How To Help A Friend With Social Anxiety
Sometimes people with social anxiety disorder avoid speaking in groups, meeting new people, or going to events even when they wish they could. If you notice that a friend is struggling in social situations, you can support them by suggesting that they try the tips above. You can also check in with them before, during, or after a stressful event.
- Before: We have a big event coming up soon. I know Im a bit nervous about it, so I just wanted to check in with you. Is there anything I can do to support you?
- After: That was a stressful situation. I noticed you were kind of nervous earlier. How do you feel now?
- Before, During, and After: Give your friend words of affirmation and encouragement. People with social anxiety tend to be overly critical of themselves in social situations, so you can help counteract their inner critic by being friendly.
- Avoid: Language like Just loosen up! or Youre being too quiet. To a person with social anxiety, this can seem dismissive or critical.
Sometimes, a friends social anxiety can affect your relationship with them. Its not always easy to know how to help. Check out our article about how to help a friend or loved one with anxiety for more ways to be a supportive friend to someone who is struggling.
How To Treat Social Anxiety: 5 Ways To Manage Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder can be a particularly frustrating mental health condition to have. Since social situations trigger social anxiety, this condition makes it difficult for the people who deal with it to cope in society. As a result, they will avoid any social situations that could trigger their anxiety.
Social anxiety involves fear of the prospect of having to relate with other people or being put in social situations where they are the center of attention. Most people who experience social anxiety are in a state of constant worry about being observed and judged negatively by people around them. This can cause them to develop a fear of social situations and experience negative physical symptoms when placed on them.
In many cases, a social anxiety disorder or social phobia can significantly limit ones life and cause a decline in their mental health. Everyone deserves the best quality of life possible, and learning how to manage your social anxiety disorder will enable you to do just that. We have identified some of the best ways to manage your social anxiety disorder and improve your mental health. The frequency and intensity of the anxiety are most often used to determine the treatment of the disorder.
How Can You Support Someone Else With Social Anxiety
Even if you may not be experiencing social anxiety yourself, you may know someone who is. While sometimes well-intentioned, saying things like its not a big deal, dont worry! can come across as dismissive or alienating to someone experiencing any kind of anxiety.
Instead, acknowledge how they are feeling. Say something like I noticed youre stressed. How can I help? If you can go to the event with them, even better.
Being with trusted people helps regulate our physiology, Franz says. Research1 shows this. We feel braver with trusted others than we do on our own.
You may also be able to help someone by being a reality check for them if they are ruminating after a social event, and reassuring them that no one noticed something they may be worrying about. If youve had an open dialogue about anxiety, and the person you are supporting has agreed to discuss it with you, you may ask them Is it possible that anxiety is what is making you think that about the party?
Its important to separate social anxiety from the individual experiencing it. Make anxiety the problem, not the person, Franz says. And dont forget to celebrate the persons efforts when they do something outside of their comfort zone.
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Learn To Silence The Inner Voices
Social anxiety thrives on negative interior dialogue. The more you think about your anxiety, the stronger and more in control it will become. Your internal dialogue is likely filled with worry, doubt, and a lack of self-confidence. If youre like most people with social anxiety issues, you probably spend quite a bit of time reflecting on your past performances and scolding yourself for not handling them differently.
You need to stop doing this. It may take months of practice to conquer this self-sabotaging tendency. But if you make it a point to cut these negative and self-judging thoughts off as soon as you notice them, eventually youll learn to notice them more quickly and terminate them more effectively.
You should strive to replace harsh self-assessments with positive thoughts or inner silence. You can boost your efforts to do this by focusing on whats going on around you, taking your attention off yourself. Over time, your mental detachment from your anxiety will become more natural, even when youre in potentially stressful social situations.
How The Pandemic Changed Social Anxiety
Many people who didnt experience social anxiety before may be experiencing it now. If you would have once described yourself as an extrovert, but now are less inclined to host or attend social events, you arent alone. It is, in part, a matter of falling out of the routine of being social.
Lockdowns and online working have led to people becoming less habituated with being around others, Franz says. Weve fallen out of the habit of hosting get-togethers, and as a result may find them more stressful than they were before. Theres more lethargy, more inertia when it comes to making these plans.
Self-described extroverts that are now experiencing social anxiety may in fact have had underlying anxiety before. But because in the past, social events were a bigger part of their routine, they may not have linked this anxiety specifically to socializing.
Some people are finding it easier to connect in person, Franz says. But others are finding it more awkward and disconcerting. Often, they may have been a little more at risk of having anxiety before.
Franz also notes that some anxiety associated with going to a social event or back to the office may in fact be COVID related. We became so accustomed to standing apart, not hugging, and avoiding big groups, Franz reflects. Sometimes what may come across as social anxiety may actually be a fear of getting or transmitting COVID.
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Has Social Anxiety Got You Feeling Unsure About Re
If the answer is yes then you are not alone!! Social anxiety is nothing new for a number of people. However, after 18 months of yo-yo-ing in and out of lockdowns, restrictions, guidelines the number of us struggling to go back to normal has increased. And, understandably so! After all, we have essentially been told to fear each other for over a year.
During our retreats through late 2020 and early 2021, we have had some truly open and insightful conversations with our guests. The topic of fluttering between that excitement to socialise and the lingering feeling of being hesitant was common for many of us. Furthermore, many of us had different tricks and techniques that helped along the way and we were able to pick up some great tips!! In fact, as you read through you will find quotes from our wonderful guests!
Social Anxiety Disorder In Children
Theres nothing abnormal about a child being shy, but children with social anxiety disorder experience extreme distress over everyday situations such as playing with other kids, reading in class, speaking to adults, or taking tests. Often, children with social phobia dont even want to go to school.
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Pushing Social Anxiety Comfort Zones
The unfortunate thing about social anxiety is that the more isolated you make yourself and the more situations you avoid, the harder it becomes to socialise again. Sadly, those of us that had social anxiety BEFORE lockdown have become very accustomed to not having this fear challenged! However, there are a few ways you can gently break the cycle.
- Increase your communication in other ways such as talking on the phone or on Zoom so you can become comfortable with speaking and having conversations.
- Make a point of leaving the house every day. It doesnt matter if it is to go to the shop, go to the post box or just walk around the block. Leave the safety bubble of your four walls.
- Scope it out. If you have something planned, a great thing to do is go and scope it out first! Walk to where you will be meeting and get a feel for it so that it doesnt feel brand new to you when you arrive. This is especially effective if you will be meeting people there in the evening when its dark.
- Talk it through. Start a conversation with someone you trust about how you feel so you have them to support you.
- Be clear with yourself as to what is too far out of your comfort zone and experiment with everything within it in a more manageable way.
- Remember, you are always far more capable than you think you are!
Educate Yourself About The Condition
Social anxiety has had such a disruptive effect on your life. This means you need to learn as much about it as you can. That way, youll know exactly what youre fighting against. Youll also find out more about the coping strategies other people have used to tame their social phobias.
You can discover the truth about social anxiety disorder by reading books and articles and visiting websites or discussion forums devoted to this topic. Mental health therapists and your fellow social anxiety sufferers form a diverse and well-informed expert community. Their research in one instance and first-hand experiences in the other can shine a light on the mysterious feelings that have prevented you from blossoming personally, socially, academically, and occupationally.
While just knowing the facts wont make your social anxiety disappear, it can give you the self-comprehension you need to attack the problem intelligently.
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How Social Anxiety Can Impact On Your Life
Social anxiety can impact on people in different ways. Some people will find all social situations stressful while for others the fear only kicks in when they have to do something in public. This leads them to avoid situations such as public speaking, or going on nights out where they may be in social situations.
Social anxiety can have a big impact on sufferers lives as they spend their life worrying about events coming up and how they can avoid them.
When in social situations the person can experience many uncomfortable physical symptoms of anxiety. These include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- A sense of feeling constantly on edge
- Physical symptoms like headaches, butterflies in your stomach, blushing, sweaty hands, high blood pressure, dizziness, breathing heavily, feeling faint, sweating
If youre struggling with social anxiety youre not alone. It is an extremely common problem.
Initial Vs Maintaining Causes Of Social Anxiety
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make as they try to overcome social anxiety is getting fixated on the initial causes of their anxiety, and as a result, ignoring the maintaining causes.
But before we go on, let me clarify what I mean by initial vs maintaining causes
- Initial cause. The initial cause of social anxiety is one or more events in the past that initially set you on the path toward social anxiety. Its your social anxietys origin story. For example: some kind of childhood trauma or bullying as a kid may have been the thing that initially set your social anxiety in motion.
- Maintaining cause. The maintaining cause of social anxiety are your habits in the present that are feeding your social anxiety and causing it to stick around or even grow. Avoiding social situations with new people gives you temporary relief from your anxiety, but ultimately makes the social anxiety worse because it reinforces your brains mistaken belief that being judged by new people is dangerous.
I bring this distinction up because while it can be interesting and validating to understand the initial cause or origin of your social anxiety, it typically has relatively little value when it comes to overcoming your anxiety now.
In other words
Whatever caused your social anxiety in the past, its your habits and behaviors in the present that are keeping it alive.
Here are some of the most common maintaining causes of social anxiety:
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When To Seek Support
Avoiding certain social interactions can be a self-protective reflex. But our efforts to defend ourselves against anxiety can interfere with being able to live a full life.
If you feel scared to go to work or school, if youre actively avoiding social situations – it may be worthwhile to seek support, Franz says.
In her clinical experience, shes encountered individuals who feel guilty about their social anxiety. She emphasizes that more often than not, these people are in fact highly sensitive, creative and thoughtful.
Often the people who are the most socially anxious are sensitive individuals who are really dialed in to how others may be thinking and feeling, she says. Those qualities are something to celebrate too. Its just a matter of finding some skills to cope, and training an imaginative mind to not jump to a negative conclusion.
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.
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What Do We Know About The Causes Of Social Anxiety Disorder
As with many disorders of mental health, the development of social anxiety disorder is probably best understood as an interaction between several different biopsychosocial factors .
Genetic factors seem to play a part, but genes may influence the probability of developing any anxiety or depressive disorder rather than developing social anxiety in particular. Higher rates of social anxiety disorder are reported in relatives of people with the condition than in relatives of people without the condition, and this effect is stronger for the generalised subtype . Further evidence for a genetic component comes from twin studies. found that if one twin is affected, the chance of the other twin being affected is higher if the twins are genetically identical than if they only share 50% of their genes . However, heritability estimates are only 25 to 50%, indicating that environmental factors also have an important role in the development of the condition for many people.
Stressful social events in early life are commonly reported by people with social anxiety disorder . Parental modelling of fear and avoidance in social situations plus an overprotective parenting style have both been linked to the development of the condition in some studies .
Neuroimaging studies so far suggest different activation of specific parts of the brain when threatening stimuli are presented compared with healthy volunteers.
Challenge Negative Thought Patterns
People with social anxiety often spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying about what could happen. Often, these worries are over every little thing that might go wrong in a social setting.
Maybe you worry about:
- Laughing at the wrong time or inappropriately
- Sneezing or coughing
- Falling ill in front of others
While, yes, there is always the potential for these things to happen, and its true they might be a little bit embarrassing, try to keep things in perspective. We all make mistakes, and everybody understands this. Most times, any mistake you could make in a social setting or at a social event would be in front of people who wouldnt judge you. Just because you make a mistake doesnt mean someone is going to think differently about you or look down on you.
If you find that you have negative thoughts about an upcoming event, challenge yourself by trying to replace them with more helpful, positive ones. Try using a technique known as realistic thinking ask yourself questions about the scenarios youre worried about, and then answer in an honest and fair way. When you catch yourself imagining the social situation ending in disaster, you can ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? The best? And whats the most likely? Running through these kinds of scenarios with the help of your therapist can help you refocus your mind away from disaster scenarios.
Some questions you could ask yourself might include:
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