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Readers Respond: How do you handle eating in front of others?

Responses: 135

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Updated August 23, 2011

Some people with social anxiety disorder have a fear of eating or drinking in front of others. If you have this phobia, you may fear shaking while eating or spilling your food or drink, among other things. How do you handle eating in front of others? Have you had a particularly embarrassing eating experience? Do you avoid restaurants at all costs? Have others noticed your anxiety about eating? Share Your Experiences

starving for over a week

I've been with my boyfriend for over 5 years and I still can't eat infront of him?! And I visit at his house for a minimum of a week!! I swear I get so hungry but I just drink a cup of tea, but when he eats I start feeling weak! I need help to get over this :'(
—Guest sydney

i cover my mouth

I have always had problems with eating since the age of 14, 4 years ago, that was a different problem. Not anorexia because to me I'm to fat to be anorexic, 6st 2 4ft 11. Over the past year I've found myself getting more and more nervous about eating infront of people. Questions through my mind; 1. Am I eating like a normal person. 2. Should I eat like this. 3. Am I using my cutlery normally. 4. Do people think I'm fat for eating. I can't eat a meal fully I feel as if I have to leave something, otherwise people will think I'm greedy. I eat until I'm just about getting full. I can't be full because it's a horrible feeling. I'm scared of new food so if I panic that if I do eat out will they have what I like. Also I have to use a straw whilst drinking anything. I panic and don't know what to do when somewhere don't have a straw. I cover my mouth after a mouthful incase I don't look normal whilst drinking. I can't do family meals, restaurants, eating anything whilst in company.
—Guest missdannilea

nervous

Hi I'm Nat. When I was 14 I went to eat with my bf and and his family. We went to eat at a burger shop and they ordered my burger. When we all had our burgers in front of us everybody started eating including me. I took a bite at my burger but i noticed i got really nervous and my throat felt like it got lucked and i couldn't swallow my food. I wanted to but i felt like i wanted to throw up. I felt sick and nervous. I felt like everyone was looking at me. I didn't eat my burger. I told my bf family i felt sick. I was really embarrassed and nervous. Ever since that always happens when i go on dates to a restourant. I get really nervous, i can't eat, and i want to throw up. I want it to stop. I'm 24 and I'm still dealing with this. I hate it.
—Guest nat

me too...

This is a very serious issue that we are having now, but I hope we can all pass on this, I am as well having anxiety eating out with my bf, I am trying to relax as much as I can but it seems like my mind is controlling me... I just hope I can overcome this before I even decide to break the relationship because of this... I hope someone can help us and give us some tips.
—Guest mj

Oh and some to-trys

I figure it might be helpful for me to also share some thoughts after reading the threads here. I have come across some tips and I think I will start trying and see if they will work: 1. Tell yourself everyone eating around you is having the same issue as you (ok it's kinda silly), so just ignore them and eat on! 2. Understand that you are eating and know you are sending food to your mouth and try to enjoy it. Try not to rush it into your mouth. Aside, I am also considering to occasionally switch to a more-meals-less-portion lifestyle to ensure I have taken enough food and nutrition while dealing with this. Still having a proper way to adjust to this as the different restaurants always offer food in normal (read HUGE) portion. I am kinda underweight, which is really not such a good thing for someone who has just met the girl of his life :/ Good luck everyone!
—Guest ZHONG

Thoughts & Suggestion

Hey I am new here and I am totally blown away that I am not alone facing this issue. Scrolled through some of the stories and saw some advice. Wouldn't want to describe further my anxiety, but would like to share some "potential solutions" I had; doesn't work all the time but I figure it could be helpful for some of you: 1. I tried to breath out hard when I have food in my mouth, chewing half way and felt my throat locked. The bad thing is; you will make really weird noise with your nostril if you are eating in a really quiet place. Works best in noisy eating place :) 2. Drink water when you eat. I saw some of you have suggested the same thing. Yea it works; but the down part is it makes me too dependent on drink, and for every mouthful of food I had, I had to take a sip of drink. Trying not to be too dependent on that. To fully stop this, I believe it is really a mental thing which I am still trying hard to overcome. Best of luck to all!
—Guest ZHONG

I can't do it

Today I went out to dinner with my boyfriend and his family. I've always been scared to eat in front of them, and going out just made it worse. My boyfriend made me order my own food, and I never do that. After I did I was just shaky and really nervous. Our food came, and once I started eating I started to feel sick and like the room was closing in on me. So I went to the bathroom area and I started to cry and I tried to explain it to my boyfriend but I was too nervous and scared and shaky. I couldn't go back to the table and eat so I just sat near the bathroom while they ate. My leg was shaking the whole time I was sittting there. I was just too scared to go back to the table and eat. I couldn't even stand to even look at his family because I was that embarrassed.
—Guest jess

Help plz

Okay so I'm in the 7th grade and I have a fear of having food on my face. If I eat at school I will continually wipe my face and check to see if I have any on my face... So I decided to stop eating food at school all together, but how do I overcome this fear? I've had it since I can remember.
—Guest Katara108

"Image"

It's crazy what the fear of giving off a bad impression or image can do to us. Even to the most confident-looking people, there's still that fear of screwing up. Eating in front of others is difficult because if your one of those people who cares about what you look like and try to give off a perfect impression, there's always a way to "screw up". Sometimes we over-think things and feel cautious about what people think. When in reality, they never really were paying attention to or even noticed anything you're worried about. So next time you go out to eat and you feel nervous, just remember that everyone eats. I've always had a phobia of eating in front of others publicly or going on dates. I'm 17 and still have problems with this. All you can really do is remember that eating is a normal thing and whoever is going to seriously judge you on how or what you eat, they're the ones with issues. It's all in the head. Once you get past it with someone, you'll be good. Then it starts over. Good Luck!
—Guest Dee

Dates and Potential Significant Others

I don't feel comfortable eating at restaurants or anywhere where there is someone present who could become a gf /bf. I also HATE ordering off menus, hate ordering high priced items, and am worried about looking unattractive while eating. Overall, I don't eat at school during Lunch because there is someone I like sitting near by. I only eat in front of close friends and family.
—Guest Katherine

Thanks

Thank you all for all the helpful advice!!!!! I've had this since 9th grade and I'm in 11th now, my biggest fear is eating at Restaurants and eating at my boyfriends house but I'm sooooo glad that people are experiencing the same things as I. I thought I was the only one so once again thanks
—Guest Bhg7u35

it's just scary

I hate eating in restaurants or in front of unknown people. I just feel observed and I'm Always afraid that I'll drop the food on the floor. The same with drinking. I have a strange fear that people will see my mouth while drinking. I'm also worried what people think about the amount of food I order...and finally, I hate ordering food in a restaurant or even crowded bar. I just don't wanna sound stupid or insecure...I'm really tired of all that...it's just ridiculous, but I can't cope with it.
—Guest anita

fear in public

Hi my name is Jonathan and I have very high anxiety issues that range to mutable things, eating in public is one huge one. Ever since I was in grade school in the lunch room people would stare at me and talk about me just be plain rude! Ever since I've been unable to eat in public because people are staring and it creeps me out from my past. And if I attempt to eat I feel my throat lock instantly where it is unbearable to swallow. I even have trouble drinking a water on a public bus. If it's not home .. its not happening ! :(
—Guest jonathan wirtshafter

I get very defensive and angry...

I live with my family, and my siblings stress me out when I eat. I would rather cook and eat my meal alone, I get angry if they can see me, if they are in the same room, if they try to talk to me when I am eating or making food. My siblings always comment on my food or rubber-neck to see what I have. They eat a lot, and when I was younger, they would take food from my plate. They often get larger portions of food than I do, and often get to eat the very last of the food. This stresses me out to the point where I would rather not eat. And for the record, I'm the eldest sibling, it's not like they're older and mean to me because I'm younger. I can eat fine in front of some people, like my mother and my father, but I feel uncomfortable making food in front of them. I can eat and cook in front of my best friend without experiencing anger. I wish I could have some peace while I cook and eat, I get very self-conscious, but I react in an angry, reclusive manner as opposed to getting scared.
—Guest Billopher

I can't eat with his family

I've been with my boyfriend for over a year now. I used to eat with his family all the time, but now I'm terrified to eat at his house. He always asks if I want to and even if it's my favorite food, I decline. I'm just scared to eat in front of them. I feel bad because he eats at my house like every night but I can't eat at his house. It's way too scary, I'd probably throw up while I was eating. I don't know how to handle it and I feel bad because I know it makes him upset that I won't eat with his family.
—Guest Ashley

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