Dealing with Social Anxiety: You Are Not Alone

By Amanda Cohen on May 9, 2018

Social anxiety is an extremely hard thing to deal with. Whether your anxiety is not as prominent or extremely prominent, we can all agree that no one deserves to have to deal with the crippling pain that is social anxiety. Even though social anxiety is something that can be treated, it isn’t something that ever completely goes away.

I know this is a sad truth, but I promise you that, like every cloud, there is a silver lining to coping with social anxiety. Because of this hardship, you’ve had to become stronger and resilient and I have no doubt that you will find a way to deal with your social anxiety issues. However, everyone needs help and everyone needs advice.

I’m here to help you and give you suggestions on how to deal with your social anxiety. I’ve been there and I want to pay it forward.

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First and foremost, there is no shame in asking for help. If anything, it is admirable and it is necessary. Asking for help looks different for different individuals. Let’s talk about your friends first. Whether you are in college, post-graduate life, high school, etc., you need to have your friends by your side and you need to be honest with them about what you’re going through. I’m not saying that you need to befriend your entire dorm room building; I’m saying that you need at least a few best friends who can hold your hand when you’re out in a social situation that gives you heart palpitations.

You want to find your person (or people) who will hug you and hold you if the social anxiety becomes too much and who will stay with you regardless if you are at a fun party or class or anything else. You need your people who you can wake up at 6:00 am telling them you are having a panic attack and they will run to your aid without asking any questions.

Another way of asking for help and dealing with social anxiety is through therapy, counseling, support groups, etc. I am a firm believer that if every single person in the world were in therapy that the world would be a much better place. Therapy and counseling can help you in so many ways. Not only do you have a space where you can say anything without fear of judgment and without fear of other people finding out, but your therapist/counselor can give you tools that can help you in certain social situations. Professional help really does wonders and, if you get the tools from a therapist, you will be able to not just survive social situations, but rather thrive in social situations.

Most universities offer services for students in this department, but there is also a lot to be said about finding someone off campus to talk to (it helps you steer away from campus politics and gives you a fresh and new place and person to talk to). Just remember, if you choose to take this route, honesty is the only option and you must be honest about your social anxiety when talking to your therapist/counselor.

Family is forever and, because of this, it can be the most difficult thing in the world to be honest with them about what’s going on with you. Your family will want to help and they only become another network in your support group of coping with social anxiety. If you are entering a social situation and you can’t find your friends to talk to, call your mom, dad, sister, brother, or whoever (I’ve done this so many times). They will want to help. The larger your support system the better.

Even if you aren’t with your family as much as you are with your friends (especially for out-of-state students), they will be there for you through FaceTime, text message, and I guarantee they would come visit on any weekend you needed them to, especially a high-stress social weekend. Be honest with your family because the more that they know the more they can help; they can’t be there for you if they don’t know what’s going on.

Having a large support system is huge, but another great way to cope in social situations is through regular deep breathing, meditating, and a consistent exercise regimen. All of these things will help to lessen anxiety and they give you an outlet for when you are feeling particularly anxious. For example, if you’re in class and you were unexpectantly called on by a teacher and you are feeling particularly anxious, take five minutes to do some deep breathing right at your seat. It doesn’t make a scene and you can do the breathing without people noticing. There are also apps that help you with this, like Head Space, so that you can make deep breathing/meditating a part of your everyday routine.

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The biggest takeaway message I want to give you all is that you are not alone. Even at times where you feel like the world is crumbling at your feet, you aren’t alone. There are people who are there for you, like friends, family, a therapist, or even a random person on the street. There are numbers you can call if it all becomes too much. Just remember, you aren’t alone and you do have people in your corner.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Suicide & Crisis Hotline: 1-800-999-9999
  • Help Finding a Therapist: 1-800-843-7274
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-6264
I am currently a junior at the University of Michigan.

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