How to support someone with social anxiety: Expert offers tips
If you or someone you love has social anxiety that feels debilitating, then here are some helpful ways by which you can support them.
Social anxiety is the persistent fear of being judged or embarrassed in social situations that involve interaction, observation and performance, including, making phone calls, returning emails, posting on social media, starting conversations, eating/ drinking while being observed, or being seen in public, to name a few. Although this is normal to a certain extent, people with social anxiety experience excessive worrying about these situations - sometimes days or weeks in advance of a social situation. The fear is often about saying or doing something they think will be humiliating or embarrassing. (Also read: 5 tips to manage social anxiety at a party )
Social anxiety, in severe cases, can lead to poor quality of life and an inability to make deep connections with others which is a key factor in maintaining good mental health. If you or someone you love has social anxiety that feels debilitating, please reach out for help from a licensed mental health professional in your area.
Latiesha Wiggins, Mental Health Counselor & Consultant, shared some helpful tips to support someone with social anxiety in her recent Instagram post.
Look out for symptoms
Someone struggling with social anxiety may show the following symptoms:
• Cancel plans last minute
• Downplay their talents
• Think everyone is judging them
• Take a long time to call/text back
• Believe everyone else is really confident
• Replay conversations in their head
• Judge their interactions harshly
• Not speak up when it matters
• Think they are boring or not wanted
• Rehearse their responses before meeting others
• Hide their true self in social settings
What not to say to someone with social anxiety:
• "You're overthinking."
• "There is nothing to be nervous about."
• "You're being dramatic."
• "Just get out of the house more."
• "I don't get it, it's just us here."
• "You look okay to me."
• "Relax. Just calm down."
• "You don't act shy though."
• "It's all in your head."
• "Be more confident."
• "You're fine."
Tips to support someone with social anxiety:
• The importance of empathy. Knowing how to be empathetic helps us respond appropriately to situations.
• Listen: Listening is one of the best ways to show empathy. Sometimes having a safe space talk is most effective for a person.
• Learn with curiosity. Make an effort to learn how they experience social anxiety. Everyone is not the same. How you might perceive or feel in a situation is now how someone else might process that situation.