Why Do You Feel Like Everyone is Watching You?

Feeling as if you're being watched can make your levels of activation rise. In some cases, the situation can become really uncomfortable and affect your behavior.
Why Do You Feel Like Everyone is Watching You?
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

When you’re walking down the street, taking a journey on public transport, or eating in a restaurant, the same thing always happens: you feel that everyone is watching you. When you look up, you notice that some strange and unknown people are, indeed, looking at you. This makes you feel uncomfortable and it disturbs you. But, why does it happen, and what can you do?

If the above situations are familiar to you, you’re not alone. We’ve all felt as if we were being watched at some point. Indeed, we’ve all been watched, as humans are naturally curious. However, if the feeling happens too often, it may be a subjective misperception that you need to correct.

Why do you feel like everyone is watching you?

Anxious woman on the street
If we frequently experience the feeling that others are watching us, it’s advisable to ask for help to find out what’s happening.

First of all, it should be noted that it’s natural that, at times, you feel as if you’re being watched. After all, none of us can avoid looking at those around us when we’re bored or have nothing to occupy our minds. Observing others in public spaces not only entertains us but also allows us to learn. Indeed, we’re all social animals.

In addition, as a human being, you tend to easily notice others watching you. Even with your back turned, you can sense if someone is looking at you. This phenomenon is known as scopaesthesia. It has an evolutionary function as it keeps us alert to our surroundings.

For most people, the process occurs as and when it should. However, if you experience these sensations really frequently, it may be due to one of the following reasons:

1. Physical appearance

There can be no doubt that extremely attractive people are looked at more frequently on the street. This isn’t only due to their appearance or body shape but also to their charisma, attitude, and non-verbal language. It’s possible that others look at them because they find them attractive or because they make them feel good.

The same is true of extravagant people who wear flashy clothing or have unusual hairstyles. Anything different tends to attract attention and, at times, we’re not particularly subtle when looking at these kinds of people.

2. Social phobia or extreme shyness

Even if you’re getting the occasional stare, it’s likely that your feeling that everyone is watching you is due to a subjective misperception. Maybe you suffer from social phobia or are extremely shy. If so, you probably have a heightened sense of the ridiculous and a great fear of being judged, evaluated, or rejected by others.

This leads you to be aware of the evaluations that others make about you. You’re constantly on the alert for their reactions. Because of this, you may feel observed to a greater extent than other people.

3. Heightened awareness of yourself

Even if you don’t suffer from social anxiety, you may have high self-awareness. This is something that everyone experiences in certain situations. For example, when you have to speak in front of an audience.

At those moments, you’re really aware of the image you project and what others may think about it. Somehow, you become an external observer of yourself and you pay great attention to your actions and gestures.

For some people, this is almost constant. Their attention is excessively focused on themselves and they permanently monitor everything they say and do, and how they move and gesticulate. This heightened self-awareness can lead them to think that others are as aware of them as they are themselves when this isn’t really the case.

4. Insecurities and low self-esteem

Some people enjoy the feeling of being watched. In fact, most of us have had this feeling. However, the opposite is usually the case, and monopolizing glances have a tendency to cause you discomfort and impair your performance. For instance, if you have a stain on your clothes you might feel embarrassed and disheveled. In effect, you attribute others’ glances to a fault or defect of your own.

Therefore, if you frequently feel like you’re being watched, you may be suffering from low self-esteem. This also makes you feel insecure. By having a negative self-image, you may feel that others share it and that strangers on the street might be criticizing or judging you negatively.

Teenager covering his face because of feelings of shame
People with low self-esteem may think that if others look at them it’s because of some defect of their own.

5. Paranoid traits

Lastly, we can’t rule out the possibility of an underlying psychological disorder. For example, individuals with paranoid personality disorder are extremely suspicious and distrustful of others and claim that they always have malicious intent toward them. This can be reflected in the feeling that they’re constantly being watched.

Something similar can happen with a delusional disorder. In this case, the sufferer may think that others are looking at them because they’re so important or, alternatively, to persecute them. Whatever the case, they’re convinced that they’re being watched and it’s for a clear reason.

What can you do if you feel like everyone is watching you?

If you feel that everyone is watching you and the situation is affecting your daily life, it’s important that you seek professional help. As you’ve seen, the causes can range from low self-esteem to an anxiety problem or even a more serious disorder. In any case, it’s essential to receive support to treat the origin and obtain tools to manage what you’re feeling.

It might be enough to improve your self-esteem and self-confidence. Or, perhaps you need to address your fear of being evaluated or reduce the excessive mental focus you place on yourself. On the other hand, a deeper and more comprehensive intervention may be necessary.

Only a specialist can help you find the origin and reverse this situation that’s bothering you, so don’t hesitate to make an appointment.

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The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.