Social Anxiety Disorder Coping How to Help a Friend With Social Anxiety Disorder By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 19, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Akeem Marsh, MD Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD LinkedIn Twitter Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print PeopleImages / Getty Images It can be hard to know how to help someone with social anxiety disorder (SAD). On one hand, you want to be sensitive to the challenges that the disorder brings. On the other hand, you want to help bring out the best in your friend. Steps for Helping a Friend With Social Anxiety Disorder Below are five helping tips if you find yourself in this situation. Be Friendly Just because someone with SAD seems aloof, that does not mean they don't want to have friends. Often people with the disorder crave friendships but are too anxious to initiate and maintain them. If you are a naturally friendly and outgoing person, you could make a great companion for someone with SAD. Extend your friendship and get to know the person with social anxiety disorder. You could find yourself with a lifelong friendship and a new perspective on many aspects of life. Don't Criticize People with SAD are often overly critical of themselves and expect others to be critical of them as well. In fact, research shows that having SAD is strongly related with believing oneself to be socially incompetent, even when others don't perceive this same level of problem behavior. Don't add to the problem by being overly critical yourself. Don't tell the person that they are too quiet or that they just need to loosen up. Be understanding of the limits that social anxiety can put on a person's life and don't expect more than a person can give. At the same time, be hopeful that your friend will gradually push limits as you provide a supportive environment in which this can take place. How to Help a Person With SAD Feel More Comfortable Learn About Social Anxiety Disorder The best way to ultimately help someone with SAD is to really understand the disorder yourself. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments and what it's like to live with social anxiety. Read books, watch movies, or learn about famous people with the disorder. Arm yourself with knowledge so that you can be more understanding and approach situations from a nonjudgmental perspective. The Best Self-Help Strategies for Social Anxiety Disorder Help Others Get Help If you suspect someone you know has social anxiety disorder but has not been diagnosed or received treatment, help that person get help. That might involve making a doctor's appointment, tracking down a support group or finding a self-help program. Do as much of the legwork as you can, to make it as easy as possible for the person to take that first step. Tips for Getting Help With SAD Break Through Denial Often people with SAD will deny their symptoms. This is because anxiety is humiliating and embarrassing for them, and the last thing they want is for it to be noticed. However, during times of personal crisis or when dealing with emotional upheaval, the person with social anxiety disorder might be more willing to talk simply because their anxiety becomes too much to handle. These are also good opportunities to suggest seeking support for their social anxiety. When a person has hit bottom, going up seems like the only reasonable next step. Where to Find Support Groups for Social Anxiety Disorder A Word From Verywell Research shows that caring relationships with friends play a role in protecting adolescents from increasing social anxiety. If you know a young person, in particular, you have a chance to intervene at a time that could be critical for preventing that person's social anxiety from developing into a disorder. Mental health issues are often hard for others to understand who have not experienced it themselves. Keep in mind that your friend is not choosing this behavior; however, choices can be made to make the situation better. You can easily become the person that leads the way to those choices if you approach the situation with intelligence and tact. 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. Rodebaugh TL, Lim MH, Fernandez KC, et al. Self and friend's differing views of social anxiety disorder's effects on friendships. J Abnorm Psychol. 2014;(123)4:715-24. doi:10.1037/abn0000015 National Institute of Health Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness. American Psychological Association. How to choose a psychologist. Van Zalk N, Van Zalk M. The importance of perceived care and connectedness with friends and parents for adolescent social anxiety. J Pers. 2015;(83)3:346-60. doi:10.1111/jopy.12108 Additional Reading National Institute of Mental Health. Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness. Rodebaugh, T. L., Lim, M. H., Fernandez, K. C., Langer, J. K., Weisman, J. S., Tonge, N., … Shumaker, E. A. (2014). Self and friend’s differing views of social anxiety disorder’s effects on friendships. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123(4), 715–724. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000015 University of Florida Fear and Anxiety Disorders Clinic. Helping a Family Member. Van Zalk, N., & Van Zalk, M. (2015). The importance of perceived care and connectedness with friends and parents for adolescent social anxiety. Journal of Personality, 83(3), 346–360. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12108 By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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