Having a friend or peer who is working through addiction recovery and dealing with the extra stress of social anxiety disorder (also known as SAD) can be very eye-opening. For some of us, socializing comes relatively easy and is a way to use basic communication skills. For those with social anxiety disorder, these minor interactors are much harder to process and comprehend.
Having a friend with social anxiety comes with its own set of challenges. While your friend may feel comfortable around you, they may have a harder time interacting in group settings or one-on-one with other people they don’t know as well. Individuals with social anxiety disorder often shy away from groups because of the fear of judgment or because they simply know how draining it is for them to interact.
How to Recognize Social Anxiety Disorder
It may be hard for a friend or peer to communicate with you and inform you they are dealing with social anxiety disorder. This is often something individuals do not like to share with people. Realizing that a peer may be struggling with a social anxiety disorder does not have to affect your relationship with the individual. It can allow you the chance to support them in social situations and help them to feel more comfortable. The following signs may indicate an individual has a social anxiety disorder.
- Trembling or sweating in public settings
- Frequently mentioning losing their train of thought
- Experiencing slight nausea in public settings
- Speaking with a timid, quiet voice
- Having a stiff, uninviting body posture
- Avoiding attending events in public
- Consistently acting worried about their presence
- Having a lack of eye contact
Most individuals have some or many of these characteristics when meeting new people but typically move away from them quickly. An individual with social anxiety disorder stays in this state during most social interactions that are irregular.
Supporting Social Anxiety Disorder
As a friend or peer to an individual suffering from this disorder, you can take many small actions to support them and help them feel comfortable in social situations. These simple actions can make a big difference to this individual.
If attending a social event with someone dealing with social anxiety disorder, understand that they may have various fears that arise before arriving at the event. While going through addiction recovery, many people experience a fear of judgment. The combination of this with a social anxiety disorder can accentuate the fear of judgment, especially judgment about their addictions.
Allowing your friend time to process the situation and being a listening ear for any concerns they have can help relieve their stress before the public event. Letting them know they can take the time they need to relax and gain confidence before the stressful social interactions begin can make attending social events an easier adjustment for them. This requires you to be patient with your peer’s needs and understand their emotional state.
Point Out Positive Attributes
Reminding your peer of their positive attributes, especially the qualities that others in their presence find enjoyable, can help them avoid being paralyzed by their negative emotions. Reassurance that their presence is wanted can help them loosen up and feel more comfortable.
Don’t shy away from inviting this peer to social events, despite their possible denial. Encourage them to come to social situations, starting with smaller groups. Finding a group of friends that you perceive will react positively with the individual and encouraging them to engage in further relationships can help to open them up and lower their levels of anxiety in new social situations.
Attending a social situation with them and leaving with them afterward can help them avoid feeling alone. Ensuring they feel welcome and doing your best to introduce them to others is a simple action that can greatly help them feel comfortable around new people.
Checking up on the peer and offering to always be there if they need help can help them feel validated in their relationship with you. Those struggling with social anxiety disorder often fear asking for help when they need it because they don’t want to come across as a burden. Pulling them aside during a social event and asking if they are okay or if there is anything you can do to help allows them the opportunity to open up free of judgment.
Refrain From Judgement
Watching an individual struggle with simple social interactions can be hard to comprehend if you do not share these same feelings. This individual is likely afraid of judgment from others, so do not add to that fear. Let them know it is okay to feel this way and provide a safe place for them to come to when feeling this way, and you will make a world of a difference to this individual.
Social anxiety disorder can be isolating. However, by supporting a peer with social anxiety disorder, you can make a huge difference in their emotional state. To determine when to step in and provide support, first understand the basics of social anxiety disorder and how to recognize when an individual may be feeling this way. Being patient with the individual’s needs, pointing out their positive qualities, encouraging socialization and inviting them to events, offering a helping hand, and refraining from judgment are simple actions you can take to help your peer feel comfortable and supported in your presence. When working through addiction recovery, individuals’ fear of judgment may increase drastically. Treating them normally and with respect allows them to feel they are in a space where they can be themselves. To learn more about how to support a peer through social anxiety disorder while working through addiction recovery, reach out to Dream Recovery at (949) 732-1960.