Can I survive ED with anxiety and social awkwardness?


When I am around people I get lots of anxiety. When I’m anxious I am socially awkward. What can I do?

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist)

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

How to conquer social awkwardness

Can I survive ED with anxiety and social awkwardness?

Dear Nurse Beth,

When I am around people I get lots of anxiety. When I’m anxious I am socially awkward. Before RN school, I worked for 5 years as a Methadone dispensing LPN. There, it was discovered I had a strength in communicating with struggling clients. But with co-workers I stayed quiet. Although I did gain respect and won their trust due to being a hard worker and never gossiping or engaging with someone who is). My question is: can I survive in ED with anxiety and social awkwardness with coworkers?

Dear Socially Awkward,

The ability to effectively interact with others doesn't come naturally for everyone. Some people who connect with others but dread small talk are introverts. Small talk and superficial interactions are fatiguing to introverts, while meaningful connections are energizing.

Others have a treatable disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. Both disorders are characterized by a high level of avoidance, emotional stress, and fear, which heightens self-monitoring.

Whatever the cause, there's no need to suffer, and there is help.

I would first seek medical help to rule in or rule out a diagnosis so you can get the right treatment. Also, look into counseling. See if your insurance provides counseling. Often it's a matter of your own thoughts telling you you'll be rejected or ridiculed if you speak up. Being socially awkward is a response to a perceived threat- the threat being that our desire for being accepted is rejected. With counseling, you can change your self-talk.

Finally, you must stretch yourself to change your behavior. What is one small thing you can do today and every day? Try initiating a short conversation. Talk about the weather. If it feels uncomfortable, that's good. It means you are stretching. Do this 10 days in a row and see how much easier it becomes.

I don't know your time frame for landing a job, but the more insight you gain and the more tools you acquire, the better. Most nursing roles require social interaction, and ED is no exception, with paramedics, doctors, families and co-workers.

Sending you good energy- my hope is your practice setting of choice will not be limited by fear of anxiety.  For more information on being a nurse and an introvert, go to Confessions of an Introvert.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

Hi! Nice to meet you! I love helping new nurses in all my various roles. I work in a hospital in Staff Development, and am a blogger and author.

145 Articles   2,520 Posts

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

2 Comment(s)

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

We all feel socially awkward at times.  Beth has given you some great advice.  Good luck!!

Personally I think there's possibly so much chaos in an ED that you can probably put your head down and do your work just fine. Learn to smile and have a warm introduction and the rest is pretty much business and it moves quickly. 

I do agree with the advice given though. No reason to go through life uncomfortable much of the time if there are realistic ways that things could be made a little easier for you (and I think there probably are).

Best of luck ~