Studies reveal that Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is ranked as the third biggest mental health issue in the United States today. Followed by depression and alcoholism. An estimated 7% of people in the United States suffer from some type or form of social anxiety at this very moment.
If you live with someone or work with a person suffering with social anxiety, finding ways to support them instead of criticize is important. The following are some statements that may be well meaning but need to be avoided when trying to help a loved one coping with social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder and Phrases to Avoid
“Why do you seem to be so quiet?”
Social anxiety disorder and people who suffer from it can’t stand this question. Yes we live in a loud, outgoing society that sees others that are quiet as week and scared. We find that someone who is quiet is not acceptable. Then we feel it’s our duty to help bring this person out of their shell. Asking someone who has social anxiety to come out of their shell or why are they so quiet will only have negative results and frighten that person more. They feel singled out. You are singling them out and this in return increases their anxiety.
Solution: Ask open-ended questions. Talk about topics they seem to be passionate and interested in. Share stories about yourself first and let them see that it’s OK to be light and humorous. They enjoy listening and watching others in the spotlight.
“All you need to do is just calm down.”
Many think it is so easy for someone who is anxious to just calm themselves right down. Telling someone with social anxiety disorder this is like asking them to please not sneeze. Trust me they would if they could. When we tell someone to calm down it is not validating the person and the situation. It is not a switch they are able to just turn off. Trust me, they would of they could.
Solution: Seek to ask how you can be supportive. Ask them if they need you to assist. You can simply sit with them. Take a walk, go workout or do a form of simple breathing and meditation with them.
“I completely understand the way your feeling. I once felt that way when I had to give a presentation if front of a large crowd”.
If you have no clue what social anxiety feels like then please refrain from these types of statements. They are totally unrelated. Your situation is nothing like that of a person suffering from SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder). Someone who is shy is very different than someone who has full blown social anxiety. Someone who is shy lives a fully functioning life. Anxiety, fear, depression do not leave them feeling paralyzed daily.
“You sure do not appear to be anxious.”
To you it may not seem someone is suffering from social anxiety. You may think someone is seemingly fine and you may sincerely be coming across as reassuring. It again comes across though as not sincere and invalidates the person who is experiencing the anxiety. They feel not heard. Social anxiety is not visible to everyone. Not everyone constantly shakes or finds themselves hyperventilating when having a panic attack. People suffering with SAD have taught themselves to try and hide anxiety extremely well.
Solution: Be a listener and ask how you can be of assistance. Try to understand them instead of getting them to explain how they feel to you. Don’t be pushy. Leave the topic alone if you do not know what to say.
“Everything is going to be fine.”
You can never truly know that when trying to help someone suffering with Social Anxiety Disorder. When someone tells a person that everything is going to be fine it feels dismissive to them. It may cause them to shut down more especially emotionally. They will not tell you how they are feeling because they do not feel they can relate or that you will understand. Until you fully understand please don’t throw out comment like this.
Solution: Allow the person to know that your alright to hear them tell you that they are full of fear, worry and apprehension. Learn to reassure them. See that from their perspective they feel at the present moment things are not going to be fine. Be an example and stop using so many words and asking so many questions. They are not a science experiment.
Seeking Help For Social Anxiety Disorder
If you or a loved one is suffering form social anxiety disorder then seeking counseling and therapy for social anxiety is important. It may be very hard for you to reach out and ask for help. I can reassure you that once you make this first step you will find immediate relief. Together in a collaborative effort we will explore the irrational thoughts and thinking that are keeping you in a constant state of fear and panic. You do not have to go on living this way. Help is around the corner. Call today for a free phone session and start the journey.