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What exactly is social anxiety? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, social anxiety is defined as: “A person with social anxiety disorder feels symptoms of anxiety or fear in certain or all social situations, such as meeting new people, dating, being on a job interview, answering a question in class, or having to talk to a cashier in a store. Doing everyday things in front of people—such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom—also causes anxiety or fear. The person is afraid that he or she will be humiliated, judged, and rejected.” Eating a slice of pizza in a crowded room can be difficult for someone with social anxiety, so what are some things we can do to support someone during these times? 

Learn More About It

There could be many layers on why someone has social anxiety—especially if they have had it for years. It can be difficult to understand if you do not have the disorder yourself…there is no shame in that. However, it is important for you to take the time to learn about social anxiety to help your loved one, new friend, coworker or partner. The National Institute of Mental Health is an incredible place to start your journey of learning about it, since it is all credible and factual information. 

Stay Open Minded and Listen 

Even though you both might be in the same situation, it is important to remember that the outcome is different for the both of you. Just how we have different preferences for food, we all react differently to situations. Your reaction will affect theirs as well, so be mindful of their feelings…even if you are disappointed by the outcome of the social event. 

Pay Attention to Their Symptoms 

It is pertinent to pay attention to the person you are with during a new social situation. If they do not have the appropriate coping skills yet, it can also be difficult for them to manage. The National Institute of Mental Health lists some symptoms to help identify if someone is becoming uncomfortable in a situation: rigid body posture and language, nausea, blushing, sweating, trembling, rapid heart rate, and their mind going blank. You can also talk to the person to see what triggers them and what you can look out for in situations. 

Be There 

Whether it is just being there to listen about their day, ordering their food for them, taking a phone call, or helping them with a task that is too overwhelming—simply be there. Just by being there, helping them, and understanding their anxiety will make all of the difference in their world. It is not an easy journey and there will be ups and downs for the both of you; however, there is never a linear journey in mental health. The most that matters is that you are there for them and you support them. Happy holidays and remember to check on your friends, family, and coworkers.