How to make friends when you struggle with social anxiety

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Making friends as a teenager can be challenging under the best of circumstances, but it can be especially difficult for those living with social anxiety. Social anxiety disorder is a condition characterized by intense fear and self-consciousness in social situations, making it hard for those who suffer from it to engage with others and form connections. However, it is possible for teenagers with social anxiety to make friends and have fulfilling social lives. 

It’s important to remember that making friends takes time, and it’s OK to take things at your own pace. With the right approach and support from professionals like therapists, teenagers with social anxiety can develop the skills and confidence they need to form meaningful connections and friendships.

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is a feeling of intense nervousness, worry, or fear when you’re around other people or in social situations. It can make you feel self-conscious and worried about what others might think of you. You may feel like you are being judged or evaluated all the time, and that can make it hard to talk to people, make friends or even just be around others. 

Social anxiety is a common problem, with about 9% of all adolescents being diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. When you’re required to interact with people, if you have social anxiety disorder you may experience physical symptoms like: 

  • Feeling sick to your stomach to the point of nausea.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Having a rigid body posture.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness. 
  • Finding it difficult to make eye contact. 
  • Difficulty speaking, even when you want to.
  • Avoiding places where there are other people.

With the help of a therapist or counselor, you can learn ways to cope with these feelings and eventually achieve calmness and comfort in social situations.

How can you make friends with social anxiety?

Making friends can be challenging for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for teens living with social anxiety. School involves constant socialization, both in the classroom and in the hallway. As a result, you may feel the need to stay home from school frequently, as your physical and mental symptoms can be hard to bear in such an intensely social environment. 

However, there are several strategies that can help you manage their social anxiety symptoms and make friends, including:

  • Seek professional help — If you find that your social anxiety is preventing you from making friends or is causing you significant distress, you should tell a trusted adult and seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can help you develop coping strategies and work through any underlying issues that may be contributing to your anxiety. 
  • Start small and find common ground — It can be overwhelming to try to make friends in big groups or at big social events. Start by trying to make connections with one or two people at a time in more low-pressure settings. Finding something you have in common with someone can be a great way to start a conversation and form a connection. Look for shared interests, hobbies or classes to talk about. 
  • Join a club or group — Joining a club or group that aligns with your interests can be a great way to meet like-minded people. This can also be a great way to practice social skills in a supportive and accepting environment, especially at the beginning of the school year. 
  • Be yourself — It can be tempting to try to be someone you’re not in order to fit in or make friends, but it’s important to be true to yourself. People will appreciate your authenticity, and it will make it easier for you to form genuine connections with people you feel drawn to.

Remember that making friends takes time and that it’s OK to take things at your own pace. It’s also OK to not have many friends or to not have a big group of friends; quality of friends can be much more important than quantity. If you feel that you need guidance throughout the process of trying to make friends, or if the idea of making friends overwhelms you, a therapist can help you outline a plan so that you feel prepared and more in control.  

Lightfully can help you make friends with social anxiety

Making friends as a teenager with social anxiety can be a challenging but not impossible task. By starting small, finding common ground, joining a club or group, being yourself, and seeking professional help, you can take steps toward making new friends and building a fulfilling social life. 

Social anxiety is a treatable condition, and with the help of a therapist, you can learn ways to cope with the feelings of nervousness, worry, or fear when you’re around other people, and feel more comfortable in social situations. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as reaching out to others and seeking professional help can make all the difference in building connections and friendships.

Our team of therapists at Lightfully can be there for you. We even offer virtual programs so that you don’t have to worry about coming into an office or waiting room. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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