then I (re)act by becoming more defensive, and the person I’m with responds to that, thus reinforcing my belief that I was right, and they were angry/annoyed with me in the first place… One of the nastiest things about EDs is the way they thrive on vicious spirals. The other reinforcement is that when I’m restricting, I feel so high that I don’t care if other people are annoyed; I’m calmer; and everyone gets on. At least until the inevitable crash…

  3. I’m glad you guys have found this blog helpful. It does help to explain (for me) anyway my extreme dislike of social situations and why I’m always on edge. I can’t shake the feeling that people don’t like me or are mad at me, even when I know it’s not rational. Sigh…

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