Why Do Most People Find Eye Contact So Uncomfortable
Why Do Most People Find Eye Contact So Uncomfortable: Do you have a hard time with eye contact?
You’re not the only one.
It plays an important role in healthy socialization, but lots of people find it deeply uncomfortable.
People tend to view those who make and maintain eye contact in conversations as more friendly, welcoming, open, and trustworthy.
And, unfortunately, those that don’t may be viewed with skepticism, as untrustworthy, or closed off.
Then there is the common myth that refusing or fleeting eye contact can be interpreted as a sign of dishonesty and lying.
In reality, good liars may not throw any body language signs that indicate dishonesty. They are aware that others watch for these signs. Instead, they might look a person straight in the eye when they lie to them, knowing that the person is more likely to believe them.
That is a problem for people who have a genuine dislike of making and holding eye contact in conversations.
A lack of eye contact usually doesn’t have anything to do with character. It has more to do with shyness, anxiety, mental quirks, or mental illnesses that make that facet of socialization harder. Eye contact anxiety may also be associated with neuroticism, psychopathy, PTSD, and autism.
Why do some people find it so excruciatingly difficult to make eye contact and what can you do to make it easier?
What is eye contact anxiety?
Eye contact anxiety refers to the discomfort a person feels when making eye contact or continuing to look into someone’s eyes.
The type of discomfort the person experiences will be influenced by why they feel the way that they do. Everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to eye contact.
Some may experience mild discomfort. Others may feel a harsh emotional response that causes them great distress – such as a person with autism experiencing an overload and meltdown or a person with anxiety experiencing an anxiety attack.
Eye contact anxiety may also be caused by shyness or lack of confidence in people without diagnosable mental health issues.
Direct eye contact with another person causes specific responses in the brain, some of which can be impeded or problematic depending on the individual’s personality.
That information interpretation can be further disrupted due to evidence suggesting that verbal interpretation is also tied into the same parts of the mind that govern eye contact.
Eye Contact And Autism
Difficulty with eye contact is a common attribute associated with autism.
Those with autism have greater activity in the areas of the brain that are responsible for interpreting facial expressions. They avoid eye contact because it can cause sensory overload, extreme discomfort, and even pain.
An autistic person may also experience discomfort because eye contact is an intimate thing for a lot of people.
It can stir up a lot of emotions that are difficult for an autistic person to experience and process due to complications of the disorder.
Eye Contact And Social Anxiety
A person with social anxiety may feel extreme discomfort and outright fear from making eye contact with others.
The act causes the amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for fear responses – to warn the person of danger when there is no real threat.
The person with social anxiety may go out of their way to avoid eye contact and socialization so as to not experience feelings of discomfort, wrongness, or anxiety attacks.
It may be surprising how diverse people with social anxiety can be. They’re not always quiet, introverted people who avoid the public eye at all costs.
There are numerous artists, comedians, and musicians with social anxiety who are performing in front of crowds but have a difficult time in one-on-one socialization.
What is an appropriate amount of eye contact?
The sweet spot for eye contact depends on the social setting.
In a personal relationship, longer periods of eye contact are often welcome because there is a shared intimacy between people.
That length can extend depending on how close those p