Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders, affecting an estimated 15 million American adults every year, according to the ADAA. Social anxiety can make it hard for people to interact with others and often causes them to feel embarrassed or ashamed.
If a family member or close friend has been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, they need all the help and support they can get as they work to overcome this condition.
Tips on How to Help Someone with Social Anxiety
Educate Yourself About The Disorder
Most people assume that social anxiety disorder is simply shyness on steroids, but it is much more complex than that. It’s essential to educate yourself about the disorder to better understand what your friend or loved one is going through and how you can be a more effective support system.
Listen Without Judgment
A person with social anxiety is already self-critical, and the last thing they need is to feel like they are being judged. You need to provide a safe and non-judgmental space for them to open up to you. Remember, it takes a lot of courage for someone with social anxiety to confide in you, so try to be as understanding and supportive as possible.
Help Them Face Their Fears
One common mistake people make when dealing with someone with social anxiety is trying to avoid any situations that make them anxious. While it’s understandable to want to protect a friend or loved one from feeling uncomfortable, this can reinforce their fears and make it harder to overcome them.
Instead, help them develop a plan to slowly and systematically face the things that make them anxious. You can start with something as simple as encouraging them to stay a little longer in a social situation where they feel uncomfortable and want to leave. Start slow and work up to more challenging situations.
Don’t Push Them Too Hard
While it’s important to encourage your loved one to face their fears, you also don’t want to push them too hard. Doing too much too fast can lead to setbacks and frustrations. If they feel overwhelmed or are not ready to take on a challenge, respect their wishes and let them take things at their own pace.
Praise Progress, No Matter How Small
It’s important to celebrate even the smallest of victories when helping someone with social anxiety. When they manage to do something that makes them anxious, praise their progress and tell them you are proud of them. This will help encourage them to keep pushing themselves outside their comfort zone.
Recovery from social anxiety disorder is a long and gradual process, so you need to be patient with your loved one. They may have setbacks and bad days, but as long as they are actively working on overcoming their anxiety, they will get there eventually.
Ask Them How You Can Help
Everyone has a way of working through their fears, and what works for one person will most probably not work for the next person. The best way to figure out how you can help your loved one is to simply ask them. They will be the best judge of what they need from you, so trust their instincts and follow their lead.
Encourage Them To Seek Treatment
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for social anxiety disorder, but there are many effective treatment options that can help your loved one manage their symptoms. Gently encourage them to explore their treatment options. Ultimately, the decision to seek treatment is up to them, but let them know that you are there to support them no matter what they decide.
Take Care of Your Emotional Health
While your focus may be to help your loved one overcome social anxiety, the process can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. Remember to take care of yourself and make time for your hobbies and interests. Only then can you provide sound support for your friend or loved one.
The Bottom Line
Helping someone with social anxiety can be a challenging process, but it’s also an incredibly rewarding one. Seeing your loved one overcome their fears and start to live a fuller life is an incredible feeling. Just remember to go at the pace they are comfortable with, be patient, and offer support and encouragement every step of the way.