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Eating Disorders If you or someone close to you is struggling with an eating disorder, reach out here to ask questions or to receive support for recovery.

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Panda99 Offline
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NEED HELP!! Fear of eating in front of others - April 22nd 2010, 09:12 PM

I am a seventeen year-old girl and I have a social phobia of eating in front of other people. I've had this for about ten years now (since I was around 7 years old) and it is only now after doing research on the Internet that this is a social phobia. I've also read forums and other people have the same social phobia as me.


This is a very long post, but please be patient and bear with me:


I am O.K when I eat in front of my family, especially it it's at home and at school (if it's my own food at school).

I get very nervous (at some points I feel like I'm going to throw up) whenever I'm about to eat with other people, such as, meals with extended family whenever I go out of town.

When this happens, I take very small bites since taking very big bites makes me want to spit it out. As a result, I take a very, very long time to finish my plate. A lot of times, someone tells me that I'm a slow eater, and of course, I get humiliated. My mom says that a lot during family dinners in front of my extended family, which is an awful feeling.

I also have the feeling that people are staring at me while I'm eating, so I feel very self-conscious of myself during these moments.

I can eat certain foods, such as, fruits, in front of other people without feeling nervous-I know, this sounds very strange.

Whenever my friends invite me to go out and eat with them, I have to decline, sadly.

The big problem is, I am graduating this year and prom is coming up in June. Prom will be held in a museum and we will be eating dinner. I know I will be scared to eat in front of my friends (especially that it's not my own food) and other people I probably don't know. There will be multiple round tables with about 6-8 people sitting at each one where meals (salad, main course, etc.) will be served to each person, just like in a restaurant. I really, really don't want to look like a fool in front of my friends, taking small bites. I'm afraid that someone will notice that I'm taking a long time to finish my plate, which will lead to humiliation.

I want to have the best time I can possibly have at prom, but not when I have this social phobia that I've been having for a decade! I don't know if I should tell my parents about it, because I really don't want to.

And in case if you're wondering, I am not overweight. When I was researching my fear on the Internet, this social phobia is common among overweight people.


So now it's your turn:
-have you/do you have this social phobia?
-if so, how do you deal with it?
-should I phone a confidential help line?
-should I seek help from a psychiatrist? (but then I would have to tell my parents before booking an appointment and getting there...so how would that work?)


Please help me. Thank you.
   
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Smile Re: NEED HELP!! Fear of eating in front of others - April 22nd 2010, 10:23 PM

Hey,
I understand what your going threw. I have this too. I hate going out to eat with my family members at a restaurant. It makes me really nervous and i eat really slowly. I have never really thought of it as much of a problem myself. But i would suggest talking to a doctor about it if you want. Or you could always contact the help line, see what they say and then from there decide to talk to your parents about it. I hope this helps. PM me anytime! Welcome to TH!

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Re: NEED HELP!! Fear of eating in front of others - April 22nd 2010, 11:28 PM

Hi there! I have social phobia and I understand what you're saying. I also have a great fear of eating in front of people. For me, I've found working with a therapist to be beneficial in addition to the work I do with myself. (Challenging myself to eat certain things in front of friends, reminding myself that people aren't scrutinizing my eating, etc.) I've made great strides in past year this way. It might be worth asking your parents to book an appointment for you.

Now, you say you're able to eat things like fruit in front of people. Are you afraid that people are going to deem your eating unhealthy? Are you afraid of being called fat? I know this was an issue for me, and it contributed greatly to my bulimia (which I am doing well with now). Or is it the way you eat your food that you're afraid people are going to judge?
   
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Re: NEED HELP!! Fear of eating in front of others - April 23rd 2010, 12:49 AM

Thanks so much for your advice-I really appreciate it.
I'm relieved that I'm not the only who's going through this.

To Sarafina: About eating fruits, I think it's mainly a psychological thing. I mean, when I get anxious, my mouth dries up, so food that is sweet and has a lot of water somehow calms me down. It has nothing to do with being afraid of being called fat.
And when you worked with a therapist, what exactly he/she said to you? Were there any tricks that you were taught to calm yourself down (breathing, telling yourself that you can do it)?
   
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Re: NEED HELP!! Fear of eating in front of others - April 24th 2010, 12:00 AM

I'm glad to hear that weight isn't an issue for you.

As for tricks, yes, breathing has played a big role in my recovery. Whenever I begin to feel nervous about something, I have to take a big breath and release it. I have to remind myself that people are not judging me and that I need to relax. If I need to, sometimes I'll remove myself from a situation for a few minutes (excuse myself to the restroom, etc.) in order to calm myself down.

When I first started, I chose some foods that I felt pretty comfortable with to eat in front of others. For you, this may be a piece of fruit. Make a conscious effort to eat it in front of a trusted friend, and gradually work your way up to more difficult things in front of different people. I found it very helpful to start slow and in front of somebody I trusted. It slowly eased me into feeling more comfortable in front of people at restaurants or in the school cafeteria.

I hope this helped you a bit.
   
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Re: NEED HELP!! Fear of eating in front of others - April 25th 2010, 01:32 AM

Thanks for the advice. Were you also taught to visualize yourself in that situation being able to eat in front of others without feeling scared? I know that athletes are taught to do so whenever they are about to compete.

I'm O.K. eating in front of my family whenever we go out and I'm O.K. eating in front of my friends at school as long as it's my own food.

The problem is that at Prom, we will be served dinner (which is obviously not my own food and I have no idea what dinner will be), and we'll be seated at tables of around 6-8 people. I'll probably be seated with my friends and most likely other people I don't know too well.

I'm just afraid that the portions will be huge and being in a panicky state, I won't be able to finish it all. Also, I don't want other people to make remarks about me being a slow eater.

How long did it take you to recover? And what kind of therapist did you see?
   
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Re: NEED HELP!! Fear of eating in front of others - April 25th 2010, 04:47 AM

heyy hunyy i seriously go thru this everyday i used to hope not to eat but ujus talked with everyone and ocassionaly slip a forkful in your mouthh


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Re: NEED HELP!! Fear of eating in front of others - April 25th 2010, 03:11 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Panda99 View Post
I'm just afraid that the portions will be huge and being in a panicky state, I won't be able to finish it all. Also, I don't want other people to make remarks about me being a slow eater.

How long did it take you to recover? And what kind of therapist did you see?
Try not to worry about finishing everything on your plate. Just worry about satisfying your hunger. I know it is not easy, especially at first, but eat however much you feel comfortable with and eat it at a comfortable pace. I know I used to worry about holding people up while I ate, or that people were going to think I was rude if I didn't finish everything. However, this is something I've had to work towards getting over. It is about you and what you feel comfortable doing, not other people.

Currently, I am seeing a behavioral therapist for anxiety, depression, and the like. Honestly, I'm not fully recovered yet, but I am in a much better position than I was, say, a year ago.
   
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