Making Friends While Anxious
Let’s face it: making friends is hard for most people. 45% of American adults reported they continually struggle to make friends. Young adults, from ages 18 to 34, were the highest category for reporting making friends was difficult for them. Though there are less studies, making friends can be difficult for children and teenagers, too, with pressures like fitting in to peer groups and the influence of social media just being two barriers to friend-making.
Making friends with no mental health concerns is hard. Making friends with anxiety is even harder. Aside from the traditional struggles everyone faces, those with anxiety may experience:
- Intense worrying about social situations
- Isolation from avoidance of social situations
- Missing responsibilities, such as work or school, from avoidance
- Physical symptoms such as racing heart, lack of concentration, nausea, and more
Anxiety can make it even harder than normal to make friends due to intense distress over the fear or rejection or anxiety over social situations in general. So, how does someone with anxiety, particularly social anxiety, make friends?
Check out our three tips on making friends with anxiety below!
Correct Catastrophic Thinking
Picture this: you’re a teenager at school, and it’s that time of the year all the extracurricular clubs are advertising, trying to get new members. You really want to sign up for the drama club, but your anxiety leads you down a different path: what if nobody likes me? What if I get on stage and everyone laughs? What if people call me names, say I’m nothing, and shun me? What if –
Anxiety likes to take us straight to catastrophe. When you find yourself spiraling, try to stop your thoughts in their tracks. Examine the evidence: what leads you to think nobody would like you? Has there ever been a situation where you’ve walked into a room and everyone immediately shunned you? If you get on stage and make a mistake, what will happen in 2 weeks from your mistake?
Sure, not everything may go perfectly. There may even be people in drama club you’re not best friends with. You could forget a line, or trip. But – you could make really great, supportive friends you keep for life. You could shine on stage and feel like a star. It’s worth trying it.
Set Small Goals Before Bigger Ones
Oftentimes, we have high expectations for ourselves. We want to be liked by everyone, never make an enemy, and never lose a friend. While these are great things to shoot for, start by making some smaller goals.
Instead of befriending everyone at your new job, find one person in your department you think you’d get along with and talk with them. Just start by getting to know them – do they have a family, how long have they worked there, etcetera. You don’t have to craft friendship bracelets on the first day of work; you can start with some small talk, and move on from there.
Be realistic with your expectations, and remember: making friends takes time. In one study, researchers found it takes 50 hours to move from acquaintance to friend, and 90 more hours to move to established friend – that’s not even counting the 200 hours to move to close friend. Making friends is nowhere near an instant process, so make sure your goals reflect that.
Fight the Urge to Cancel Your Plans
Introverts and socially anxious folx alike know how sweet the words “sorry, our plans are canceled” can sound. Canceled plans mean we don’t have to get dressed, go with our friend to that party, and risk social embarrassment. Woohoo!
However – the more you practice something, the easier it becomes. Try to fight the urge to call up your friend and cancel your plans to go to that new book club, restaurant, or concert. We’re not saying you have to go to the event and make 50 new friends or even 1 new friend (remember, expectations), but we are saying the more you expose yourself to social situations, the less scary they become. Even if you don’t talk to anyone while there, go to the event.
We hope this blog helped give you some tips on making friends while anxious! Back-to-school time is particularly filled with opportunities to make new friends for children and teens, while the end of the traditional vacation time at work means new coworkers. If you want support making friends while anxious, we’d love to help. At Straight Up Treatment, we work with folx with anxiety to develop coping and social skills. If you’d like to talk to a professional today, reach out to make an appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!