What Not to Say to Someone with Social Anxiety
If you have social anxiety, the last thing that you probably want to hear is someone calling out your anxiety.
That being said, this post is going to go over 47 things that people sometimes say when they are talking to a person with social anxiety in an attempt to be helpful.
These comments can make a person feel worse and may even cause them to avoid others because of how it makes them feel.
1. “You’re being so weird right now.”
When you tell someone that they are acting weird, you are pointing out their social anxiety, which is their worst fear.
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No matter how they might feel, they are not acting “weird,” and you should never say this to them. Social anxiety is a very real thing, and it is not a matter of being “weird.”
2. “You have nothing to be ashamed of.”
This is also something people say when they want to encourage the other person to worry less about social anxiety.
However, people who have it are already deeply ashamed and they don’t need to be told that they should not feel embarrassed or humiliated by their own thoughts and feelings.
3. “Just stop being so self-conscious.”
This statement implies that there is an easy way out of social anxiety when really the only thing a person can do is to gradually practice social skills.
4. “You don’t need to be so afraid of people.”
People with social anxiety want nothing more than to not feel the way they do, but there is no easy solution and it will take work on their part before feeling comfortable in any given situation.
5. “It’s all in your head.”
This statement implies that the person with social anxiety is just making up or exaggerating their symptoms.
This can make the person feel like they are a burden or their feelings don’t matter as much.
6. “You need to get over it.”
This statement implies that anxiety is something that can be “gotten over” with enough willpower and determination. In reality, most people with clinical anxiety need therapy or medication to cope with the problem.
7. “You’re fine.”
When someone tells a person with social anxiety that they are “fine,” the other person is trying to imply that their feelings don’t matter because there isn’t anything wrong.
This comment can make an individual feel as though they are overreacting or making a big deal out of nothing, which can worsen their anxiety and may even cause them to avoid others because of how it makes them feel.
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8. “You’re so shy!”
Telling a person with social anxiety that they are “shy” can make them feel bad about themselves because it implies their shyness is something to be embarrassed about.
It also makes the individual believe that only shy people have social anxiety, which isn’t true!
9. “Don’t worry so much.”
When someone tells a person with social anxiety not to worry as often, they are simplifying the problem.
Social anxiety is a complex mental illness that should be taken seriously and not minimized or brushed off as something less than it really is!
10. “Just go talk to her.”
If you’ve never had social anxiety, then this might seem like sound advice.
But, for those who have experienced the debilitating reality of living with social anxiety, it can feel impossible to just ‘go talk’ to someone.
11. “You’re not that bad.”
Telling someone with social anxiety they need to stop being so hard on themselves is a surefire way of making them feel worse about their condition.
In fact, it’s usually the last thing someone who lives with social anxiety needs to hear!
12. “Just say the words, it’s not that big of a deal.”
This comment implies that a person should “just do it,” but social anxiety causes people to feel very anxious and afraid.
Saying this could cause someone with social anxiety to have physical symptoms like shaking or feeling lightheaded because they are so scared about what could happen if they make a mistake. Never minimize someone’s anxiety.
13. “Get out of your comfort zone and try new things!”
Telling someone to “get out of their comfort zone” is not going to help with social anxiety.
They are already feeling anxious and afraid about being around people they don’t know, so telling them to do things that will make it worse does not give the person advice in a helpful way.
14. “Just go up there and talk!”
This comment can lead a person with social anxiety to avoid more interactions with strangers.
It can also make them think they are being judged for not talking when it is their turn to speak, which could lead them to worry about what others may be thinking and will continue the cycle of self-doubt in this person’s head.
15. “Give me a hug!”
Adults can sometimes force their children to hug other people. This can lead to a person with social anxiety feeling trapped, overwhelmed, or judged for not hugging back when they don’t want to.
16. “I’m sure you feel this way because of your low self-esteem.”
A person with social anxiety may already feel like they are not good enough and may be comparing themselves to others. So, this statement can be hurtful.
Don’t mention a person’s low self-esteem to them unless you want to start a conversation about it.
17. “You’re too sensitive.”
This is not usually an accurate statement for someone with social anxiety because they are reacting to physical and emotional symptoms that feel very real to them. It’s not your place to judge their reactions.
Saying this can make the person feel like you don’t understand them or their issue, so just avoid it altogether.
18. “You look so awkward right now.”
This statement may make the person feel like they’re being laughed at or judged for how they appear in the moment, which is actually their worst fear.
Instead, you should try to offer a supportive comment like, “I know you’re feeling uncomfortable. It’s okay.”
19. “You should really just relax and be yourself!”
This statement may sound comforting in theory but it doesn’t work for someone with social anxiety.
This is because they are so focused on being perfect all of the time, even though that’s not realistic or possible, that they don’t have a good concept of what it means to “be themselves.”
20. “You should have seen how she made me feel. It was so embarrassing.”
This statement can make the person with social anxiety question themselves and think that other people are judging them too, which is their biggest fear.
Social anxiety stems from feeling negatively judged by others, not just making a mistake or awkwardness in front of someone else.
21. “Don’t be so paranoid.”
This statement is dismissive without really understanding the person’s anxiety and what it feels like to have social anxiety, which can make someone feel invalidated and misunderstood.
22. “I know you’re anxious because (s)he said/did that.”
This sentence assumes that you know what made the person anxious and how they feel about it. This could be insulting because a person’s social anxiety isn’t always so easy to figure out.
23. “Why don’t you go to a doctor or something?”
Social anxiety can make it difficult to see a doctor. The stigma and fear of being judged in the waiting room or by a physician is just one reason why it can be hard for someone with social anxiety to find help.
22. “You’re just making this up.”
Someone who has chronic and debilitating symptoms of social anxiety isn’t likely to make it all up for attention or sympathy.
23. “I know how you feel – I’m nervous all the time too!”
It can be really hard on people with social anxiety when someone says “I understand how you’re feeling.”
And then proceeds to tell a story of their own inability to function in certain situations that is actually very mild compared to what the person with social anxiety is experiencing.
24. “You don’t need medication”
Medication for anxiety can be very helpful and is necessary for some people. Many who are diagnosed with social anxiety can function well when they take medication.
In other words, they experience their symptoms less severely than before taking the medication.
25. “Just get drunk and it won’t matter.”
Social anxiety can show up in different ways, and people with social anxiety may be more sensitive to alcohol or prone to becoming addicted.
Drinking a lot of alcohol can make them feel even worse the next day if they don’t know how much is too much for their body.
26. “You’ll meet new people!”
While this might be true, a person with social anxiety may feel too scared to meet new people.
They might think that they’re not interesting enough or not good-looking enough for someone else’s attention, which can be very discouraging and lead the person into feeling more anxious.
27. “It’s just a meeting!”
In some cases, this could be true. But in other cases, there could be a lot at stake, like being interviewed for a job.
A person might have experienced rejection from an interview in the past and is now afraid of it happening again.
28. “You need to stop thinking about it.”
Most people with social anxiety know they overthink things but this doesn’t mean that it’s easy to stop.
It could be difficult for them to just “stop thinking” and focus on what is happening in the moment.
29. “It’s just a party, it won’t kill you.”
Saying this could upset someone with social anxiety and make them think about all the things that could go wrong. It’s not easy for them to loosen up and they might feel like it’s hopeless.
30. “Just be yourself.”
This is an impossible feat for someone who has social anxiety and they will take this as a personal attack.
They’ve probably spent their entire life trying to be themselves around other people and it’s not working.
31. “You just need to grow a thicker skin.”
This makes someone with social anxiety feel like they’re broken and that is far from the truth.
They might think they have no hope of ever feeling better if people keep saying this to them, which isn’t true at all.
32. “Be more confident!”
It is very unhelpful to tell someone to be more confident because they can try their hardest and it still won’t work.
This will make them feel like they’re doing something wrong or not trying hard enough,
33. “I know how you feel.”
This statement can be invalidating. Just because somebody knows your struggle doesn’t mean they also have it as well.
They might not fully understand what social anxiety is or all of its symptoms, which are different for everyone
34. “Just relax!”
This is often said to someone who needs to be comforted. For those with social anxiety and panic attacks, this can actually cause more tension in the body because it might make them feel like they’re losing control of themselves.
Their heart rate will accelerate and their fight or flight response will be activated.
35. “I know what you mean!”
You don’t. The person with social anxiety is feeling so much more than what’s being said or conveyed in their tone of voice that the listener cannot possibly understand what they’re going through.
Only someone who has had a personal experience can empathize. Saying this to someone with social anxiety will only make them feel worse.
36. “I had a panic attack once!”
Again, you don’t know what they’re feeling. You can say things like “That sounds really scary,” or ” I understand how hard it is to be in that place.”
That would give the person with social anxiety someone who understands and empathizes.
37. “Why don’t you go talk to somebody?.”
It can be hard for a person with social anxiety to get up the nerve, but they also might know that their presence is going to make things worse for themselves and others.
They may feel like an outsider or like they don’t belong because they don’t want to be seen.
38. “The worst that can happen is you’ll embarrass yourself.”
This could make them feel even more nervous about what might go wrong. While you might see this as a low-stakes situation, for them it might feel like they’re playing Russian roulette.
39. “You have nothing to be afraid of.”
This comment is more hurtful than it seems. Someone with social anxiety feels that the worst thing that can happen is they’ll embarrass themselves.
They know that their fear is irrational, but that doesn’t make it any less real.
40. “Why can’t you just be normal?”
It is important for people with social anxiety to know that their thoughts, feelings, and actions are all valid.
It can be discouraging to know that the people you are close to thinks that your thoughts, feelings, or actions make no sense.
41. “Everyone gets shy sometimes.”
Social anxiety is not the same as shyness. When a person with social anxiety feels overwhelmed in an unfamiliar situation, there may be feelings of fear and panic that take over their body.
Social anxiety can also make someone feel like they are being judged without reason or scrutinized for every word they say.
What’s worse than having a mental health condition that leaves you feeling anxious and insecure? Hearing someone say something insensitive about it!
One thing people should never do is diminish someone’s struggles by telling them what could be causing their symptoms (e.g., “You just need more confidence; everyone feels this way sometimes).
The best strategy when speaking to someone who has social anxiety is to empathize with their feelings, validate them as real, and then offer some kind words of encouragement instead.
Related Posts about Talking About Social Anxiety
- 69 Things to Say to Someone with Anxiety
- What to Say When Asked, “Why Are You So Quiet?”
- How to Tell Someone You Have Social Anxiety