How to Help Someone with Social Anxiety

6 ways to help a friend or family member...

More and more people every day reach out to me who have loved ones facing social anxiety. I’ve personally always severely faced social anxiety throughout my entire life until I transformed, learned, researched, and began to unwind and rewire my brain. 

I also have experience coaching hundreds of people through social anxiety and before then even helping a couple of my friends climb out of the same problem. 

Social anxiety is often disguised as being shy or introverted, but this is a dangerous misconception. Social anxiety is heavily correlated with much more serious problems like substance abuse, social isolation and suicide, and other health issues.

If you are reading this and want to help someone with social anxiety, keep reading.

If you face social anxiety, feel free to check out some of the other helpful articles, podcast episodes, and other resources for individuals help.

1. Prioritize the Relationship Long Term

Looking back at my darkest moments, one of the best things my parents ever did for me was when I was in the middle of dark times…

They said:

“Mark, no matter what you do, no matter who you are, you are our son, and we will always love you no matter what, forever.” 

You see, so often those of us with social anxiety hide our feelings and thoughts even from our family. We subconsciously believe that this is not a safe place, and we will be judged, excommunicated, or kicked out at any second. Even if you have never said this explicitly, you don’t need to for this belief to form in the mind.

No matter how much you have maybe failed or mistaken as a parent, trying your best now to create an environment of unconditional love will go a long way in the long term. Be patient, results don’t appear overnight. 

It’s also very important to realize this is a mental health issue. 

Imagine walking up to someone with heart disease and asking them to stop doing that and not be selfish, and to think more positively, and to just not be shy.

You would never do that right? Anyone facing depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, is in the same boat. They are facing a brain health issue that’s robbed them of their own mind. Play the long-term, they’re not going to snap out of it tomorrow.

2. Be Careful When Talking About Help

Many times even when done in a friendly way, the message of “you need help” is usually perceived as “oh you don’t actually understand me and you want me to go to a Doctor so this headache can end for you, the same way nobody has ever understood me.”

Even though it’s well-intentioned, forcing them to do something, involuntarily booking them a doctor or therapist appointment, or sending them somewhere can actually be very harmful, and have the opposite effect. 

If you have an open conversation with them, and if they are willing to do so, go for it. Otherwise, trying to force them to get help is not a good idea. Instead, be a friend to them, listen to them, love them unconditionally, and then eventually they will be ready and ask you for help. 

A big tactic I’ve seen work is to give them ways to help themselves by themselves, without any need to be social or talk to anyone. It’s literally the reason why I wrote my book - Screw Being Shy and created my online course. 

PS. Feel free to check out my self-paced online anonymous course. Hundreds of people have already taken it with progressing results. It can walk someone step by step, day by day, week by week, how to climb out of social anxiety and become themselves - markmetry.com/program (if you have any questions just ask)

3. Layout Your Honest Intentions, Don’t Force It

People with social anxiety are very smart. If you’re trying to manipulate or strategize to get them to do something, they don’t want to do, they can see it coming from a mile away…

Instead, just be honest.

You can say to them: 

“I don’t know what you’re going through, but I am here for you.”

“I know I’ve messed up and made mistakes, I didn’t know, I’m sorry I hope you can forgive me, I’m here now.”

“I’m sorry if I hurt you in the past, I am trying my best now to be here for you.” 

“{Name} to be honest I’m not sure exactly what you’re going through, it must be difficult, but I promise I will do everything in my power to help you get through this.” 

4. Be There No Matter What

A common coping mechanism for people facing this issue is not responding to texts, messages, etc. A daunting fact is that the person facing social anxiety can often feel like a burden or they are letting people down, especially since they haven’t responded or are disconnected. 

If you have someone in your life who has this problem, make it a habit to regularly reach out with no expectations. Don’t text them and expect a response within the day. Instead, you can text them “Hey ____, hope you’re doing well! Just checking in, no need to respond if you’re busy, just let me know if you need anything or wanna catch up soon!” 

Keep texting them, and follow up, even if they don’t respond back to you. 

In 2015 when I was suicidal, a friend made plans with me. When the day came for the plans, I texted him saying I don’t wanna go anymore. Instead of my friend leaving me, he texted me and said, hey Mark I’m downstairs in your apartment building and I’m not gonna leave until you at least come downstairs and talk to me. 

Looking back at it, this was a major factor as to why I am still alive. My friend showed me that even in the face of canceling plans, not being a good friend, or being emotionally unavailable, he was still there for me consistently.

5. Start Doing Helpful Activities Together

Instead of telling them “hey you should go for a walk outside” you should go with them on a walk outside.

Instead of telling them “hey you should eat healthier” literally cook healthy food with them or send it to them.

Instead of saying “you should read more” give them copies of books and read with them or share with them what you’ve learned. 

Instead of telling them “you should go hang out with your friends” you should actually be their friend and try your best to have fun.

It might start slow. They may not talk to you at first. But step by step, if you can love them unconditionally, provide them a safe space, don’t force it but treat them with truth and kindness they will start to open up. 

Explore what they find interesting. It could be playing video games, it could be doing nothing that you are interested in doing. Try your best to put your ego aside and focus on bonding with them through activities. 

Bonus:

Instead of giving advice, listen, give space and ask questions.

The human mind operates in a closed fashion. When someone tells you to do something, it is automatically rejected. Instead, let them talk about themselves or their issues, and then slowly but surely just ask simple questions. Questions are tools that help you think of a different perspective. Use questions to help guide their thinking and reshift any negative beliefs or thoughts. Help them come up with more insightful questions to ask themselves.

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Can I help?

Over the last several years I’ve devoted my life to helping introverted, shy, socially anxious creators, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and professionals move these mental health obstacles out of their life so they can get busy being their real selves in front of anyone.

If you are interested in potentially inquiring about my services for yourself or someone else, please fill out this form below.

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