How to Cope With Common Socially Awkward Situations

Avoiding situations that you fear can relieve your anxiety in the short term—but only serves to reinforce your phobia in the long term. 


Seeing Someone You Know and Not Knowing What to Say

Stop and chat, don't ignore.

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Although it might be easier to avoid eye contact, cross the street, go down a different aisle, or walk the other way—all that avoidance does is prolong your anxiety. Instead, take a deep breath, smile, and say hi. That's all you need to do!


Being Taken Advantage of by Someone

Be assertive so you are not taken advantage of.

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People with social anxiety often lack assertiveness because they are afraid of upsetting others or of being judged negatively. However, being assertive is a skill that can improve relationships—because it lets the other person know what you need and what you expect. Practice being assertive by stating your needs in a calm way and listening to others' needs, so that you can reach a compromise.


Having to Use a Public Restroom

Fear of using public restrooms can be a problem for those with SAD.

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The fear of using public restrooms is called paruresis. Anxiety about using restrooms in public can interfere with daily life—and is no joke. However, it is a fear that can be overcome. As with other fears, it is best to overcome your fear of public restrooms gradually using a fear hierarchy. Make a list of situations from least to more fear-inducing, and then do them sequentially while monitoring your fear.


Blushing in Front of Everyone

Blushing can be part of social anxiety disorder.

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Blushing is a common symptom of social anxiety disorder. You probably find that your face flushes red when you are singled out or made the center of attention. If you've ever had your face turn bright red in a group, you know how distressing it can be.

While you may never completely stop blushing, you can minimize it by monitoring your thoughts about the situation, such as telling yourself "People probably are not noticing as much as I think they are."


Being the Quietest One in Class

Being quiet in class can be hard.

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Students with social anxiety tend to be quiet and don't answer as many questions in class. They may suffer in silence and wish that they could participate more. Teachers may even overlook these students, thinking that they are not interested, rather than socially anxious. If that's you, you are probably screaming on the inside despite your quiet exterior.

If speaking up in class is an issue, try starting small by talking to the teacher one-on-one after school, or asking if you can do extra credit work in place of participation until you build up your courage.


Hiding in Your Dorm Room Until Everyone Leaves

Stop hiding in your dorm at college.

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If you suffer from social anxiety, chances are you may hide in your dorm room rather than seek friends out in college. While this may solve your short-term problem of being anxious, in the long run, it deprives you of needed friendships in college.

Instead of hiding all the time, try visiting the college counseling service to see if they offer courses in mindfulness. This way of thinking may help you to feel less anxious and join the group.


Becoming a Facebook Hermit

Be careful of internet addiction if you have SAD.

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While Facebook can be used to make and maintain friendships, it can also have negative effects for those with social anxiety.

If you use Facebook, be sure not to compare yourself to others and don't take too much time composing your posts–people are not reading that closely.


Being Afraid to Answer the Door

Don't be afraid to answer the door.

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People with social anxiety may avoid doing simple things that others would never consider not doing, such as answering the door, answering the phone, or making appointments. If this is you–consider that only practice will make your fears subside.

Break free from this fear by making it a policy to always answer the door or the phone unless you are physically unable to do so at the time. Gradually, you should find it becomes easier.


Hiding in the Restroom at a Party

Hiding in the restroom at a party won't rid you of anxiety.

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Socially anxious individuals may find themselves hiding in the restroom at parties. If this is you, understand that the more time you spend hiding, the fewer chances you have to overcome your fears. You don't have to be a social butterfly, but at least put your best foot forward for a few hours before you politely bid your host farewell.


When You Feel Like Nobody in the Room Understands You

Being misunderstood is part of having SAD.

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People with social anxiety are often misunderstood by others. You may be asked why you are so "quiet" or why you don't just speak up more. If this has happened to you, a list of the worst things to say to people with social anxiety disorder may resonate. Think in advance about how you will respond to this situation so that you are not caught off guard and have nothing to say in reply.

Suggestions might include:

  • "I get that a lot. Actually, once you get to know me I can be quite talkative."
  • "Some people talk a lot. I prefer to listen and observe." 

Not Knowing Any of Your Neighbors

Meet your neighbors by being friendly toward them.

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Oh, those pesky neighbors again! Are you afraid to talk to your neighbors? If so, take heart. They probably don't think about you in as negative of a light as you perceive yourself. Offer an easy smile, say hello, and help when you can. It doesn't have to be harder than that.


Panicking if Asked on a Date

Choose a fun activity for your first date.

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Dating can be difficult for those with social anxiety disorder. You might fear ​of asking someone on a date, not know how to talk to someone you are dating and spend most of your life alone.

If someone asks you on a date, you will need to decide on a place to go. If you suffer from SAD, it's best to choose an activity that either gives you something to talk about or does not require you to talk the whole time. 


Standing Alone at a Party

You don't have to be alone at a party.

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Making small talk is easier if you have plans about what you will say in advance. Certain topics are good for small talk (weather, work, hobbies, etc.) and others are best reserved for people you know well (ex-spouses, religion, politics, etc.).

If you find yourself alone, look for someone else who also seems to be lacking company and offer an opener such as "Quite the weather we are having now, don't you think?"


Feeling Too Afraid to Answer the Phone

Exposure therapy can help you overcome phone fear.

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Phone calls can be hard for those with social anxiety. You might be afraid to pick up the phone when it rings, preferring to let it go to voicemail. You might put off important calls because you are too nervous to dial the number.

Your phone phobia can be overcome the same way as any phobia—through gradual exposure to your fear. Start small, by making a phone call about a simple matter. Gradually work your way up to more difficult calls. The same with answering your phone—at first, only pick up when you expect an easy call. Eventually, you should answer the phone every time it rings.


Having Social Anxiety Rule Your Life

Woman talking to coworkers.

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Social anxiety can take over your life, dictating everything that you do (and don't do). If this has happened to you, you may want to consider how to break free from the rut that you are in. Do something completely out of your comfort zone to get started, such as by signing up for a class or inviting a friend over to study together. 


Not Feeling Ready for Sex

Couple with sexual issues in bed.

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Is sex hard when you have social anxiety disorder? For sure. It can cause sexual dysfunction, failure to engage in sex, and may cause relationship problems. If sex truly is a physical issue for you, a doctor may be able to treat your sexual issues alongside social anxiety disorder.


Giving Up on Things Because of Your Social Anxiety

That moment when failure meets success

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Not so fast! Don't give up on your goals because of social anxiety. It is still possible to achieve what you want in life. Do so by setting goals and working towards them—either by using self-help books or with the help of a therapist.


Stuttering During a Speech

Social anxiety can make you stutter.

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Stuttering has a relationship with social anxiety and can be overcome. Both speech training and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful for this problem.


Avoiding Social Contact at Work

Stop hiding at the office if you have anxiety.

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Social anxiety can affect your work and career in many ways. From turning down promotions to avoiding social interaction with fellow employees—and in extreme cases not being able to work at all—social anxiety has a huge impact.

One step you might want to take is to tell your employer or supervisor about your social anxiety, as there may be ways to accommodate you at work so that you can do your job more effectively.


Being Alone Most of the Time

Lonely woman at bar with kissing couple.

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Many people with social anxiety disorder feel alone on special days of the year such as Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and even on their own birthdays. Some tips to feel less alone include making those days feel like any other day of the year, planning something special to do for yourself, and planning something special to do for someone else.

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