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When Anxiety Clouds A Friendship

Published: October 5, 2010 | Last Updated: July 2, 2023 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
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A young woman recognizes that anxiety is interfering with her friendships and asks for advice so she doesn’t damage a close relationship.


Dear Irene,

I am a college sophomore and have had relatively few close friendships. I’m okay with not having a lot, but have always wanted at least one really close friend. Last year I roomed with a girl who has become a very good friend. It even looks like we might 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 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 outwardly detectable.

I prefer close one-on-one friendships and get anxious and insecure (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 sometimes 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 had negative feelings about our relationship, as though 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 how it affects my friendship. 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 our friendship?



Dear Stacey,

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 me 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 doesn’t in any way diminish the closeness she feels to you.

Perhaps you should talk to your friend and let her know that you tend to be an anxious person (She probably knows that about you already). Ask her to let you know if and when you are too clingy or possessive. Tell her you cherish your friendship and don’t want to do anything that damages it or makes her feel uncomfortable. I suspect she’ll be reassuring and let you know if anything is bothering her.

I 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) and it can be upsetting, and hinder their performance both academically and socially.

You sound very smart and insightful and seem highly motivated to change. Given these factors, you probably would benefit from some short-term therapy (not psychoanalysis) to help you deal with your anxieties. I suspect this will help you with your friendships and carry over to other aspects of life. Since you are on a college campus, you can see whether the student health office offers some kind of screening and can provide short-term therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

I recently wrote a post on anxiety for my column on Science Careers and you may want to take a look at that article, too. I hope this helps.

My best,

Related prior posts on The Friendship Blog:

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Comments (2)

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  1. Irene says:

    Dear Mike,

    Three years of abuse can really take its toll and make you hesitant to trust other people.


    You are still relatively young and you have more than half your life ahead of you. You didn’t mention whether you had been in any type of counseling or treatment to work through your feelings about being abused. If you haven’t, that might be a first step.


    My best wishes,





  2. Anonymous says:

    I have realized that i don’t have many if any friends. When I was 13, i was sexual abused by my teacher for 3 years. From that point, I have been afraid to trust. I kept myself introverted in both High School and College so I didn’t develop those close friends that everyone has – now at 42 i just feel alone. if it wasn’t for my first ex-wife having a another couple i don’t think i would have any friends. how at 42 can you develop friendships when you are still afraid of talking and opening up?


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