Many people feel nervous in everyday social situations, including meeting new people, public speaking, or going on a date. But if you have social anxiety disorder, the anxiety and fear you feel about being judged or evaluated by others is so intense that you may avoid social situations altogether.
Whether you have social anxiety disorder or experience occasional anxiety in social situations, there are treatment options that can help.
If you have mild-to-moderate social anxiety, there are some things you can try on your own that can help you feel more confident in social situations. They include identifying your triggers, challenging negative thoughts, and experimenting with relaxation techniques.
Tips to Overcome Social Anxiety
If you have social anxiety disorder, the fear and worry you experience may prevent you from doing everyday tasks, like grocery shopping, going to work or school, or being in any social situation.
If you think you may have social anxiety disorder, reach out to a mental health professional for help. A mental health professional can help to evaluate if you have anxiety in social situations vs. social anxiety disorder, and will work with you to create a treatment plan to reduce the anxiety.
If you are experiencing occasional social anxiety that doesn’t affect your day-to-day life, there are some things you can do on your own to help you feel more confident in certain social situations.
Identify your triggers
Understanding what triggers your social anxiety is important. Common triggers for social anxiety include:
- Speaking or performing in front of others (including giving a speech or presentation, playing an instrument in front of others, or competing in a sports game)
- Meeting new people
- Dating new people
- Going on a job interview
- Eating or drinking in front of others
- Phone calls or other forms of virtual or digital communication
- Using public bathrooms
- Going to parties
Talk with a therapist
Speaking with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health therapist is an important component of social anxiety disorder treatment. Talking with a licensed therapist can help you address your anxiety and identify ways to work through it, even if your social anxiety doesn’t disrupt your day-to-day life.
CBT is a brief form of therapy that helps people understand how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influence one another. When CBT is used to treat social anxiety, exposure therapy is often a part of the treatment.
Exposure therapy involves helping people gradually confront feared situations that are triggers for anxiety.
Keep in mind that finding the right therapist can take time and patience. But once you find the right mental health professional, therapy can be an effective treatment for social anxiety.
Challenge unhelpful thoughts
Challenging unhelpful thoughts is one of the pillars of CBT. Using this technique, you work to identify and analyze your unhelpful thoughts around social situations.
With time and practice, you can change these thoughts and replace them with balanced and helpful thoughts. However, it’s important to remember that this approach will not work for everyone.
If you try challenging unhelpful thoughts on your own and discover that this technique does not work to alleviate your anxiety, know that a therapist can help you find techniques that will work for you.
Take small steps
Whether you experience mild or severe social anxiety, your fears will not disappear overnight. Treating anxiety takes time and patience, and sometimes creativity.
Sometimes, it can help to make a list of small, actionable items you can work to achieve over time. But if you experience setbacks along the way, remember to be kind and gentle with yourself.
Ask your friends or family for support
Having a robust support network of family and friends can really make a difference when it comes to working with your anxiety.
There are also social anxiety-focused support groups available where you can receive unbiased and honest feedback from other people who experience similar issues.
Experiment with relaxation techniques
Finding a relaxation technique that works for you can be an effective strategy for working through many different types of anxiety, including social anxiety.
Types of relaxation techniques that may help include mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, breathwork, meditation, and yoga.
Practice public speaking
If public speaking triggers your social anxiety, practicing in smaller groups may help reduce the worry you feel about this specific social situation.
This is also a component of exposure therapy. If you’re unsure where to start, reach out to a mental health professional.
Limit drugs and alcohol consumption
People with social anxiety are at high risk for alcohol and other drug use.
In some cases, people with social anxiety may lean on these substances to function in social situations. However, excessive drug and alcohol consumption can worsen anxiety over time.
Be kind to yourself and others
Beating yourself up with self-criticism will not help you to address or work through your social anxiety. Instead, try to practice self-compassion and positive self-talk.
Whenever you find yourself feeling scared or anxious about a social situation, send yourself a kind message, like, “I know speaking in front of others makes me feel scared, but I’m going to be OK.”
If the strategies listed above do not help to soothe your social anxiety, reach out to a healthcare professional about medication.
Causes of Social Anxiety
While the exact cause of social anxiety is unknown, the risk of developing social anxiety disorder may run in families.
Even if there’s a family history of social anxiety, that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll experience social anxiety.
When to Seek Help for Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder that can cause long-lasting fear, embarrassment, self-consciousness, and anxiety that affects a person’s quality of life. Without treatment, the anxiety can last for many years.
If your social anxiety makes it difficult for you to carry out everyday tasks, like speaking with a cashier at your local grocery store or giving a presentation at work, reach out to a mental health professional for help.
How K Health Can Help
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K Health also offers anxiety medication for the right candidates.
Online therapists are also available in select states for individualized care. Connect with a licensed mental health therapist for unlimited asynchronous text-based therapy. Therapists respond Monday through Friday between 9am-5pm, within 24-hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
How to Be Yourself When You Have Social Anxiety. (2018).
Social anxiety disorder. (2020).
Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness. (2022).