According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “social anxiety disorder affects approximately 15 million American adults and is the second most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder following specific phobia.”
Chances are you have a friend or family member who suffers from social anxiety, which is the anxiety of being judged or rejected in social situations. Social anxiety can often be debilitating to the sufferer, bringing obstacles into their relationships with friends and family.
Channing Marinari, licensed mental health counselor at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, lists six ways you can help a friend who is struggling with social anxiety:
Acknowledge their anxiety
Recognize that their anxiety is real, even if it may seem minor to you. “Social anxiety is a common condition many people face and can be triggered by anything that creates feelings of fear, anxiety, and inadequacy,” explains Marinari.
Talk to them about it
Marinari suggests giving your friend some time to talk to you about their anxiety. “This will help them open up about what it’s like to have social anxiety and any fears they may be struggling with,” she says.
Offer to go to social events with your friend. “This can help them feel more comfortable in social situations, and it’s also a good way to demonstrate different methods of socializing,” recommends Marinari.
Break the ice
Marinari suggests initiating conversations between your friend and other people at social gatherings. “this can help take the pressure off of someone who struggles with social anxiety,” she says.
Marinari encourages friends of those with social anxiety to educate themselves on the topic to gain a better understanding of it. Read books or search the internet for information.
Social anxiety will not disappear overnight. “It’s important to stay encouraging to a friend and avoid any shame, negativity, or discouragement,” Marinari says.