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Shame and guilt

Community Member

Does anybody find that standard small talk questions can be stressful and difficult to answer when you have anxiety?

Questions that cause me panic include

What are you up to today?

How’s work?

What do you do for work?

I am an accountant by trade. I worked in the same company for many years, and worked my way up to part owner and director. Unfortunately, as a result of a marriage breakdown and subsequent family law issues, as well as a lot of emotional abuse from my ex husband, I have developed crippling anxiety. I am on extended leave from my business and don’t think I’ll ever be able to return.
I feel a lot of shame and guilt about my situation, particularly that I am not currently working.
Today one of the school mums asked if I had a busy day ahead. If I answered honestly I would have said “No, I’ll probably just be sitting on the lounge stressing and overthinking everything in my life, until I’m finally so mentally drained I take a nap. Then it will be time for school pick up”.

Instead I said “No, just housework”.

Do everyday questions like this trigger your anxiety?

Do you feel shame and guilt around not being able to work or live the way others do?

How do you handle small tall, and how do you answer seemingly simple questions that are actually quite difficult?

5 Replies 5

Community Member

Hi, Viki1's!

OMG.. YES!! I sometimes even pre-stress over it when I know the question is coming. Just to give you an idea I haven't worked a job for about a decade so when I meet people or even if it is strangers in the street if they ask about what I'm doing today or yes about work I immediately panic and I don't go into a complete panic attack or anything but the nerves get to me and it washes over me like shivers down my whole body, like the opposite of what adrenalin feels like I suppose. So you're definitely not alone in this.

I'm so sorry to hear what has happened to you. I hope you find the support you need here as there are a lot of helpful friendly people. 🙂

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi Vicki1,

Wellcome to our forums.

I once suffered with severe anxiety OCD and when I did school drop off and pick up I had so many thoughts running through my mind and I was on constant edge…. When people would start small talk I’d just simply smile or nod it was hard to be able to hold down a conversation.

I understand what you are saying.

Shame and guilt fade when your in a safe space…… please know you are in a safe space here on our forums.

Try not to worry about what others think just keep looking after you.

Have you seeked professional help for your anxiety?

Things will get better, hang in there

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

I see two others have replied which is great.

Briefly, anxiety peaked in 1987. Decided after 12 months therapy I could conquer it myself with the help of meds. Took 25 years but won!

OK, the 1st problem I can see is boredom, it feeds anxiety via Intrusive thoughts. Keep busy, real busy. Projects!

Change of occupation might be harder for you to manage but consider it anyway.

Change environment?

I see positives in everything. That lady asking you about your day? Likely she would have taken up an invitation for a culpa.

Guilt? A serious state of mind.

So listed below is some threads pertaining to your issues. Just read the 1st post of each.


Beyondblue topic guilt the tormentor

Beyondblue topic anxiety, how I eliminated it

Beyondblue topic a move to the country? Why not

Beyondblue topic fortress of survival ( there is parts 2, 3 and workplace as well)

Beyondblue topic the definition of abuse

Beyondblue topic the best praise you'll ever get

Beyondblue topic worry worry worry

I hope they help. I had the same problems with small talk however small talk itself isn't the problem. Once anxiety reduces these common irritants disappear, like my fear of crowds etc.

Oh before I go. I've used videos from Prem Rawat "maharaji " for 35 years now for relaxation and a pivotal part of my recovery

Youtube maharaji sunset

Youtube prem rawat maharaji all is well

Beyondblue topic meditation- he helped me for 25 years, Maharaji

Reply anytime



Hi Vicki1!

Thank you very much for joining us here in the Forums! We are grateful you chose our community to join!

the impacts of Social Anxiety are really debilitating and horrid - and only more so when the anxiety has its roots in emotional abuse, intense pressure and distress. There is perhaps some comfort to be found in knowing that this is something inflicted, not just an unexpected period of mental ill-health - but it's a cold comfort I am sure. 

A theme that might be worth pointing out here, is that most of the questions that really seem to be pushing those distress buttons right now seem self-worth related, pushing the buttons you have reported. "how's work?" (I do not want to answer) "what are you up to today?" (nothing that I am feeling proud of or ok with right now)

It is genuinely worth exploring how much damage your past connection has done to your sense of worthiness, and whether the 'over-achiever' inner voice was really inflicted on you there; whether it may perhaps pre-date the relationship; or most importantly, which of your values its hitting and hurting right now.

1800RESPECT is a beautiful service that we trust with this you can find them here: and many local women's health groups have some amazing counsellors that specialise in these and many more impacts of what you have endured: AskLizzy is a directory could be a great start to find those near you! 

As always, we want you to know that we are here for you too! please feel free to call anytime, 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or click here to start a webchat.

Again, please feel proud of yourself for finding the courage to reach out about this in the community, we certainly are proud of you. Please stay in touch!


Sophie M.

Community Member

Hi Vicki,

These question may be stressing you out because you feel uncertain about everything and you sound like a down to earth person, so you probably answer most questions truthful, but you feel like you need to hide the real answer to make other people feel comfortable, and this probably goes against your values.

Your post makes you sounds like a hard worker and someone else or yourself has perhaps made you think that you can not have time to yourself or take a break from work, I know its a lot easier said than done, but look deep into your heart and be honest with yourself, what really matters right now in life, in this very moment, what is important to you and what do you need to do, to be there for yourself and your family.

Have trust in yourself that whatever happens in the future that you will be able to handle in, in that very moment, and when ever these negative questions or thoughts come into your mind, accept that they have come into your thoughts and tell them that you can handle this when the time comes.

As nothing ever goes to plan as to how we think it will in life, it is good to be aware of what to do and how to act but obsessively thinking about , what can, should and what you think will happen, is good for no one.

You sound like a strong person, and I hope that your new life and your break up with your abusive ex, will create a new journey for you.

Warm regards to you lovely xx