It’s not a great feeling to think that someone is mad at you or just doesn’t like you. And it’s not a great feeling to think that you’re not welcome in a group of people. But what if the feeling goes further, and you feel as if everyone hates you?
As humans, we have a natural desire to be liked and fit in with our peers—no matter our age. Things can take a more serious turn, however, if you feel as if you’re not liked in any space you’re in or if you feel that even your loved ones don’t want to be around you. But if you come away from every interaction thinking, “Do they hate me? Did I say something wrong?” then you’re not alone—and your worries may have little to do with what others actually think about you.
Those examples can be signs that there’s something underlying going on with your mental health. The good news is that all of this can be addressed with the right treatment, which will allow you to grow and deepen your relationships with confidence—despite the occasional worry—which can be important for your overall wellness.
Does everyone actually hate you? What could be going on.
This sense that people around you—even those you’re closest with—don’t actually like you can emerge as a regular, intrusive chatter in your head. “This is something that’s extremely common in the people I treat with OCD and anxiety disorders,” says Melanie Dideriksen, LPC, CAADC, a licensed therapist with NOCD. Let’s dive into the two conditions more and how they may relate to this fear:
- Social anxiety
Thinking everyone hates you is a “hallmark” sign of social anxiety disorder, says Dideriksen. Social anxiety specifically involves a “fear of embarrassment or others judging you,” she explains. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), social anxiety, which has been called social phobia, is a persistent fear of social or performance situations where you worry about scrutiny from others. It’s something that affects about 12% of U.S. adults in their lifetime.
OCD is a chronic mental health disorder where you experience obsessions and compulsions, says the NIMH. Here’s a closer look at both:
Obsessions are thoughts, urges, feelings, sensations, or images that are unwanted and provoke distress or anxiety.
Compulsions are the repetitive behaviors you do to neutralize the discomfort of an obsession. This might involve cleaning your hands, counting, repeating certain words or phrases, or—in our case—repeatedly checking to make sure that others aren’t mad at you or to feel reassured that they like you. The problem is, the effects of these behaviors are temporary, and the worry (and obsessions) only come back stronger than before.
It should be noted that some neurodivergent populations—autistic people and those with ADHD, in particular—commonly report these worries, as well. Many may additionally struggle with conditions like OCD or social anxiety, but some might experience these concerns on their own.
What is the difference between social anxiety and OCD?
It can be tough to know if what you’re experiencing is due to social anxiety or OCD. It’s also quite possible that you could be struggling with both conditions at the same time. Here are some clues to know where you stand:
What’s the theme of your intrusive triggers?
Intrusive triggers include thoughts, images, feelings, sensations, or urges that are involuntary and often distressing. They happen to everyone, but they’re often central to both social anxiety and OCD. In social anxiety, these thoughts are mainly centered around social situations or relationships, and are focused on the fear of judgment or embarrassment, says Dideriksen. “This fear that others don’t like you is really specific to social anxiety,” she explains. If your intrusive thoughts trigger compulsions, then it’s more likely that OCD is involved (see below).
Are you practicing avoidant behaviors?
When you’re worried that everyone hates you, you’ll naturally start avoiding social situations. After all, who wants to be around that scrutiny? So, you may avoid making plans or choose not to attend a function because you worry that you were only invited out of pity. While people with OCD also often avoid their triggers, these tendencies are a central part of social anxiety.
Do you have compulsions?
If your intrusive thoughts and worries trigger you to perform compulsions, this is a clear sign of OCD. Remember, compulsions are behaviors that you do to get rid of the thoughts or discomfort, and they can be physical, mental, or both. Here are some things you might do that are considered compulsions, according to Dideriksen:
- Seeking reassurance: Consistently checking in with others to ask if things are okay. “This is above and beyond a typical interaction,” she says. So, while it’s completely reasonable to check in and ask someone if something you did offended them—this is being a good friend or partner—people with OCD may ask so often that their loved ones become uncomfortable or significantly bothered by the incessant questions.
- Rumination: Where you replay interactions over and over in your head, looking for clues that can prove or disprove your worries about people hating you.
- Checking: Examples include working to remember specific details from previous interactions, focusing on people’s facial expressions or other behaviors when you interact with them, or repeatedly scanning their social media activity after interacting with them.
- Researching: Repeatedly trying to learn ways you can become more likable.
This pattern of obsessions and compulsions tends to continue in a vicious cycle. Unfortunately with OCD, you can never gain enough reassurance or “figure things out” in a way that will satisfy your worries. The fears and worries will rush back—and you’ll feel as if you have to perform your compulsions again.
Types of OCD that can make you think everyone hates you
OCD is very specific to the person experiencing it—the disorder tends to prey on what you value in life. Because of that, there are many different subtypes of OCD, such as harm OCD, sexual orientation OCD, relationship OCD, contamination OCD, and more. If OCD is driving the fear that everyone hates you, there are several subtypes that may fit, depending on your specific fears and how they arise.
Sometimes with relationship OCD you might experience doubts about if you actually like your partner. But things are often flipped, and you may find that you’re repeatedly seeking reassurance from your partner that they’re still interested in you or enjoying your relationship, says Dideriksen. And though romantic and/or sexual relationships are the most common targets, ROCD can also target platonic relationships—such as friendships—as well as family relationships.
This type of OCD is focused around a sense of responsibility for other people or animals around you—you worry about something awful happening because you’ve done something wrong or irresponsible. In these cases, it’s common for people to feel over-responsible for others, worrying that any negative mood they notice or any interaction they have is actually a sign that others hate them.
While perfectionism OCD is often portrayed in the media as someone who desperately needs to arrange their items in a strict way, this type of OCD can also affect how you relate to others. “Extreme concern about making mistakes is a big piece of OCD,” says Dideriksen. This might come in the form of a fear that you did something wrong to someone else and, as a result, they hate you—or even that you will make a big mistake that impacts others. Perfectionism can also show up in people-pleasing behaviors, which one might use as a way to avoid feeling hated. This often comes at the expense of their own mental health.
Approaches to treatment for both OCD and social anxiety tend to involve either SSRI medication, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or both. A type of therapy called Exposure and Response Prevention therapy, or ERP, is considered the gold standard therapy for OCD, and it can also be an important part of treatment plans for social anxiety.
In short, ERP requires you to willfully expose yourself to things that trigger your worries and obsessions, providing you the opportunity to resist performing a compulsion in OCD, or to resist avoiding your triggers in social anxiety.
During an initial appointment for OCD treatment, you will work with your therapist to identify your primary fear. “The core might be that people hate you, but it could be something even deeper. At the beginning, we want to make sure we’re figuring out what’s at the root of this. That way, we can design our exposure exercises specifically to target those fears.” says Dideriksen. For example, do you have a fear that others hate you, or is it more about the fear of making a mistake that causes harm or distress for another person?
The “response prevention” part of ERP requires you to resist performing compulsions or avoiding potentially triggering social situations. You will feel really anxious during this time and you’ll want to avoid worrying situations or perform compulsions in order to feel better. But by holding back, “you interrupt the OCD cycle,” says Dideriksen. By facing your fears head-on, you’ll learn that you can tolerate your worry and uncertainty, which will help your fears dissipate over time.
When it comes to social anxiety, ERP is also highly effective, employing exposure exercises designed to help people resist avoiding their triggers. Unfortunately, most people live with social anxiety for a decade before getting help, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA).
One way this might work is by taking small steps to reach out in social ways—text a friend or acquaintance, ask a neighbor to come over for coffee, go to that event you were invited to, or even make small talk with a stranger, such as the cashier at a store
Later, when you worry that they hate you, you’d take a step back and avoid analyzing the situation. Instead of assuming that you’re correctly picking up on cues that they dislike you, you wouldn’t entertain those ideas. Because the reality is you just don’t know what they were thinking—uncertainty is a part of life. Treatment focuses on being okay with not knowing and embracing the emotions that follow. “In ERP therapy, it’s not our job to figure out if that’s the case or not. Our job is to help our clients sit with that uncertainty and discomfort,” says Dideriksen.
It’s quite distressing to feel as if no one likes you. One thing to keep in mind is that you’re looking at everything through a single filter, says Dideriksen. So, every interaction is run through this very self-critical lens, which transforms even neutral or positive interactions into something negative. “You might look at someone’s expression and imagine what they’re thinking or that they’re judging you,” she explains. Many times, they are not judging you and you’re incorrectly guessing their thoughts. But it is also possible that they are thinking something negative. Again, you just don’t know! Ultimately, through treatment, you will learn that that’s okay, and you can still have healthy relationships with others despite that uncertainty.
How to get help when you think people hate you
There is more for you than living everyday thinking that people around you dislike you. You deserve to experience your friendships and relationships without intrusive doubt and worry popping in and affecting your connections with others.
If you think you may be suffering from social anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, NOCD is here to help. NOCD provides live video sessions with licensed therapists who are specially trained in ERP therapy and can help you break free from the cycle of obsessions and compulsions or intrusive thoughts. You’ll also be able to access support in between sessions, so you can gain social confidence that there are people in your corner—and they don’t hate you.
To get started, schedule a free 15-minute call with NOCD to learn if the treatment program, which is covered by many major insurance plans, is right for you.