I can’t lie — I love how good it feels to flake on plans I really didn’t want any part of in the first place. Sweet relief! (But I swear, I really don’t do this often.)
However, I’ll be the first to admit that my plan cancelling is usually the result of something that runs a little deeper than the desire to stay in my PJs and be lazy on the couch. In fact, flakiness — especially sudden-onset flakiness — can sometimes be an indicator of something going on with your mental health.
So, whether you’re a chronic flake or it’s more of a once in a while thing, you might be able to learn a thing or two if you dig a little deeper and analyze the reasons why you flake. Here are 5 explanations for what flaking on plans might say about your mental health.
You’re Experiencing Anxiety
If you’re feeling those dreaded nerves kick in when a plan is approaching, you might be experiencing anxiety, which often manifests physically as well as mentally. For example, you might get a “nervous stomach” and feel some not-so-pleasant butterflies in your belly as a social obligation draws near. Anxiety can make you fear even the littlest things, which may hold you back from living your life to the fullest — including attending potentially fun social events. You may dream up dreadful worst case scenarios that lead you to worry about what bad things could happen. This is common in people with social anxiety who fear judgement and worry extensively about how people in social settings may perceive them.
A common symptom of depression is a lack of interest in things you once enjoyed — including spending time with friends and family. Depression can make finding the motivation to leave your bed difficult — let alone leave your home! Consequently, it’s no surprise that depressed people may avoid social situations and flake on plans. Doing even the simplest things can require a lot of effort, so you can imagine how hard it is to leave the house and socialize while in a depressive episode, especially when you’re expected to put on a happy face in public and always appear strong (thanks, society!)
You Have Low Self Esteem
This one goes hand in hand with flaking on dates or larger social situations. Having low self esteem in regard to your outward appearance or your personality (and how people perceive you) can make it hard to attend social gatherings or date. By putting yourself out there, you may feel extremely vulnerable and subject to judgement. When your insecurities are outsized, this can cause extreme discomfort. When you cancel plans and avoid socializing, you forgo the risk of being judged or belittled. The lower your self esteem, the more likely you are to flake.
You’re Burned Out
Sometimes we cancel plans because we’ve been completely overworked, overbooked socially, or just plain burned out and simply need some time to be alone, recharge, and do nothing! This is especially the case for introverts who really need their alone time. You may find yourself flaking after too many nights out and you’re straight up exhausted, or maybe you’re zonked out from starting a new job.
Alternatively, you may find that you’re spreading yourself too thin, making too many plans with multiple people because you’re trying to please everyone and make time for all the people you care about. The irony is, it can end up backfiring because you end up cancelling those plans you made!
You Have a Personality Disorder
There are a couple personality disorders that can result in frequent flaking. For example, avoidant personality disorder can cause sufferers to believe they are inadequate. Sufferers will tend to avoid any situation, from work to social gatherings, where they could possibly be judged. Because of this they tend to isolate themselves. This disorder goes further than social anxiety, and the avoidant behavior is often long-lived. For people with avoidant personality disorder, it’s very difficult to make and keep friendships.
Next time you find yourself flaking, use that time as an opportunity to be introspective. Take a look at your history of flaking and see if you can find a pattern. If it seems like there’s something more serious going on with your unreliability, consider consulting a mental health professional. Alternatively, if you’re dealing with a flaky friend, be compassionate and understand that you shouldn’t take it personally, and there could be a mental health explanation.
Now, excuse me while I go make a call to cancel tonight’s plans.