Anxiety before meeting friends (A brief guide)
In this guide we will discuss “anxiety before meeting friends”, what it means, how to understand someone with social anxiety, specially if you have a friendship with them and some tips on how to cope with social anxiety before meeting friends.
Anxiety before meeting friends
Anxiety before meeting friends, also known as Social Phobia or Social Anxiety, is the intense fear you can feel when you are facing social situations where other people may judge/criticize you for the way you look, talk, behave, making fun or humiliate you maybe when introducing yourself or expressing an opinion.
However, for some people even meeting their own friends (that they have known for many years) and having to interact socially makes their anxiety to go to the roof.
But, “What is the real reason I tend to feel like this?”, you may be wondering.
When you go out with friends you may be focusing on thinking how they feel about you, what they think, how they see you and if they are judging you but are not able to tell you straight to you.
After that night out, you go home replaying everything in your head wondering if everyone thought what you said was either smart, witty or just stupid.
This is how someone with Social Anxiety Disorder lives.
According to Amy Marturana from Self.com, “Social anxiety, or social phobia, affects about 15 million American adults.
Even though it’s extremely common, it can be tough for people who’ve never experienced this fear of human interaction to understand it”, meaning it is more common than you think and it also has a high co-morbidity with depression.
If you have a socially anxious friend, here are some things he/she could be struggling in secret without you even being aware.
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But first, let’s talk a bit more in depth about what social anxiety is.
What is Social Anxiety?
If you have a friendship with Social Anxiety you may be familiar with the term.
Social anxiety is when someone has an intense feeling of being nervous, tense or very uncomfortable in social situations because, as we discussed, they are worried other people might be judging them.
We have all experienced this at some point, in one way or the other.
For instance, think about when you have been to a job interview or when you went to a first date with someone you liked.
We all tend to feel nervous around other people, scared or afraid about what they might think of us.
However, when we tend to feel this way frequently and with a very intense feeling then it becomes a problem and can get in the way we behave and perceive life.
For example, you may avoid getting that dream job you want because it requires going to an interview or you may avoid going to social events with your family or friends because you are constantly worried about what they think of you.
Social anxiety then can prevent someone from doing the things they want, making friends or going on dates.
So let’s talk about some common situations when speaking in public, taling or initiating a conversation with strangers, being the centre of attention, eating in front of other people or even answering the phone.
- Their self-worth is determined by the meeting (self-conscious)
When someone with social anxiety goes to interact with friends (even if they have had a friendship for many years) they can’t avoid thinking about how they think other people see or perceive them is how they truly are.
For instance, if they are having a conversation, and they say something that wasn’t meant to be funny but other people ended up laughing then they may think what they have said was stupid, instantly making them feel stupid even though no one actually said they were.
Common negative thoughts could be “They will not like me because I am not funny” or “people will think I’m stupid” or “I always end up screwing things up”.
This makes their anxiety spike and worry/stress constantly.
- If your friend is acting strange is because they are trying to fight their anxiety
You know this is happening when they seem disconnected from the conversation, feeling they are ignoring you or giving you the “cold shoulder” at a social event like a party or a meeting with other friends.
We don’t tend to notice when someone with social anxiety is feeling anxious, but , but, we may feel they are acting distant, uninterested and cold.
Which can make them come across as “less” likeable, becoming what they fear the most.
- They have stood you up or ditch you many times in the past
If your friend with social anxiety tends to turn down plans or cancel them at the last minute it’s just because they are trying to avoid social situations at all costs.
Instead of thinking he/she is a bad friend by avoiding going out with you, try to reach out and ask what is going on and if there is something you can do to help.
Sometimes we think they just don’t want to be around us, and we just slowly fade away and try not to include them any more in our plans, but this will only reinforce their feelings of not being fun to be around or enjoyable to be around.
- Would probably like to meet and make new friends but it is very hard
If you are normally out in the social scene and you like meeting people, making new friends but you tend to tag along someone with social anxiety then, if they accept to go out, they will do it and endure social situations with a very unpleasant and uncomfortable feeling.
Avoid pressuring them or making a scene about how they seem disengaged from the situation.
This is specially true since, anxiety manifests with a lot of physical symptoms that are not pleasant at all.
People can blank out, freeze or run away if they feel they are forced or pushed into social situations.
- They could try to conceal their anxiety by drinking (a lot)
You may have that friend that almost as soon as you step into a party or gathering, they already have a cup or a beer with them.
Some people with social anxiety tend to “drink their anxiety away” but it is certainly not the best way to cope with anxiety.
They may have this “relaxing” or sedative effect for as long as they are drinking but then, when they come back to reality may even feel worse.
- Keep them out of the spotlight
As we have discussed, being scrutinized, criticized or judged is one of their worst fears so avoid focusing all your attention on them or try to be as subtle as possible if you are going to make a compliment about how they are dressed or how they are looking for a night out.
Also, avoid making them the centre of attention if they are meant to meet some of your friends for the first time or you are introducing them to other people.
Try to make it brief.
- Advice them to get professional help
Advising them doesn’t mean you have to “make” them or convince them to go to therapy or seek professional help.
You can suggest it and even (if possible) offer them your help and support by going to a few sessions with them.
Anxiety can be very disabling, when it is too overwhelming and starts impacting our lives negatively we need to seek for help, from a friend a relative, someone we trust or professional guidance from a counsellor or a therapist.
Why is this blog about anxiety before meeting friends important?
If you have a friend that gets very anxious before meeting friends or has told you already he/she suffers from social anxiety then you now have a better understanding of how they may be feeling.
They need our understanding and our help, specially when facing social situations.
If they seem cold, distant or disengaged it may be because they are struggling to cope with their anxiety, so do not take it personally.
Also, doesn’t matter how many times they avoid going out with us or cancel last minute, doesn’t actually mean they don’t want to be around us any more or like to be with us, it is just that they deal with a lot of stress when facing social situations.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about anxiety before meeting friends
Why do I get anxiety before going out?
If you get anxious before going out you may have Social Anxiety.
However, it is important to assess more in depth why is it that you get anxious before going out.
Fir instance, is it before going out on a date with someone you met recently online or through a friend?
Or is it when you go out partying with friends?
Or you get anxiety just with the thought of leaving home?
A mental health professional may be able to help you to understand what is happening and to develop coping skills.
Why do I get anxious around crowds?
If you get anxious around crowds you may be suffering from ochlophobia, which is term that has been associated to a form of social anxiety for a perceived presence of either too many people or an invasion of your personal space.
How can I stop anxiety before going out?
To manage your anxiety before going out we recommend:
Breathing exercises. Breathing is one of the most powerful and effective tools when coping with anxiety.
Make arrangements in advance regarding your outfit. Chose something you feel comfortable with.
Be kind to yourself and use positive and encouraging statements.
Distract yourself before going out.
Talk to a friend or someone you trust about how you are feeling.
Consider taking a “safe person” with you.
How do I befriend someone with social anxiety?
If you want to befriend someone with anxiety we recommend:
Being a good listener
Avoid judging or criticizing
Be patient and let them go at their own pace
Use positive statements and let them know you are there to help
What should you not say to someone with anxiety?
Here are some recommendations about what to avoid saying to someone with anxiety:
“Just calm down”
“Everything is in your head”
“It’s not a big deal after all”
“Everything will be fine”
“I know how you are feeling”
“Have something to drink, you will feel better”
“There are far worse conditions”
- Overcome Social Anxiety and Shyness: A Step-By-Step Self Help Action Plan to Overcome Social Anxiety, Defeat Shyness and Create Confidence
- How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety
- How to Talk to Anyone: Effective Communication Skills in Business and Relationships that Makes Money and Helps to Achieve Your Goals. Learn How To Manage Social Anxiety and Improve Self Confidence
- Social Anxiety Disorder: SAD – How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
- Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques
Marturana, A. (2016, Jan.) 10 Things Your Socially Anxious Friend Wishes You Knew.
Edwards, V. (n.d.) How to Overcome Your Social Anxiety: 6 Tips You Can Use Now. Retrieved from Scienceofpeople.com.
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