I want to feel more comfortable around people

My son was diagnosed with autism a few years ago and I stopped working so that I could take care of him. I also was dealing with an abusive relationship (mentally, physically, and emotionally). Now I live like a recluse and I always feel nervous around people.

How can I feel more comfortable around other people?

David Klein
David Klein
Humanistic Psychotherapy for Individuals & Couples

It might be helpful to have a good understanding of the "why" in terms of feeling nervous around people, or the difficulty in developing more comfort. If your discomfort is somehow related to your son's diagnosis or your lack of employment, or an abusive relationship you were in and maybe embarrassed about, that is important to understand, and get clarity around. 

When we can understand on a deep level what is happening for us (i.e., where does fear come into this, and what's it about) we can give ourselves empathy. Everyone struggles in some aspect, so to not necessarily think of yourself as pathological is a first step. Sometimes being around people can trigger an anxiety related to being "good enough" that goes back a ways in our history. If any of the above is true, it would need acknowledgement and care from you, as opposed to shaming that experience (in the hopes it would just go away), because this experience is very real for you.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Emily Forsythe
Emily Forsythe
Helping clients be their most authentic selves

I'd wonder first if you were still in the same home and neighborhood where you raised your son and experienced the abuse? In many ways, we react to our environments - and if you're still surrounded by neighbors who didn't reach out when they heard your ex yelling or offer assistance and resources when your son acted differently than his peers, it might make sense that you're more timid around folks. It might also be worth thinking about where your bar is set: do you want to be as comfortable around people as you were before your recent circumstances? Or find your new normal, and connect only with people who raise you up and bolster your self-esteem? You have the right to be both cautious (if you're still surrounded by the same folks and environment) and discerning - only connecting with people who will be supportive. All the best~

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

It sounds like you have taken on a caretaker role for a while as well as experienced some pretty severe interpersonal trauma.  It makes sense that you would feel nervous around people.  Working through the trauma of an abusive relationship in itself can be a difficult process.  And then to add on the caretaker part can make things even more difficult.  

First off, you may want to seek support to work through what you have experienced.  Many cities offer support with survivors of domestic violence and there is a hotline to help with this 888-724-7240 as well as online resources.  Processing the isolation of this relationship as well as working with your son can help to overcome the anxiety related to others.  Accessing autism support networks may be of support as well.  Other parents that will understand your experiences are a good and tend to be safer place to start in attempting to connect to others.

Very importantly, go slow and be kind to yourself as you begin to adapt to a new life of allowing others to care for you as you so clearly have for others.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

I would look at  getting engaged with a support network of individuals who may also have autistic children.  They will understand some of the things that you are experiencing at home and you may also find someone who feels that same way as you. If you have not sought professional counseling for the abusive relationship I would seek out a therapist who can help you process through it so you do not repeat similar choices in your next relationship. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Probably a good portion of living like a recluse was necessary so you had time to rest and recuperate from so much major adjustment in your life.

Have you told some of the people in your life about the many changes you've been through?   It is possible people sense something different about you and aren't sure whether to ask or not ask questions.

Also, understand what type of qualities you'd like to offer and receive in a friendship.   Given that raising a kid who has autism takes a lot of energy and time, the way you socialize will change.

Start with one person whom you're pretty sure would welcome you and whom you would gain by bringing them into your life.

As a result of how this interaction goes, how you decide to spend your time together, what you'll discuss, you will know more about yourself and what you require to feel good around other people.

Then, you can consider if you're ready to add others into your world.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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