22 Things People With Social Anxiety Wish Their Friends Understood
It’s common for people to feel nervous when starting a new job or a new semester at school. But for people who live with social anxiety, it’s not just those “big” life events, but the everyday, that can send them into a spiral of panic. From going out with friends spontaneously or ordering at a restaurant, it can be hard to explain to friends why such seemingly “little” things are so hard. Social anxiety often goes unnoticed can be misunderstood.
To find out what people with social anxiety wish their friends understood, we asked the members of the Mighty community who experience social anxiety to tell us what they want their friends to know.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “If I need to cancel on you, it’s not because I don’t value your friendship. I don’t want you to be mad, but if I can’t handle going somewhere, forcing me to go won’t help. I’m trying to get out more, you just need to be patient and work with me.” — Alexander P.
2. “I wish they understood that it’s about way more than just ‘being shy.’ I’m not just an introvert who would rather be at home with a cup of coffee and a nice book. I’m someone who desperately wants friends, desperately wants to relate to other humans and wishes I could enjoy my time outside of the house without feeling like I need to run away. I may seem shy sometimes, but shy and anxious are not synonyms. They are two different things.” — Benji Y.
3. “I wish they understood that when I don’t respond to calls, texts, etc. that it’s nothing personal and I’m not ignoring them. Sometimes it’s too much to respond and the anxiety of providing and coming up with a “good” response is so strong it chokes me. And social interactions often leave me so drained that sometimes I need time away from everyone. I’m not avoiding or isolating, I just need to recharge.” — Jordyn D.
4. “If I don’t talk to people I don’t know at social events, I am not trying to be rude. In most cases, I don’t always talk to people who I don’t know at social events because my social anxiety makes it hard for me to introduce myself and make small talk. I don’t mean to be rude, but sometimes I have no control over my social anxiety and how it can literally paralyze me at times. I want to meet people, and I wish that I could, but many times my social anxiety prevents me from doing so.” — Kaylie E.
5. “Some days you just want to hide from everyone. You want to delete every single social network and stay in your bed. But at the same time, you’d like someone to insist and come to your home and stay at your side. It’s very difficult.” — Eduardo P.
6. “Sometimes I say I’m not hungry because I get too anxious to talk to the waiter. Or if I’m out to eat and my order is wrong, I’m terrified to tell them and will just not eat it because to me that’s better than having any social conflict with another human. If we are going out I really need you to tell me all the details of the night; who we are going with, where we are going and what you’re wearing so you can help me decide what I’m wearing. I’ll need reassurance that I look OK with what I’m wearing too. I’ll need reassurance for just about everything.” — Dara D.
7. “Telling me to drink and relax doesn’t work. Don’t make me feel like less of a person because I get so nervous I can’t even speak. Don’t snicker or laugh because the words I want to speak get caught in the back of my throat. Making plans last minute with me does not work. It sets me into a panic because I need time to mentally prepare myself to go out. And forcing me to go out every day is to much, it takes a lot out of me to be in a social situation.” — Aaron C.
8. “Social anxiety is real and is not something made up. It can make life difficult – romantic relationships, employment. It can make me feel ‘lazy.’ Large events like weddings and family reunions are difficult when you have social anxiety, but that doesn’t mean you hate people. I wish people had more compassion and empathy instead of judging what they do not know and haven’t experienced.” — Rachel R.
9. “I’m sorry I don’t have anything to talk about because you really wouldn’t want to hear about what’s really been going on. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything and for them to be burdened. So by not saying anything I’m trying to protect them.” –Rebecca M.
10. “I don’t ever mean the stuff I say when I get angry… My anxiety makes me snappy sometimes and I sometimes can’t control what comes out. When I’m at social gatherings or at your house, if I’m quiet it’s definitely not because I’m not enjoying myself, sometimes I find it difficult to find the right words to say without feeling like I’m going to make a fool of myself or say something wrong.” — Becky U.
11. “When I appear stuck up and it looks like I’m judging everyone, I’m not. It takes me a long time to adapt to people. If I cancel last minute, I really don’t want to! It’s not a choice. When I’m out with people if I’m not saying anything, it doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying myself, I’m just grateful you wanted to include me in your plans, no matter whether I turn up or not.” — Katy S.
12. “I wish they would understand that the thoughts in my head are not excuses. I wish they would understand that I do not choose to feel this way and that I have no control over it. I wish they would understand that telling me to get over it and think positively doesn’t help.” — Silvia G.
13. “Even if I say no to going out with friends or family, don’t stop inviting me to events or stop hanging out with me. It hurts when those close to me give up and don’t bother to hangout anymore.” — Lindz E.
14. “I might stay attached to you during an event. It makes me feel better to know someone instead of drowning in a sea of people I don’t really know.” — Dani P.
15. “It really makes my mind wander when people don’t text me back. I instantly feel like I’m nothing but an annoyance. Especially with newer friends.” — Courtney W.
16. “Sometimes it’s hard to be a real person, it’s hard to function. Some days you just want to hide away forever.” — Charlotte H.
17. “Its so hard to me to order food. I have to practice what I’m going to say 2,000 times in my head and even then, it sometimes comes out wrong.” — Kayleigh S.
18. “Please don’t force me to do things or hang out; I feel worse and like a bad friend when I have to say no.” — Emily S.
19. “Some outings are just not for me. Crowded bars or night clubs are not my thing. If you want to make plans to hang out, let’s find something and somewhere we will both have fun! For instance my bestie and I often meet up at the harbor and walk our dogs together. It’s a peaceful and safe place for me and we get exercise, the dogs get exercise — win, win, win.” — Sunday S.
20. My words do not always come out my mouth as eloquently as they are put together in my mind. That is the reason why texting gets the message across better for me.” — Brandy L.
21. “I get awkward, not because I don’t want to interact, but because I’m scared to. So instead, I sit back, listen and get hyper-focused on my baked potato until I still can remember every tiny detail about it weeks later… just remind me that it’s OK for me to get scared and I’ll come back when I’m ready.” — Cait L.
22. I wish they understood that even though I might seem calm, I can feel like a wreck on the inside. Even though I almost never have a panic attack, I have small anxiety attacks all the time and its hard for me to tell you when I have one. I often feel like people will think I’m just seeking attention, so I just push through.
I also often get irritable if I’m feeling trapped in a crowd. I will be snappy, maybe even rude. It’s nothing personal and I really don’t mean it, but I can’t help it!” –Silje U.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.