How to Deal With Neighbors When You Have Social Anxiety

Woman peering over fence at neighbor's yard.

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Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that is marked by an intense and distressing fear of social situations. If you have social anxiety disorder (SAD), you might find it hard to interact with your neighbors.

You may avoid talking with your neighbors. Or you might time your entrances and exits from home so that you will not have to converse with anyone. Over time, these avoidance strategies may make it difficult to leave your own home.

Although it will be hard at first, getting to know your neighbors has many benefits. Knowing who lives around you makes for a safer environment. Being friendly with your neighbors means having someone to borrow things from or get a referral for a service you need, like a plumber. You might even find a good friend.

This article explores some strategies that can help if talking to your neighbors causes you anxiety. It also cover strategies you can use to make it easier to talk to strangers and when to talk to a mental health professional.

How to Talk to Your Neighbors

If the thought of talking to your neighbors makes you feel anxious, there are some strategies that can help make it easier. Instead of trying to avoid your neighbors, it is more helpful to gradually build friendly relationships. That way, when you do encounter them, you'll feel less anxious about it.

Introduce Yourself

If you are the new neighbor, try to make a good first impression. Choose a time to introduce yourself when your neighbor appears relaxed and not in a hurry. Wave, smile, and go over to introduce yourself. Good small talk topics include the area that you live in, activities, and things to do in town.

Stop and Chat Briefly

When you see your neighbor again, make a point of taking the time to chat a bit if they are interested in talking. If you aren't sure what to say, find something that you can compliment, such as their yard.

Pay a Visit

If you are feeling a bit more confident, and your neighbor seems like someone that you would like to get to know better, invent a reason to talk again. Go over to borrow an item for a recipe or a tool for a project. If you borrow an ingredient, invite your neighbor over to sample what you are making when it is done, so that you can talk more.

You may find that you have little in common with your new neighbors. A cordial wave and "hello" when you cross paths are all that is needed if you find that a friendship is not developing.

Deal With Fear of Strangers

If you have social anxiety, you may be more likely to perceive others as less trustworthy. This evaluation has more to do with your own anxiety than any actual danger posed by the unfamiliar person.

Remember that you sometimes view the world through a lens of fear because of your social anxiety.

To work against this bias, try to imagine your new neighbor as an old friend. Gradually, as you get to know each other better, that initial stranger fear will lessen.

People who have social anxiety are often less anxious around people that they know well. Becoming more familiar and comfortable with your neighbors can make interacting with them much less anxiety-provoking.

Practice Your Social Skills

People with social anxiety disorder often have deficits in their social skills that can exacerbate their feelings of fear. After all, it's hard to feel comfortable if you are not sure how to interact with people.

Unfortunately, having poor social skills can also contribute to peer rejection and loneliness. Over time, a lack of social skills can contribute to more anxiety and avoidance of social situations.

Building your social skills is one strategy that can help make talking to your neighbors and other people much more manageable.

  • Start small: While it is easy to become overwhelmed at the thought of attending a party or introducing yourself to a stranger, you can start building your skills by starting small. Practice by initiating conversations with people you already know. Making small talk with your neighbors can also be a great way to practice your social skills.
  • Find conversation starters: Not knowing how to start a conversation is a source of anxiety for many people. Having a mental list of ice-breakers or small talk topics to draw from can be helpful.
  • Ask questions: If you're unsure how to keep the conversation going, asking questions about the person you are speaking to is often effective. Research has even found that people who ask questions during conversations are more likable. 
  • Practice often: In addition to learning some basic social skills, it is essential to practice these abilities in various settings. In addition to striking up a conversation when you encounter one of your neighbors, you might also practice in other areas while you are out in the community, such as chatting with people at the supermarket.

Recap

Building your social skills can also help you feel less anxious about talking to your neighbors. You might start by thinking of some conversation starters and using them the next time you interact with one of your neighbors.

Get Help for Social Anxiety

If social anxiety is severely limiting your ability to interact socially with your neighbors or with others on a daily basis, and you have not been diagnosed with SAD, talk with a healthcare provider about your fears. Treatments are available that can help you manage your symptoms of social anxiety and become less fearful in social situations.

Social anxiety is usually treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two. 

Psychotherapy

Most commonly, therapists treat social anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Through CBT, you learn to identify and change the underlying negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety. 

A type of CBT known as exposure therapy can also be helpful for SAD. This approach involves being gradually exposed to social situations while practicing relaxation techniques. Over time, it helps you become less fearful. 

Medication

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), beta blockers, and anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed to manage feelings of anxiety. These medications are often most effective when used alongside psychotherapy.

Summary

Social anxiety can cause distress and anxiety in social situations, including when talking to neighbors. However, building relationships with neighbors may help lessen feelings of anxiety. With practice, people can become more comfortable talking to their neighbors.

Building social skills can also help combat feelings of social anxiety. People who have this condition should talk to their healthcare provider about treatments that can help.

If you or a loved one are struggling with social anxiety disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

If talking to your neighbors is a source of anxiety for you, some strategies can help you feel more comfortable. For example, introducing yourself and gradually getting to know your neighbors may help you feel less anxious.

Social anxiety can cause disruptions and distress in your life, but effective treatments are available. Talk to your healthcare provider about psychotherapy and medication that can help reduce your anxiety. You may also find it helpful to learn and practice social skills when you talk to your neighbors or other community members.

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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