This is a question about how to deal with distraction.

(edit: Saying "You're not normal, seek a mental health pro" won't be considered a high-quality answer. You are not qualified to make a conclusion about what's "normal." I have discussed my problem with real mental health pros and they have agreed that there's no such thing as normal. I'm seeking advice.)

I'm asking anonymously for obvious reasons. I'm not a teenager, I'm in my mid-30s. This problem started around 16 or 17 and I always thought it would go away, but instead it seems to be stronger than ever.

I know that men are not supposed to let themselves be distracted by random women, but I am constantly, secretly, distracted by women, and I have never spoken of this to anyone about how strong it is.

When I was a kid and teenager, I felt compelled to stare at women sometimes to the point where it made me uncomfortable. When I was a younger teenager I had urges to basically follow girls who I liked. NOT in a frightening way. In an "obsessed" way.

This has basically made me feel like, there's something wrong with me. I have some sort of obsessive, antisocial, extreme response to women.

I can't stop thinking about women when I'm near them. Mostly what I'm thinking is, how much I wish to talk to them or meet them. Obviously, in many situations, its improper, and I restrain myself.

For this reason I don't tend to go to malls or places where random women are dressed nicely. It just makes me feel bad because I can't meet them, so I try to take myself away from the situation.

I am more comfortable at a place where I'm allowed to approach random women, like a party or a bar.

However I can't escape it at work. Unfortunately, I am very attracted to women in my career field, and so the workplace is one of the most problematic places for me. The distraction, and the knowledge that I can't and shouldn't go talk to them, negatively affects my emotional state.

I am very distracted by things like, the sound of high heels, or women's voices.

I'm mostly looking for support or acknowledgement. There are some other men who suffer from this, right? I'm normal right? Sigh.

Advice would be good, but I don't know if there is any good advice for this.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user44108 Jul 18 '19 at 7:35
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    In all honesty, I don't think this is really on-topic. In the workplace we tell you how to behave professionnally. And since you already went to check for professional healthcare and remain calm as much as you can in the workplace I don't think we can tell or teach you anything more here. Dealing with how you feel inside is not something on-topic here. And I would advise to be very carefull if someone want to answer to that here. You may have more chance to find a forum where there are similar peoples like you and ask them how they deal with it. – Walfrat Jul 18 '19 at 9:45

When I was a younger teenager I had urges to basically follow girls who I liked. (...) I can't stop thinking about women when I'm near them (...) I am very distracted by things like, the sound of high heels, or women's voices.

Sorry for the blunt response, but that is in no way normal IMHO (especially urges to follow random girls), and the best advice anyone on here can give you is to get professional mental health advice from a specialist. I totally understand that these feelings aren't something you want, or something you can necessarily control, but the responsible thing to do is to learn how you can deal with them, keep them in check, and repress them if necessary.

I'm mostly looking for support or acknowledgement

If you're looking for a bunch of men to all say "Ah yeah, completely normal, we all do that", then that's just not going to happen. People find each other attractive at work all the time, sure. That's perfectly normal. But if it's distracting you to the point that you can't concentrate on your work or behave professionally, and you need to write a lengthy question about it on here, then it's a problem that needs to be sorted.

As for the addendum:

Saying "You're not normal, seek a mental health pro" won't be considered a high-quality answer. (...) I have discussed my problem with real mental health pros and they have agreed that there's no such thing as normal.

...yet your original post said:

I'm normal right?

You can't have it both ways. You specifically asked whether your behaviour was normal, and now you've been told it's definitely not, you're pulling out the "don't tell me I'm not normal, normal doesn't exist!" card. This strongly makes it sound like you're in denial about the whole thing, and only makes my recommendation to see a mental health professional all the stronger.

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  • I'm nervous about your definition of normal, because, if other people have this problem, I'm sure they don't tell you. – user107000 Jul 17 '19 at 23:25
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    @user107000 I have close friends who have shared worse secrets than this, and I'd bet others have similar friends too. That just makes it anecdotal of course, but I'd be incredibly surprised if this was a problem one could class as "normal". If you're saying that you're "very distracted" by something as simple as a woman's voice, then it's almost certainly affecting your work, whether you realise or not. I certainly don't wish to sound patronizing, but I make no apology for stating this is not a normal issue and you do need to get professional advice. – berry120 Jul 17 '19 at 23:43
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    @user107000 you need to re-write you question as the word you use most is “distracted” (6 times), to then say that’s not what you meant... – Solar Mike Jul 18 '19 at 3:26
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    High blood pressure is, in a sense, normal. Lots of people have it. There's nothing bizarre or extraordinary or shocking about it. But if it's causing someone a problem, they should see a professional to see what treatments are available that might help them. Whether or not this is "normal" is not the issue. It's causing a problem and there are professionals who specialize in dealing with problems of this sort, seek them out. – David Schwartz Jul 18 '19 at 3:36
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    @berry120 Instead of framing in terms of normalcy, this answer would be improved by framing the problem in terms of the asker's observations - unhealthy, maladaptive, unprofessional, etc, and otherwise causing them distress. – MikeQ Jul 18 '19 at 4:19

Good on you for figuring out there is something wrong with you. Good on you for not acting on your impulses. But if you are concerned you should really find a professional to help you address it. It doesn't matter if its normal or if other people get it. You know its an issue you have. Step up and seek help on fixing it.

So while you are in the process of getting help and addressing this issue, you might want to take a few steps to help reduce any distractions you are having.

  • Making sure you are facing away from main walkways or areas where people congregate can be a good step in the right direction.
  • Work in a less populated part of the office or book a room if you need to be distraction free
  • Wearing earphones or headphones and playing music or brown noise can also help. However you should double check with your manager or supervisor to see if this is appropriate for where you work
  • A physical distraction like a fidget spinner or fidget cube or learning pen tricks can help. It can keep your mind a tiny bit pre-occupied during lulls in work.
  • Get larger monitors if you have a desk job. This should help block your field of view.
  • Try a standing desk. Having the freedom of standing and being able to move a little can help
  • Have a close friend at work help you. You don't need to tell them the issue, just have them assist you if you get distracted.
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As Joe says in the comments, are you working with a mental health professional? If not, you need to so you learn some coping strategies, so that you can focus on work, not on the people at work.

Women at work expect their male co-workers to consider them peers, not women. It's very important that you find ways to get to that mind-set, because without it, it will adversely affect your working relationships. Women will not feel comfortable working with you, may object to work with you, and that can affect how you grow professionally.

If you are able to keep it completely to yourself, recognizing that it is your problem only, then coping strategies to deal with that stress could still be useful. Because that is still distracting you from your work.

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  • Yeah, I agree, but that's just repeating the problem. Do you have anything more specific? What sort of coping mechanisms? – user107000 Jul 17 '19 at 23:24
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    @user107000 - I'm not a mental healthcare professional, and that's one of the things they do - help you figure out coping mechanisms that will work for you. Maybe it will be some sort of positive or negative reinforcement, a way to distract your mind, a way to refocus - people are different so what works for one may not work for another. It will take time - I'm sure it won't be quick or easy. And it will only work if you really want it (and might not work even then). – thursdaysgeek Jul 17 '19 at 23:36
  • From mental health pros, I have tried two coping mechanisms, "Hikomi" and CBT, and they just don't seem to affect the problem. The best things the mental health pros did, was just to share stories of other people, because it helped me realize that everyone has things that bother them. – user107000 Jul 17 '19 at 23:50
  • @user107000 - are those to help cope with the distraction itself, or cope with the stress of concealing your distraction? – thursdaysgeek Jul 18 '19 at 0:09
  • There's no "coping" mechanisms for this, you have a problem that is beyond your control and I'm not telling you that this is wrong I am only telling you that if you want to stop being distracted you won't do it by pure will – user86742 Jul 18 '19 at 0:09

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