Healthy adult with eye contact strain when listening in conversation

This concerns an adult patient of mine. He has difficulty making eye contact comfortably when he is listening to anyone he is in conversation with. He reports becoming aware he had this problem when a high school classmate said he looked all around when talking to people. He has been aware and self-conscious since then. He does look at me, however, he either looks too intensely into my eyes or at my lower face in a frozen manner because this is a strain for him. His eyes do not seem to move very quickly as is natural for most people. This difficulty is always present, irrespective of his mood or level of trust in the person. When he speaks he feels freer to look around but when he listens the difficulty is always present.


He has found relaxation exercises helpful for his general anxiety and depression but it has not helped his eye contact problem. He is 40 yrs. old, well-functioning and married. He is physically healthy, had an eye exam recently that did not reveal any problems. He wears eyeglasses sometimes for distance or reading. Can you suggest exercises or treatments to address this? Many thanks.

A LICSW


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Ah, my guess is that he is dealing with auditory and/or visual processing issues. Your descriptions were right on target with the proper information I would be seeking to direct you… thank you! I am not diagnosing him by any means but I would have him (and you) start doing some research on auditory processing disorders and visual processing disorders.

What may be happening is that he is struggling so hard to process the information he is hearing and/or seeing that he can’t focus on anything else.

I would suggest finding a vision therapist (sometimes called a developmental optometrist… not sure if that is the name for adults too, but vision therapist is a more generic term) who can look at how the eye muscles (not purely vision, like a regular eye doctor) are working and how the brain is processing visual stimuli/input. They can do exercises with him to help him process visual input better. There are also programs online you can get, but I am not an expert in this, so I would start with the vision therapist.

I do have a lot more information on visual processing, including a real story your patient may relate to… a famous TV producer, Jess Oppenheimer, in one of my newsletters. It is lengthy, but I feel it will be quite valuable and may help him have some light bulb moments (and lead him to some great resources)! It is called Visual Processing Deficits; Often Misdiagnosed, Clearly Visible.

Additionally, a neurologist or speech/language pathologist will evaluate and treat any potential auditory processing issues… I recommend a speech language pathologist, as I KNOW for a fact they evaluate and treat what is often referred to as Central Auditory Processing Disorder. See if you can help him get hooked up with one for evaluation and treatment if indicated.

See if this helps. Thank you for being interested in helping him and looking for the right answers to address his individual problems. I don’t think it is psychologically based, but rather physical, as you seem to also indicate. Have him get the evaluations to find out for sure, ok?

Anyone else have a similar story or ideas for such a wonderful counselor? Please share… she would be very appreciative, I’m sure! Thanks in advance.



Comments for Healthy adult with eye contact strain when listening in conversation

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Aug 26, 2015
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Pls help me
by: Abhij

i am also in this problem. I am from kerala.if u have any advice for me.9061423524

Jan 20, 2015
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An experiment with the ocd ( Eye - social )
by: Anonymous

An experiment with the ocd ( Eye - social )
At the first I had this issues for 2 months it was horrible and very painful , but in the same time very useful for the person because it`s a message for that You had issue in live and You had to revise your life and correct it .

1 - the ocd it`s like the air You can`t see it but You feel it , You think it`s had roots like any building but it`s not like a building it`s only an idea came in your brain and the cure for that You believe that is only an idea came in your head and You had to believe that way always and You keep repeat it until it`s fixed .

2 - the problem it`s came from the lonely , if You start to meet with people ( even they are hurt yoYou) , this is the only cure and You had to do it ( step by step ) for more Effectiveness .

3 - Don`t Lose Your patient Ever Ever and Start to read more about other stuff and try to Distracting yourself with useful habits and keep do that until it`s become an habit and remember that ocd never came to anyone smart ( and smart came from science and believe in god ) .

4 - this issue came from as I say from the lonely and it`s called social phobia and it`s branches maybe it`s connect with some internal fears and the only way to destroy your fears By face it , it`s not easy but it`s the normal way .

5 - the eye problem came from that the social phobia person do some certain look very sharp and not friendly and became the social intelligence very low and he can`t communicate with people with flexible looking and comfortable ( And Always the ocd hit in the weak areas in the person ) , and the problem always came in the thinking in this problem ( Don`t Verify From the Idea ) , so All YOU had to do is Face Your fears and look and people but only when it`s there talk in the start and talk with someone very near to YoYou( wife - friend - mother - father ) and then step by step until You overcome this problem and Don`t lose the battle and verify your gains it`s battle very hard and painful and don`t read in this problem again and try to forget it ( the ocd enemy is social and communicate with people and use time in useful stuff ) , this problem Came To a lot of people and they came over it with patience and don`t lose the faith do it and do it more and more don`t panic don`t fear the people they are think that You are afraid

6 - Any thing make YOU calm do it daily every second ( The Anti-ocd is faith and fight )

7 - if your fear is complex destroy it in the first and verify from that separation because by this way You will destroy the power of the ocd

8 - Trust in Yourself and In Your Thoughts And Your vision And face yourself but don`t insult yourself

9 - Don`t treat the wrong with other wrong because it make Yourself in unlimited circle
Good luck and start to Be social and start to near to god or ethical issues



Jan 01, 2015
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Help
by: Anonymous

I have the same problem. Pleeease help me! Gustaaf_96@hotmail.com

Mar 19, 2014
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I have also this problem.
by: abhi kerala

my name abhi.this same problem affected my accademic .any one help me.communication is very difficult.my friends not see my face.because i will see his and her eye contienuos.erritating me and my friends and family.my number. +918086389679...help me.psychologist or doctors help me.because i am traped. my age 18 .i am an indian

Aug 09, 2012
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Dont be afraid
by: Intense Stare

I just discovered this problem with myself and I become SUPER self-conscious when someone is talking, the fact that the person can noticeably see that how uncomfortable I am is so awful but Im determined to surpass this.


Aug 17, 2011
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Miserable Life
by: John

I have great problem making eye contact when someone is speaking....I can understand more better if I look away (which usually suggests I am uninterested)but I am completely lost and fighting myself in my own head with these nasty feelings(what the speaker must be thinking about me???) when I try to keep eye contact....In fact by the reaction of people I feel as if I was staring them.I never had such problem before and I don't even remember when this started and why.This has affected my academic performance too and as a result my confidence has faced a nose dive.

Please help me out of this...

Feb 10, 2011
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eye contact
by: Anonymous

This is not a eye disorder.It is a self confidence issue.Work on building your self confidence. Google and you will find lots of stuff on building self confidence.Read any of Brian tracy's book covering self confidence building or google for articles.

Sep 26, 2010
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Any advice?
by: Shibin

Can u give me some advice on how to overcome this problem.i am an engineering student,and this problem is sucking the life out of me.I am getting isolated...

Sep 21, 2010
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Eye contact strain
by: Jo

Through testing that's been done by my neurologist , it appears to be a processing problem associated with a neurological disorder.

Sep 21, 2010
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I too have the same problem
by: Shibin

I am also suffering from the same problem.I am not able to look people directly in the eyes,though i wish so much to look at them.the problem is less while speaking...

I there any name to this problem?Is it a psychological or neural disorder?

Aug 24, 2009
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Visual Problems when listening
by: Jo

I cannot maintain eye contact with the person who is speaking and process what that person is saying at the same time. I end up totally lost sometimes, and have to sometimes ask the person to repeat what they'd said.

I notice it most when I am tired.

Apr 08, 2009
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public speak
by: Anonymous

However I do not have such problem while speaking. So, this problem do not create any problem to me even by I giving public speeches or presentations or talking during interview. But problem is persistent while listening and only when I become aware that others are observing me or I become aware of my problem.

Apr 08, 2009
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I have same problem
by: ContProblem

I am also having the same problem. I unable to make eye contact except with people with whom I am comfortable with (close friends, family members). This is particularly difficult while I am listening to the other person. I will become very conscious of him observing me. I could not concentrate while making an eye contact and could not make eye contact while trying to concentrate. This is effecting my profession very badly. Surprisingly if am very involved in the discussion and if I did not become conscious of my weakness, I will be able to make eye contact very easily. I never had this problem before I came to USA. I work hard and I respect every one.

This problem is bothering me a lot and effecting my confidence to have proper communication with others. How can I get out of this problem. Again my problem is very persistent while listening to the other person. Because of this I often try to keep talking rather giving the other person a chance to speak. I have this problem both men and women. Any one who can help me identify my problem and give me a suggestion to deal with is greatly appreciated.

Mar 15, 2008
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SAD
by: Anonymous

Have you looked into seeing if he has Social Anxiety Disorder? That would cause the inability to look people in the eye when conversing with them.

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I believe she said that was ruled out, but good thought. It should be considered as a possibility for anyone with similar issues. Thanks for the suggestion.

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