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How To Deal With Someone With Social Anxiety

Knowing How Anxiety Works Can Help You To Better Support Loved Ones Without Inadvertently Making Their Anxiety Worse

How To Deal With Social Anxiety | 5 Tips To Overcome Anxiety

When I first moved into my spouses house in 2001, she didnt want to include my name in our answering machine greeting. Because of our big age gap and same-sex relationship, she was justifiably anxious about how her parents would react to my having moved in so she kept it from them for several months. Though I felt a great deal of compassion for her and her situation, I was also frustrated that her anxiety was affecting meand I didnt like acting as though we had something to be ashamed of.

Scenarios like this are common when someone in your life is struggling with anxiety. Your loved one may feel so fearful that they avoid taking action, or act in ways that are inconsiderate or that increase your own anxiety. This might look like a boyfriend constantly putting off important tasks or discussions, a friend complaining about being lonely but refusing to date, or a boss always focusing on what could go wrong, making everyone miserable. Its difficult to witness anxiety in someone you know, and its even harder when their anxiety triggers yours.

But what can you do to help anxious people?

While its upsetting and frustrating to see these folks suffer, there are things you can do to help. Here are some of the strategies I recommend based on my book, The Anxiety Toolkit.

When Should I See My Doctor

If you think you may have social anxiety disorder you should seek help from your general practitioner or a mental health professional. There are psychological treatments and coping strategies that can help, as well as medication.

If you find it difficult to interact with a medical professional, ask a friend or family member to help book an appointment for you. It may help if they go with you to the appointment.

If you cant cope with seeking professional help yet, there are many online resources for coping with anxiety, including those for mindfulness and meditation, and peer support groups and helplines, where you can chat to other people who feel the same way.

Does Social Anxiety Affect Relationships

Social anxiety is associated with difficulties in intimate relationships. Because fear of negative evaluation is a cardinal feature of social anxiety disorder, perceived criticism and upset due to criticism from partners may play a significant role in socially anxious individuals intimate relationships.

Recommended Reading: How To Treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder Naturally

Fearless Jobs For People With Social Anxiety

Jobs for people with social anxiety can be a challenge to find. Fear of interaction with people and anxiety about being in public are symptoms of this disorder.

What will I learn?

Many people with social anxiety find it difficult to work in customer service or with others. This is because they require a lot of contact with the public.

The Best Things To Say When Someone Is Anxious

Life Coach

Have you ever not known how to talk to someone with anxiety? This list of 69 ideas of what to say to someone with social anxiety helps you offer support, be a good listener, acknowledge that mental health is a real issue, and test that waters a bit to explore the negative thoughts that underlie social anxiety in your friend or family member.

Below is a list of 100 ideas of how to talk to someone with anxiety or what to say to someone with social anxiety.

  • This must be hard for you.
  • Its not your fault.
  • I am sorry you are going through this.
  • Tell me more about how you are feeling.
  • Its okay that you have to cancel, we can try to meet up another time.
  • Would you like to make plans just the two of us, instead of as a group?
  • I am here if you need me.
  • How can I help?
  • What are you feeling right now?
  • Would you like to go for a walk?
  • Take your time.
  • Would you like to talk?
  • Lets work through this together.
  • I know it feels bad now, but this feeling will pass.
  • I know you are not making this up.
  • I know that your anxiety is outside your control.
  • I love you no matter what.
  • Is there something we can do together that would be less overwhelming?
  • I want to know how I can best support you.
  • I know you have a real illness.
  • I know you cant control how you feel.
  • I care about you and want to help.
  • You are important to me.
  • It might not seem like it now, but how you feel is going to change.
  • You are not alone, I am here for you.
  • Talk to me, I will listen.
  • I am not going to abandon you.
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    Encourage And Join In On A Healthy Anti

    Healthy lifestyle choices are anti-anxiety because they promote good physical and mental health. Help your spouse adopt healthier day-to-day practices and encourage them by leading with your own example. Some ways to be healthier and better able to tackle and conquer anxiety include:

    • Getting enough quality sleep every night
    • Eating a healthy, nutritious diet and limiting junk foods
    • Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight
    • Avoiding alcohol and drugs

    Learning To Forget What You Think About Anxiety

    As someone with family members or friends who have anxiety or a panic disorder, it’s important to understand what anxiety really is. For example, did you know that someone with anxiety can experience physical symptoms even when they’re not mentally anxious? Did you know that one of the symptoms of a panic attack is a feeling of imminent death or doom, combined with intense physical symptoms that are nearly identical to heart attacks?

    If you’ve never had anxiety, it’s extremely difficult to empathize and understand, because it is so much different than the normal anxieties people experience in their everyday life. If you start trying to “cure” your friend’s anxiety by assuming you understand what they’re dealing with, you’re going to struggle, and you may actually upset your friend or family member more.

    Read Also: What Happens When You Have An Anxiety Attack

    Check Out This Blog On 3 Tips For Finding A Therapist

    In the end, its a great idea to encourage them to seek out professional help. As a friend, you have the ability to listen to them and make them feel heard and validated. However, you dont want to be the only source for receiving support during this time.

    Seeking out an anxiety therapist and anxiety treatment is a great idea for anyone struggling with social anxiety. It will help them provide an appropriate place to focus on exploring thoughts, feelings, and ideas for treatment. Although you are there for them, it can be a lot to be the only person they can speak to.

    Anxiety therapists oftentimes may assign clients homework assignments and curate treatment plans based on collaboration with their client. Together, the therapist and client can come up with a treatment plan that feels safe. Working with a professional will help your friend see real results in regards to their social anxiety.

    Choose A Job That Suits Your Personality

    How to cope with anxiety | Olivia Remes | TEDxUHasselt

    People with social anxiety may feel comfortable in jobs that require little human interaction. Possible options include freelance creative professions, such as graphic design or writing, truck driving, dog training, data entry clerk, accountancy, and landscaping. We have a list of the best jobs for people with social anxiety that might give you some ideas if you think its time to find a new job.

    However, changing your job just so you can avoid social interaction is a form of avoidance. There is a difference between choosing a career that is a good fit for your personality and settling for a job you dont really like because human contact gives you crippling anxiety. If there is a particular job that youd love to do, try to tackle your social anxiety and make it possible.

    Also Check: Can Anxiety Attacks Cause Chest Pain

    How To Reduce Negative Thoughts

  • Think back to a recent social situation in which you felt anxious. Write down what your negative thoughts were before, during, and after the situation.
  • Ask yourself questions to challenge your negative thoughts. For example, if your negative automatic thought was “People are yawning, they must think that I am boring,” ask yourself “Could there be a different explanation?” In this case, your alternative thought could be “It probably had nothing to do with me, they were just tired.”
  • Try to notice the automatic negative thoughts that you have before, during, and after feared social situations, and challenge them with alternatives.
  • How To Get Over Social Anxiety

    Dr. Potter stresses that its important to address your social anxiety, even if this feels difficult since it can have a major impact on your life. It can have subtle negative effects on your career, friendships, dating life, or even family relationships, she says. It can affect you so broadly when you miss opportunities. When a persons isolated, it can lead to depression because you miss opportunities to have a good time or enjoy yourself, and feel connected to other people.

    Luckily, Dr. Potter notes that social anxiety is very treatable, although strategies for overcoming social anxiety depend both on your individual personality and how much the disorder is affecting your life. For example, if you have panic attacks when going out in public because you are so overwhelmed, you might opt for medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Less severe anxiety might be better served by a different treatment option.

    Here are a few other ways to approach getting over social anxiety.

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    How To Work On Social Anxiety And Meet New People

    Over 40 percent of the population struggles with social anxiety. Being mindful and kind to yourself are two of many ways to work on social anxiety.

    The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 15 million adults in the U.S. suffer from social anxiety. Young people are especially vulnerable during their many life transitions.

    Despite the level of severity that someone may be experiencing social anxiety, it is a common form of anxiety that prevents folks from getting out there and living their life. It is not the same as being shy or introverted, it is a fear of speaking with others, feeling judged and unlike, and it creates barriers for a person to enter the world freely.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing social anxiety, and it is affecting their ability to engage here are 10 ways to battle social anxiety and meet new people. While forming new relationships may be scary at first, it will be therapeutic and positive for overcoming social anxiety.

    Recommended Reading: Do I Have Anxiety And Depression

    Work With Their Emotions

    Dealing with Social Awkwardness and Social Anxiety

    The key thing to remember is that anxiety is not a rational disorder. Therefore, a rational response will most likely not help, especially during a moment of distress. Instead, try to work with the emotions. Accept that they feel anxious and, rather than being direct, be patient and kind. Remind them that while they may feel distressed, the feeling will pass.

    Work with the irrational thoughts and acknowledge that the person is worried. For example, try something like: I can understand why you feel that way, but I can assure you that its just your anxiety. It isnt real.

    Read Also: What Types Of Anxiety Are There

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

    It is a technique that involves tightening and loosening muscles but one part of body muscle at a time. For example tightening right arms muscles while keeping other body parts at ease. This involves a procedure in which you have to tighten each part of body muscle one by one for 10 seconds and then release the muscle. While doing this you have to focus on the muscle tension in that part of the body. This is known as progressive muscle relaxation because you can do the procedure from either head to toe or toe to head. This relaxation technique not only helps in reducing anxiety but will also help you to sleep better. You can also listen to soothing music in the background while doing this relaxation technique.

    Simple Steps To Feeling More Socially Confident

    Social anxiety disorder is often misunderstood, and many people could be suffering in silence. Its much more than feeling shy and not wanting to speak up in big groups. It can really take control and impede your everyday life. Anxiety Care UK states that social anxiety is a common and distressing condition, with as many as 40 percent of the population suffering from it.

    Young People With Social Anxiety

    Experiencing social anxiety and fear of social interactions can make simple responsibilities almost impossible to overcome. An estimated 15 million American adults have social anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, with young adolescents who are transitioning to secondary school or college being particularly vulnerable. Its suggested that social anxiety disorder symptoms usually begin around the age of 13.

    The good news is that there are ways to develop new habits to help ease and overcome your social anxiety.

    1. Challenge your negative and anxious thoughts. At times it may feel like theres nothing you can do about the way you feel and how you think. In reality, though, there are a number of things that can help.

    4. Create an exposure hierarchy. Identify and rate how each social situation makes you feel in terms of anxiousness. For example, 0 would mean no anxiety, and 10 would be a full-blown panic attack.

    Read Also: Can Cats Have Separation Anxiety

    Identify Your Anxiety Triggers

    You might find some work situations much harder than others. For example, you might feel OK about talking on the phone but be terrified by the thought of making small talk with people you dont know well.

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    Try to pinpoint precisely what makes you anxious at work, and make a list of your triggers. You might find it helpful to read this article on improving your interpersonal skills at work to create your list of triggers.

    Next, create a fear ladder by ranking your fears from least to most threatening.

    For example, saying Hi to a coworker when you get into work might cause you only a small amount of anxiety, but giving a presentation, making small talk in the canteen, or going to an after-work happy hour may make you feel very anxious.

    Start by ranking 5-10 of your fears. If you can identify more than 10 triggers, pick the 10 that cause you the most anxiety.

    Consider Challenging Negative Self

    How Do You Deal with Social Anxiety?

    Have you noticed how you talk to yourself? Are you perhaps in the habit of putting yourself down? Identifying these thoughts can help you change them. Changing the way you think has a direct effect on how you feel and how you behave.

    The first step is to examine your thoughts and identify when you say negative things to yourself. For example, Im so awkward, or, Everyone hates me.

    Once you do, try to replace the thoughts with more balanced thoughts that are grounded in reality.

    For example:

    • I am wanted here, I have people who love and care about me.
    • I am capable of enduring this stress.
    • I have the power to leave anytime I choose to.
    • I am choosing to spend time with safe, trustworthy people.
    • Even if others are looking my way, I am perfectly fine.
    • Others are most likely not paying attention to what I do. I am OK.

    Eventually, the negative thoughts will not speak as loudly, says Donna T. Novak, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Simi Valley, California.

    Read Also: Can Anxiety Cause Dizzy Spells

    Give Yourself A Pep Talk

    Another way to use evidence is to use it during a personal pep talk! The mind is such a complex thing, and our thoughts have a lot of control over how we feel. Social anxiety can tell you that everything will go wrong no matter how many times youve done something before. Use the facts and think about all the times you were worried but it didnt go as you expected because it went RIGHT! All the evidence you have shows that your assumptions of what will go wrong are just that, assumptions.

    Help Them Find Ways To Engage

    “If your friend is at all open to this idea, help them find ways to engage in the social occasion,” Carbonell says. Again, don’t put the emphasis on comfort, but on active engagement.

    For example, if making chitchat with someone at a party elevates your loved one’s anxiety, help support them in this action. “That will be more productive than helping them avoid contact with others,” Carbonell says.

    And while you should always encourage and praise whatever active engagement your friend or family member is willing to do, remember to leave the choices up to them , he adds.

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    Social Anxiety Disorder Symptoms And Signs

    A diagnosis is based on having typical signs of anxiety, which cause significant distress or impairment of day-to-day functioning, and the symptoms are persistent for at least six months.

    Constant, intense anxiety in social situations is the most common symptom of a social anxiety disorder, but this may present or be noticeable as:

    • Excessive perspiration, trembling or increased heart rate
    • Shallow breathing
    • Upset stomach, nausea or diarrhoea.
    • Difficulty speaking stammering, trouble concentrating, speaking too softly
    • An urge to run away from the situation
    • Alcohol Problems and / or drug dependence
    • Problems concentrating

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