Have you ever felt worried around other people? Do you get an overwhelming sense of discomfort or uneasiness when you try to interact with someone new? Maybe these thoughts and feelings get in the way of maintaining close relationships and accepting important opportunities. It can be possible that you may be dealing with some social anxiety. Anxiety has a way of creeping into your daily life, clouding your judgment, and making it hard to see yourself and the world with clarity. If anxiety is making it hard to experience life at its fullest, there is support available to help you strengthen your mental health. This article will help you understand how to find friends when you have anxiety.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is defined as a persistent fear or worry that others will judge you or otherwise reject you in social settings. Although most people get butterflies during new experiences, social anxiety can make it feel difficult, if not impossible, to branch out.
According to the 2013 edition of the national guidelines for mental health diagnoses, DSM-5, “[T]he diagnostic criteria for SAD have been broadened … to include fear of acting in a way or showing anxiety symptoms that offend others or lead to rejection.” In other words, social anxiety can also adversely create self-sabotaging behaviors as a form of protection.
Social anxiety generally changes the way you view yourself, making it feel difficult to show up fully in social situations. To receive an official diagnosis, a doctor will assess for the following criteria:
- Chronic feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety lasting six months or more
- Avoiding social situations or acting out of fear and worry
- Avoiding eye contact
- Speaking softly or attempting to avoid talking altogether
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of social anxiety, you can learn how to navigate this and put yourself out there.
How Can I Manage Social Anxiety?
Being that social anxiety is based on your internal belief system, it is most likely that you’ll perceive more damage than there is. Anxiety has a way of playing mind games with you, distorting your perception and making you feel smaller and less powerful than you truly are.
There are several ways to improve your confidence and overcome feelings of social anxiety, including:
- Taking care of yourself
- Advocating for your needs, setting boundaries when necessary
- Acknowledging your positive traits and amplifying them
- Being accountable and improving where you can without beating yourself up
- Doing things that speak to you
- Trying new things and challenging yourself to grow
The Importance of Strong Friendships
Although there are ways to manage social anxiety, it can be reassuring to know that the right people will learn how to support you as you overcome any of your challenges. True friends will seek to understand you and support your healing, rather than judge and exclude you. On the bright side, anyone who does treat you that way can readily and easily be removed from your life, along with lingering feelings of anxiety.
Developing strong friendships is an important part of living a healthy life. It has been shown that a lack of healthy social connections can:
- Increase the risk of diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and lowered immune function
- Increase the risk of mental health disorders such as addiction, depression, and anxiety
When you build and appreciate meaningful friendships in your life, you can improve your health and well-being. Good friendships offer a safe space for you to be yourself, express yourself, and experience an even exchange of connection and encouragement. Having trustworthy and genuine connections can significantly decrease stress levels, improving your physical and mental health overall.
How to Branch Out and Find Friends When You Have Anxiety
Even though anxiety can cloud your judgment and alter your perception, it is possible to learn how to manage the discomfort that anxiety brings. As you learn how to navigate your anxiety, you will be able to identify your needs and make sure that they are met effectively. You can learn how to develop meaningful and supportive connections despite your experience with anxiety. It may take time and plenty of effort, but you can overcome anxiety with the right resources and support for you.
Some of the things that you can do to improve your social skills and create new friendships include:
- Improving your self-esteem with positive self-talk and learning how to step out of your comfort zone
- Find fun and meaningful activities such as volunteering, joining a fitness or wellness class, and other extracurricular activities where you can meet potential friends
- Be present with others, listen, and speak mindfully
- Identify what you’re looking for in a friendship, honor that, and communicate with clarity and compassion.
- Establish boundaries when necessary and respect others’ boundaries
- Accept yourself and others for who they are
- Be open to the newness and potential that new connections can bring
There are many ways to connect with others to build or rekindle meaningful relationships. Although anxiety and other mental health disorders can feel overwhelming, you can learn how to overcome these challenges with careful guidance, support, and action. Developing healthy relationships can improve your mental health in the long run.
When you approach new connections with confidence and authenticity, it can be easier to find friends and connect with the right people for you. No one is perfect, and it is okay to face a little trial and error as you work to build lasting and supportive friendships. In due time, you’ll find the people who understand, encourage, and value you.
Anxiety has a way of altering your perception, creating excessive worries, doubts, and other insecurities to rise to the surface. As anxiety bubbles up, it can be challenging to see the bigger picture through the mental fog. Although anxiety can make you question what you think and how you feel, learning how to process and manage your anxiety can help you get some of your power back. As you learn how to cope with anxiety, you’ll begin to lean into new opportunities and connections. Managing the symptoms of anxiety will make it easier to branch out and develop supportive and empowering connections. Connect with our team at Mindfuli today to get support on your mental health journey (866) 973-4415.