Anxiety Is Getting In The Way of My Friendships
A young woman recognizes anxiety is interfering with her friendships and worries about damaging a close relationship.
I’m a college sophomore and have had relatively few close friendships. I'm okay with that but have always wanted at least one close friend.
Last year, my roommate and I became very close. We might even be able to room together next year, something we both look forward to. I think it's safe to say this is one of the closest friendships I've ever had.
My problem (unbeknownst to my friend) is that I'm pretty anxious about this friendship. This fits my personality, as I tend to get anxious and introspective about many, many things. I sometimes fear I am obsessive or too possessive, although this is only inside myself and is never detectable outwardly.
I prefer close one-on-one friendships and get anxious and insecure (or is it jealousy?) over other friends she has. I'm afraid our relationship isn't as close as I think it is (and want it to be) and feel that her other relationships are an intrusion, which makes me unhappy.
I realize I should simply accept things as they are, but I can't avoid feelings of intense discomfort when it comes to her mutual friends--as though I am being robbed of something (which I know is wrong).
Recently, after experiencing such "jealousy," I suddenly felt that my friend is someone I don't know. Obviously, this worries me, although I strongly suspect (and hope) that this is simply another byproduct of my anxiety. The truth is, I love my friend very much and we have shared a lot together over the past year.
I realize I have a weakness that I will have to deal with throughout life, but I'm really frustrated with its effect on my friendships. I would like to be able to accept her interactions with other people without struggling like this--the last thing I want is to be possessive like that, for either her sake or mine! And yet I want to reassure myself that we really are close friends.
Do you have any advice as to how I can be less jealous/anxious about friends?
When you feel so close to someone, it's natural that you would want those feelings to be reciprocated. But your anxiety over this friendship is excessive because it's so uncomfortable and troubling to you.
You haven't told us much about your roommate but many people, like you, prefer to have only one or two close friendships. Others enjoy juggling larger numbers of people, sometimes, people prefer a mix of close and casual friendships. This is probably the case with your roommate. But it’s important to realize that it doesn't diminish the closeness she feels with you.
Friends should be able to tell good friends how they feel, and share their vulnerabilities; doing so could give her even more insight into understanding who you are as a person. Talk to your friend and let her know that you tend to be an anxious person. It wouldn’t be surprising if she doesn’t already know that about you.
Ask her to let you know if and when you’re acting too clingy or possessive. Explain that you cherish your friendship and don't want to do anything that damages it or makes her feel uncomfortable. She’ll probably reassure you and let you know if anything is bothering her.
We suspect that this friendship isn't the only instance in which you feel anxious and uncomfortable. People become anxious to varying degrees based on their temperament (which is, in part, genetic). Coping with anxiety can be tough, but not impossible, to deal with and you need not let it hold you back academically or socially.
You have a lot going for you, not the least of which is that you sound very smart and insightful and seem highly motivated to change. Given these factors, you probably would benefit from short-term talk therapy, like cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) (not psychoanalysis) to help you deal with your anxieties. This may help you with your friendships and carry over to other aspects of your life.
Since you’re on a college campus, check out whether the student health office offers some kind of screening and can provide you with CBT, which could be of great benefit to you now and going forward.
Irene and Sheryl
Being overly anxious can impede making and keeping friends but anxiety can be treated.
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