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Recovering from Social Anxiety as a Young Adult

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Key Points

  • Understand that social anxiety is common: Recognize that you are not alone in struggling with social anxiety as a young adult. Many others experience similar challenges, and it's important to know that recovery is possible.Take small steps through exposure therapy: Start by making small changes and gradually expose yourself to social situations that make you anxious. Begin with simple tasks like saying "hello" to people or attending events where you feel safe and comfortable.

  • Incorporate relaxation techniques: Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness throughout the day to help calm your mind and body. Take short breaks to engage in these activities and reduce stress.

  • Seek support from friends and family: Talk openly with your loved ones about your social anxiety. Their understanding, comfort, and advice can be valuable sources of support. Consider asking them to accompany you to social events or gatherings for added reassurance.

  • Seek professional help if needed: If your social anxiety feels overwhelming or persists, consider seeking professional help. A therapist or psychologist can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to manage and overcome social anxiety.

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Are you struggling with social anxiety as a young adult? If so, you are not alone. Social anxiety affects millions of people of all ages and is a very common problem among young adults. But the good news is that recovery is possible and there are several things you can do to begin your journey towards overcoming social anxiety. In this blog post, we will be exploring five key steps you can take to start your recovery from social anxiety.

It's not Just You

If you are struggling with social anxiety, it can be an incredibly isolating and difficult experience. You might find yourself feeling like no one else is in the same boat as you, but that is far from true. Social anxiety is a common issue amongst young adults and is often accompanied by other related conditions like agoraphobia, shyness, depression, or embarrassment.

Anxiety disorders are a prevalent mental health condition that affects millions of people in the United States. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the US population. Women are twice as likely to be affected by GAD as men. Panic disorder (PD) affects 6 million adults, and women are twice as likely to be affected by PD as men.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) affects 15 million adults or 7.1% of the US population. Unlike GAD and PD, SAD is equally common among men and women, with an average age of onset of 13 years old. However, many individuals with SAD may experience symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.

Stress and anxiety are common experiences that most individuals will encounter at some point in their lives. Stress is a response to a threatening situation, while anxiety is a reaction to stress. According to a 2020 report by the American Psychological Association, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a national mental health crisis, with increased levels of stress and anxiety in the general population.

The Pressure is Real

It’s completely normal to feel nervous or anxious in social situations. Whether it’s speaking in front of a large group of people or attending a party where you don’t know anyone, social anxiety affects many of us. But have you ever wondered why we get nervous in these situations?

One reason for social anxiety can be traced back to our evolutionary past. Humans are social creatures, and throughout our history, being part of a group was essential for survival. Our ancestors lived in small, tight-knit communities, and being ostracized from the group could mean death. As a result, humans developed an instinctive fear of social rejection or humiliation. This fear is still present in us today, even though it’s unlikely to result in actual physical harm.

Another reason for social anxiety is the social expectations placed upon us. Society places great importance on social status and reputation, and this can lead to fear of judgment or embarrassment in social situations. We worry about how we appear to others and fear that we will be seen as incompetent or unworthy. This pressure to conform to social norms can be overwhelming and contribute to social anxiety.

Throughout history, social anxiety has been evident in various cultures. In ancient Greece, for example, public speaking was highly valued, and those who could do it well were seen as more intelligent and powerful. This societal expectation could create intense anxiety for those who struggled with public speaking. Even in the modern world, social anxiety can manifest differently across cultures. In some Asian cultures, for example, social harmony is highly valued, and people may be more likely to avoid confrontation or expressing their opinions, which can lead to social anxiety in certain situations.

It’s important to remember that social anxiety is a common and natural response to social situations. It’s not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. Many people experience social anxiety to some degree, and there are ways to manage it.

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Take it One Day at a Time

For some, the best way to start recovering from social anxiety is to confront it through exposure therapy. Make small changes. Start with simple tasks like saying "hello" to people you pass by on the street or in the store.

You can also start to make strides towards overcoming your fear by attending events where you know people or feel safe. Being around familiar faces can help to reduce your levels of anxiety and give you an opportunity to practice talking and interacting with people in a less intimidating environment.

You might try implementing relaxation techniques before you attend events, such as deep progressive relaxation. (Progressive Relaxation Guide).

As you start to feel more comfortable in these situations, gradually challenge yourself to increase the difficulty and complexity of the task. You can move on to introducing yourself to strangers or attending social gatherings alone. Keeping a positive attitude and reminding yourself that you are capable of conquering your fears can also be beneficial in taking on social situations one day at a time.

Daily Rituals for Promoting Relaxation

1. Morning stretch and deep breathing: Start your day by incorporating a brief stretching routine and deep breathing exercises. Stretching helps release tension in your muscles, while deep breathing activates the relaxation response in your body. Take a few minutes to stretch gently and take slow, deep breaths, focusing on each inhale and exhale.

2. Create a calming morning routine: Design a morning routine that sets a peaceful tone for the day. This could include savoring a cup of herbal tea, reading a few pages of a book, journaling your thoughts, or practicing mindfulness. Engaging in activities that bring you joy and tranquility in the morning can have a positive impact on your overall well-being.

3. Take short relaxation breaks: Throughout the day, schedule short relaxation breaks to recharge and reduce stress. Set reminders on your phone or computer to take a few minutes for yourself. During these breaks, engage in activities that help you unwind, such as deep breathing exercises, listening to calming music, practicing progressive muscle relaxation, or simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breath.

4. Mindful walking or nature appreciation: Incorporate a mindful walk or spend time appreciating nature during your day. Take a few minutes to go for a walk outside, paying attention to your surroundings and the sensations in your body. Notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you. If you can't go outside, bring nature indoors by placing a small plant or flowers on your desk and taking a moment to admire their beauty.

5. Evening wind-down ritual: Create an evening wind-down ritual to transition from the busyness of the day to a more relaxed state. This could involve activities like taking a warm bath or shower, practicing gentle stretching or yoga, reading a calming book, listening to soothing music, or practicing gratitude journaling. Choose activities that help you unwind and signal to your body and mind that it's time to relax and prepare for a restful night's sleep.

6. Practice progressive muscle relaxation before bed: Before going to bed, try practicing progressive muscle relaxation. Start by tensing and releasing each muscle group in your body, working from your toes up to your head. This technique helps release physical tension and promotes a state of deep relaxation, preparing you for a more peaceful sleep.

Remember, the key to promoting relaxation through daily rituals is consistency and finding activities that resonate with you. Adapt these suggestions to suit your preferences and incorporate them into your daily routine. By consistently practicing small-scale relaxation rituals, you can create moments of tranquility and promote a greater sense of calm and well-being throughout your day.

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Seek Professional Help

If your social anxiety is overwhelming, seeking professional help is a great way to start overcoming your fears. A therapist or psychologist can provide you with the support and advice you need to begin tackling your anxiety. Professional help may also involve medication, which can be helpful in some cases. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another type of therapy that helps you learn techniques to manage and reduce your anxiety. Working with a trained professional can be incredibly valuable in helping you find ways to cope with your social anxiety and build the confidence you need to take steps towards recovery.

What to Expect

Seeking professional help is an important step in addressing social anxiety and finding effective strategies to manage and overcome it. If you're considering therapy or counseling, here's a guide to help you know what to expect as a new patient:

1. Initial consultation: Your journey begins with an initial consultation, where you'll have the opportunity to meet the therapist or psychologist. This session is typically focused on getting to know each other and discussing your concerns, symptoms, and goals. The professional will ask you questions to better understand your social anxiety, its impact on your daily life, and any other relevant factors.

2. Assessment and diagnosis: Based on the information you provide during the initial consultation, the therapist or psychologist may conduct a comprehensive assessment. This process involves gathering additional details about your social anxiety symptoms, triggers, and their duration. They may also explore any underlying factors, such as past experiences or mental health history, that could contribute to your anxiety. The assessment helps in formulating an accurate diagnosis, if necessary, and developing an appropriate treatment plan.

3. Treatment plan: Once a diagnosis has been made, your therapist or psychologist will collaborate with you to create a personalized treatment plan. This plan outlines the goals, strategies, and techniques that will be used to address your social anxiety. It may include therapy modalities like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy, Mindfulness-based approaches, or other evidence-based interventions. The treatment plan will be tailored to your specific needs and preferences.

4. Therapy sessions: Regular therapy sessions will be scheduled as part of your treatment plan. During these sessions, you will work closely with your therapist or psychologist to explore the root causes of your social anxiety and develop effective coping mechanisms. Therapy sessions provide a safe and confidential space for you to express your feelings, address challenging thoughts or behaviors, and learn new skills to manage anxiety. The frequency and duration of therapy sessions will depend on your individual needs and progress.

5. Collaborative approach: Therapy is a collaborative process, where you and your therapist work together as a team. Your therapist will provide guidance, support, and expertise, but your active participation is crucial. Be prepared to engage in open and honest discussions, share your progress and setbacks, and actively practice the techniques learned in therapy outside of sessions. Your therapist will regularly assess your progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.

6. Medication, if necessary: In some cases, medication may be prescribed as part of your treatment plan. If your therapist or psychologist believes that medication could be beneficial in managing your social anxiety, they may refer you to a psychiatrist or work in collaboration with a medical professional. If prescribed, the medication will be monitored closely, and its effects will be regularly evaluated.

Remember, progress takes time, and everyone's journey is unique. Be patient and committed to the therapeutic process. Over time, with the guidance of a trained professional, you can gain a better understanding of your social anxiety, learn effective coping strategies, and experience significant improvements in your ability to manage and overcome social anxiety.

Talk to Your Friends and Family

Talking to your friends and family is an important part of overcoming social anxiety as a young adult. It can be hard to open up and discuss your feelings with those closest to you, but it can also be beneficial. Having a listening ear from someone you trust can help you to process and make sense of your anxieties.

It is important to be honest about what you’re feeling and let your friends and family know the extent of your social anxieties. They may be able to offer comfort and advice, or provide a different perspective on the situation. You could even ask them to come along for moral support if you are attending an event that is causing you anxiety.

It’s also important that you don’t put pressure on yourself to have all the answers. Your friends and family may not always be able to help you overcome all of your fears, but their emotional support can provide the strength and courage to face those fears head-on. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help - overcoming social anxiety as a young adult is not something you have to do alone.

How to Talk to Your Friends and Family

Talking to your friends and family is an essential component of your journey to overcome social anxiety and strengthen your support network. While it may feel challenging to open up about your anxieties, sharing your feelings with those closest to you can be tremendously helpful and comforting. Here's how you can effectively engage with your friends and family to navigate social anxiety:

1. Choose a supportive environment: Find a comfortable and quiet space where you can have an uninterrupted conversation with your loved ones. This setting will allow you to focus on the discussion without distractions and create an atmosphere of trust.

2. Express your feelings openly: Be honest and transparent about your social anxieties when discussing them with your friends and family. Clearly communicate the extent of your challenges, explaining specific situations or triggers that cause anxiety. This level of openness will help them better understand your experiences and offer appropriate support.

3. Seek empathy and advice: Your loved ones can offer valuable insights and support as they may have faced similar challenges or witnessed your struggles. Encourage them to share their perspectives and advice on coping strategies or techniques they find helpful. Their experiences and empathy can provide a fresh outlook and practical suggestions for managing social anxiety.

4. Ask for accompaniment: If there are social events or activities that trigger anxiety, consider asking a trusted friend or family member to accompany you. Having a familiar face by your side can provide a sense of security and reassurance. Additionally, they can offer encouragement, help redirect negative thoughts, and assist in social interactions.

5. Recognize their limitations: While your friends and family can be a vital source of support, it's important to acknowledge that they may not have all the answers or solutions. Be understanding if they are unable to fully comprehend your experience or provide immediate remedies. Their emotional support and willingness to listen are still invaluable in providing strength and encouragement.

6. Seek professional guidance if needed: While friends and family support is significant, remember that social anxiety is a complex issue that may require professional intervention. If your social anxiety persists or becomes overwhelming, consider seeking help from a mental health professional who can offer specialized guidance, coping strategies, and treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

Remember that opening up to your loved ones about your social anxiety is a courageous step. Their emotional support, combined with professional guidance if necessary, can significantly contribute to your progress in overcoming social anxiety as a young adult. Together, you can create a strong support system that empowers you on your journey toward improved social interactions and overall well-being.

Get Involved in Your Community

Overcoming fears is a big part of managing social anxiety, and getting involved in your local community can be an effective way to do it. Finding ways to interact with people in a safe, supportive environment can help you build confidence in your ability to talk and engage with others. Volunteering at a local charity or joining a community-based sports team can provide opportunities to socialize and practice the skills you need to feel comfortable around other people. Participating in activities with others who share similar interests can also help you develop new connections and build a sense of belonging. The more you participate in the community, the more comfortable you'll feel in social settings and the easier it will become to manage your social anxiety.

How to Start Getting Involved

  1. Research local community organizations: Start by researching local community organizations in your area that align with your interests and values. Look for charities, nonprofit organizations, or community centers that are actively involved in making a positive impact. Explore their websites, read about their missions, and consider the activities they offer. This will help you identify potential opportunities to get involved.

  2. Volunteer your time: Reach out to the community organizations you identified and inquire about volunteer opportunities. Many organizations are in constant need of volunteers to support their initiatives. Choose a role that suits your skills and comfort level. It could involve assisting with events, working at a food bank, mentoring children, or helping with administrative tasks. By contributing your time and effort, you will not only be making a difference but also engaging with others who share a common cause.

  3. Attend community events: Keep an eye out for local events happening in your community, such as festivals, fairs, or fundraisers. Attend these events with the intention of socializing and meeting new people. Challenge yourself to strike up conversations and engage in meaningful interactions. These events often provide a relaxed atmosphere where people are open to meeting new faces, making it easier to initiate conversations and overcome social anxiety.

  4. Join a community-based group or club: Look for community-based groups or clubs that cater to your interests. It could be a book club, hiking group, art class, or sports team. By joining such groups, you'll have the opportunity to regularly interact with like-minded individuals and develop friendships. Being part of a structured activity or shared interest can alleviate social anxiety as you focus on the common ground you share with others.

  5. Attend local workshops or classes: Many communities offer workshops or classes on various topics, such as cooking, photography, painting, or self-improvement. Sign up for a class that piques your interest and encourages participation. These smaller, more intimate settings provide an ideal environment to engage in conversations and build connections with fellow participants who share your enthusiasm.

  6. Engage in community outreach programs: Look for community outreach programs that aim to address specific social issues or provide support to vulnerable populations. These programs often require volunteers or participants who are willing to lend a helping hand. By getting involved in such initiatives, you not only contribute to the well-being of your community but also have the opportunity to work alongside others who share a similar passion for making a positive impact.

Remember, building involvement in your community takes time and effort. Start by taking small steps and gradually increase your level of engagement. It's normal to feel nervous initially, but with perseverance, you'll gain confidence, expand your social network, and make a meaningful difference in your community.

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Recovering from Social Anxiety Takes Time, Be Patient with Yourself

It is important to be patient with yourself when overcoming your social anxiety. It can take time to develop the skills necessary to cope with and overcome your fears, so don’t give up. Remember that progress takes time and that setbacks are normal. Taking it day by day and slowly pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will help you work towards achieving your goals. When you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and remind yourself that you are working on getting better and that it may take time before you see results.

Learn More

1. "The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook" by Edmund J. Bourne

Summary: This comprehensive workbook provides practical strategies and exercises to manage anxiety, including social anxiety. It covers cognitive-behavioral techniques, relaxation techniques, and exposure therapy to help individuals overcome their fears.

Reason: This book offers a step-by-step approach to managing social anxiety, providing readers with effective techniques and tools to apply in their daily lives. It combines educational information with practical exercises, making it a valuable resource for individuals seeking self-help strategies.

2. "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain

Summary: Susan Cain explores the power of introverts in a society that often values extroverted qualities. The book delves into the unique strengths of introverts, challenges societal norms, and provides insights into navigating social situations with authenticity and confidence.

Reason: For young adults with social anxiety, understanding introversion and finding strength in their natural temperament can be empowering. "Quiet" provides valuable insights and strategies for introverts to navigate social interactions and embrace their authentic selves, helping them overcome social anxiety.

3. "The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook: Proven, Step-by-Step Techniques for Overcoming Your Fear" by Martin M. Antony and Richard P. Swinson

Summary: This workbook offers evidence-based techniques and exercises to help individuals overcome shyness and social anxiety. It provides practical strategies to challenge negative thoughts, build social skills, and gradually face feared situations.

Reason: Designed as a self-help guide, this book offers a structured and progressive approach to tackling social anxiety. It equips readers with practical tools, exercises, and cognitive-behavioral techniques to manage anxiety, boost confidence, and enhance social interactions.

4. "Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks" by Barry McDonagh

Summary: Barry McDonagh presents a fresh approach to managing anxiety, including social anxiety. This book provides actionable techniques and guidance to break free from anxiety cycles, challenge fearful thoughts, and regain control over one's life.

Reason: "Dare" offers a unique perspective on anxiety management, focusing on embracing anxiety rather than trying to eliminate it completely. It provides practical strategies and encourages a proactive mindset, making it particularly beneficial for young adults looking for actionable techniques to confront and overcome social anxiety.

5. "The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt" by Russ Harris

Summary: Russ Harris explores the concept of confidence and offers practical strategies to overcome self-doubt and fear. Drawing from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), the book provides tools to build psychological flexibility and develop self-assurance.

Reason: Social anxiety often stems from fear and self-doubt. "The Confidence Gap" helps individuals challenge their limiting beliefs and develop the necessary skills to navigate social situations with confidence. The book provides actionable techniques to overcome anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.

These non-fiction books offer valuable insights, practical strategies, and exercises for individuals struggling with social anxiety. Each book takes a unique approach, providing readers with a range of tools to manage anxiety, improve self-confidence, and thrive in social situations.


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