Are you unsure how to tell someone you have social anxiety? You are not alone in this struggle. Given the “social” element of this type of anxiety, admitting to having it is doubly hard. On the one hand, revealing your fears may help to lessen them, while on the other hand, you are desperately fearful of others thinking there is something weird about you. If you tell them about your social anxiety, won’t they think you’re even weirder?
The truth is, those who are closest to you have probably already noticed. They may not fully understand what you are going through, but they’ve probably noticed that you struggle with social or performance situations—even if that just means they notice that you avoid them (remember, your anxiety symptoms are not as obvious as you think). They may wonder what is up, and why you cancel plans. And they may wish that they knew how to help you.
On the other hand, there are some people who you may not want to tell. The guy on the elevator who just gave you his number doesn’t need to know. The HR manager in your job interview needn’t be thinking about how your social anxiety may impact your job performance. And people who generally aren’t supportive, caring, or kind are best left in the dark.
So… when it comes to sharing the fact you have social anxiety, it’s best to do it with the ones who you know best: family and close friends.
But don’t gather up a whole group of them and tell them all at once. Instead, choose the person you know will react well. We all know at least one person like this, who always has a kind word to say or supportive tone.
Then, spend a bit of time preparing to share your story.
How to Tell Someone You Have Social Anxiety
1. Join an online support group. Practice telling others about your social anxiety and learn that you are not alone. While this might seem counter-intuitive to start with strangers, remember that these people don’t know you and will never meet you. The stakes are very low in this case.
2. Consider the reasons why you want to share your feelings. Good reasons to do this would include relieving the burden of keeping it a secret, wanting support from others, or needing help to make an appointment.
3. Write out a script to share with your loved one. If you’ve seen the movie, “Welcome to Me” with Kristen Wiig, at various points she says, “I would like to read from a prepared statement.” While this is off-putting to those around her, it’s actually brilliant for someone suffering with a disorder to do (she does, in the movie, seem to have borderline personality disorder). Preparing a statement allows you to read it if you need to, or just hand it over if worse comes to worse. Incidentally, this is also a good way to tell a doctor about your symptoms, to make sure that you don’t leave anything out.
4. Plan a meeting. Coffee shop meetings are good because you are not alone, but alone at the same time. Or, you could meet at your home for a quiet conversation. Your loved one is likely to worry that you have bad news. Share that your news might be difficult to talk about and understand, but that it’s nothing like that.
5. Tell a story. “Diana, do you remember during my brother’s wedding, when I had to give a toast? The truth is that I was terrified to do that, and it kept me up for weeks beforehand. Any type of speaking in public or feeling like I am in the spotlight sends me into a state of panic. I don’t expect you to fully understand, but I just wanted to tell someone how I’ve been feeling.
6. Answer questions. Your friend or loved one is likely to have questions about what you have told him or her. Be open to sharing more details about your social anxiety. Also, be ready to explain what you hope to achieve from your meeting.
And there you go! You’re on your way to stop worrying that your secret will be revealed. Just as a public speaker who admits a bit of nervousness often becomes more confident, you might find sharing about your social anxiety actually helps to lessen it. You’ve made a first step in the process toward learning how to tell someone you have social anxiety.