Do You Want to Be Invisible and Hide From People?

woman becoming invisible sitting in a corner
Getty / Chiara Gardellin

Some people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) have the thought: "I wish I could be invisible."

Do you ever feel that way? Most people with SAD try to make themselves invisible. They don't talk so they won't draw attention to themselves. They look down so they won't make eye contact. They avoid situations so that they won't have to face people.

Although your desire to be invisible is probably pretty strong, would that really solve anything?

What Would You Lose by Being Invisible?

  • Nobody would know that you were there.
  • You would not have the opportunity to make friendships and have relationships.
  • All of your needs and wants and desires would go ignored.
  • Your opinions would never be heard.
  • People would lose out on getting to know you.

If you have SAD, perhaps you already are invisible, and these things are already true.

What is the opposite of being invisible? Being seen? Heard? Could you handle that?

Probably not right away, if you have been invisible for a long time. But gradually and slowly, you can stop being invisible and face your fears.

What do you think? Will you remain invisible or do you want more?

Research on Being Invisible

In one interesting study, researchers used virtual reality to test out the effect of perceiving your own body to be invisible. What they found was interesting—socially anxious responses to standing in front of an audience were reduced when the participant perceived their own body to be invisible. The authors of the study suggested that starting out virtual reality therapy with an invisible body may allow those with social anxiety disorder to gradually overcome their fears.

Beyond this application to treatment, what might this study tell us? Imagine for a moment that you were standing in front of an audience but you were invisible. Would your heart still race? Would you feel shaky and panicky? Is your fear dependent on the audience seeing you, or does it exist simply because of you seeing the audience?

Based on the findings from this study, we can conclude that it is not just the presence of the audience, but the thought that they are looking at you that causes distress. Indeed, we know that those with SAD tend to experience the "spotlight effect," wherein you think all eyes are on you, even when they are not.

More Invisible Than You Think

Though you may not be able to rig up a virtual reality situation in your own life to practice being invisible, you could instead do some behavioral experiments to test out exactly how much other people notice what you are doing. In other words, act silly on purpose to see what reaction you get.

If you want to get even more in-depth, exposure therapy is a technique used by therapists as part of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In a nutshell, it involves just that—facing your fears gradually and learning that you can be in the situations that cause you anxiety. Eventually, your anxiety will dissipate if you stay long enough.

Although exposure therapy is usually practiced with a therapist, it can also be done on your own as a self-help exercise.

Below you will find a variety of "how-to" guides about how to practice exposure therapy on your own.

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Article Sources

  • Guterstam A, Abdulkarim Z, Ehrsson HH. Illusory ownership of an invisible body reduces autonomic and subjective social anxiety responses. Scientific Reports 2015;5:9831.