How to Make Friends When You Have Social Anxiety (2022)

Making friends can be tough for anyone, but it may be particularly challenging for those with social anxiety disorder ​(SAD). Social anxiety is a type of anxiety that causes people to feel extremely nervous and self-conscious in social situations. This often leads to the avoidance of social situations, which can make it difficult to form and maintain friendships.

If you are living with SAD, you may want to make friends but do not know where to start. However, there are things that you can do to make friends, broaden your social circle, and build fulfilling relationships.

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How to Make Friends When You Have Social Anxiety (1)

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Fight Negative Thinking

Negative thinking can play a significant part in making social anxiety worse. Examples of negative thoughts that can make it more difficult to make friends include thinking that no one is interested in what you have to say, overanalyzing people's words and actions, thinking you can tell what other people are thinking, and always assuming the worst.

Cognitive reframing is one strategy that you can use to help change these thoughts. This process helps people learn to recognize thought distortions, adjust their mindset, and see things in a more optimistic way.

You can practice cognitive reframing by:

  • Identifying your negative thoughts
  • Assessing whether these thoughts are realistic or accurate
  • Actively challening your negative thoughts
  • Replacing your negative thoughts with more positive, helpful ones

Making friends takes time, but if you feel that you cannot meet new people or that idea of trying to meet new people is too frightening or overwhelming, it may be a good idea to consult a therapist.

Working on treating SAD can help you relax and enjoy being around other people more. Once your social anxiety is under control, you should find it easier to approach new people and start developing friendships.

How to Stop Thinking Bad Thoughts and Get Over Your Social Anxiety

Set Small Goals

Instead of immediately trying to forge new friendships, you might start by setting smaller goals and then taking small steps towards them. Some small goals you might want to set include:

  • Smiling at a stranger
  • Exchanging pleasantries with the cashier at the grocery store
  • Making eye contact and waving at a neighbor
  • Texting a current acquaintance or friend to say hi

Practice Social Skills

As you work toward making new friends, it can also be helpful to learn and practice your social skills. This can not only help relieve your anxiety, but it can also make interacting and meeting people easier.

Some skills that can help include using open body language and learning how to make small talk with new acquaintances. Rehearsing these conversations and having a list of small talk topics can help you feel more comfortable in these casual interactions.

Look at all of your social interactions—whether they are at work, school, church, or even the grocery store—as opportunities to practice your skills.

(Video) How Do You Make Friends if You Have Social Anxiety? | Kati Morton

You won't walk away from every encounter with a new friend, but you will have practiced smiling, chatting, and other social skills. It also gives you the chance to practice managing the anxiety that these interactions can cause.

Meet New People

In order to find potential friends, you need to look for opportunities to get to know new people. When looking for potential friends, the best places to start are also the easiest—your interests.

Do you work with others? Do you know someone who has a large circle of friends? Could you join a group or organization to increase the number of people that you are in contact with?

It is important not to be too picky in the beginning. Anyone could be a potential friend. First impressions are not necessarily the best indicators of who could become a long-term friend.

When you want to meet new people and potential friends, consider:

  • Asking a coworker to lunch
  • Joining a book club at the library
  • Volunteering at a local non-profit

Online apps such as Meetup and Bumble can also be useful for finding new friends. Such apps can be particularly appealing to people with social anxiety because they allow you to get to know someone to a certain degree before meeting in person.

In addition to making new connections, consider reaching out to current acquaintances such as neighbors, co-workers, friends of friends, or other parents from your child's school.

Say Yes to Invitations

As you meet new people, work on both accepting invitations and making plans with others. When you are invited to spend time with others, do your best not to turn them down. Saying yes helps show that you are interested and willing to make the effort to strengthen the relationship.

By the same token, you shouldn't always expect the other person to make plans. Though making plans can be a challenging task for those with SAD, it is important to show others that you are interested in them and want to get together. Start small by asking them to meet for coffee, visit a local bookstore, or go shopping together.

Be patient as your friendship grows. Research shows it can take 50 or more hours before an acquaintance becomes a true friend.

15 Easy Ways to Find and Make Friends as an Adult

Stay in Touch

Once you have begun to form friendships, it is important to stay in touch. Make sure to get contact information for the people that you meet, whether it's their cell phone number or a link to their social media pages.

Over time you will come to learn how often certain people stay in touch. Be sure to do your part to contact your new friends and make plans. Talking to each other in person or on the phone can be important, but staying in touch can also involve sending a text or sharing a link on social media.

Building friendships takes time and mutual effort. Make creating new friendships a priority, but realize that the race to the finish line is a marathon, not a sprint.

A Word From Verywell

Friendships can be a great source of support, strength, and enjoyment. Finding new friends is challenging for most people, but social anxiety can make it more challenging at times.

(Video) The Key To Overcoming Social Anxiety

However, having social anxiety doesn't have to mean that you can't build new connections. By taking small steps, combatting negative thinking, and looking for opportunities to meet new people, you can begin to build rewarding friendships.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I make friends when I have social anxiety and depression?

    Anxiety and depression can both lead to negative thoughts that make forming friendships more difficult. Learning how to identify, combat, and replace these patterns with more encouraging thoughts can help you in social situations. Work on building social skills, practice your social interactions, and look for chances to meet people who share your interests.

  • How do you keep friends when you have social anxiety?

    While social anxiety can make you want to stay home and avoid social situations, it is important to stay in touch with your friends. Sometimes this will involve forcing yourself to accept invitations that you might otherwise decline. Over time, exposing yourself to social situations can help reduce feelings of social anxiety.

  • Why do I have a hard time making friends?

    There could be a number of reasons why you have a hard time making friends. Many people feel a certain degree of anxiety when meeting new people. Or you may have never had the opportunity to learn how to socialize effectively. Situational factors such as moving to a new area and don't know anybody yet can also play a role.

    Major life changes, such as starting a new job or becoming a parent, can lead to feelings of isolation and make it harder to build new connections. It is important to remember that many people find it challenging to make friends as adults. One way to address this is to actively seek friendships and look for opportunities to meet new people.

    Learn More:Why Can't I Make Friends?

    (Video) How to Easily Overcome Social Anxiety - Prof. Jordan Peterson

4 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Social anxiety disorder: More than just shyness.

  2. Managing Social Anxiety and Making New Friends in College. Williamette University.

  3. Hall J. How many hours does it take to make a friend?.J Soc Pers Relat. 2018;36(4):1278-1296. doi:10.1177/0265407518761225

  4. Amati V, Meggiolaro S, Rivellini G, Zaccarin S. Social relations and life satisfaction: the role of friends.Genus. 2018;74(1):7. doi:10.1186/s41118-018-0032-z

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FAQs

How do I Socialise if I have social anxiety? ›

9 Socialization Tips for People with Social Anxiety
  1. Ask if you can bring a friend. ...
  2. Bring a comfort item. ...
  3. Upon arrival, find a safe place. ...
  4. Preplan your departure. ...
  5. Find the snacks/food/beverages. ...
  6. Allow yourself warmup time. ...
  7. Prepare general discussion topics. ...
  8. Remain calm and think positive.
4 days ago

Do people with social anxiety have no friends? ›

People with social anxiety disorder tend to have trouble making friends—and to assume the friendships they have are not high quality. The problem with this perception, according to new research, is that their friends don't necessarily agree.

Why am I afraid of making friends? ›

If you aren't comfortable with yourself, you might be scared to make friends. You may be afraid that when they see the “real” you, they'll decide you are unworthy of their friendship. Or you may fear that people will only befriend you out of pity. To overcome this problem, try working on your self-esteem.

Why do I feel socially awkward? ›

Social awkwardness isn't a mental health issue — there's no diagnostic criteria or even a concrete definition. It's more of a feeling, or a collection of feelings and experiences that form a pattern in your life. These feelings and experiences often result from: failure to notice certain social cues.

What is the fear of making friends called? ›

Social anxiety is a type of anxiety condition that makes people feel anxious or fearful in social settings. People who have social anxiety disorder might have a hard time meeting new people, talking to them, and possibly attending social events.

Why is it so hard to make friends with social anxiety? ›

Social anxiety is a type of anxiety that causes people to feel extremely nervous and self-conscious in social situations. This often leads to the avoidance of social situations, which can make it difficult to form and maintain friendships.

Why do I have no friends at all? ›

When someone doesn't have friends it's almost never because their core personality is unlikable. It's usually due to a mix of interfering factors such as: They're not knowledgeable about the skills for making friends. They're too shy, socially anxious, insecure, or unconfident to pursue friendships.

What are 3 symptoms of social anxiety? ›

Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include constant:
  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged negatively.
  • Worry about embarrassing or humiliating yourself.
  • Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers.
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious.
19 Jun 2021

What should you not say with social anxiety? ›

What Not to Say to Someone With Social Anxiety
  • Why Are You so Quiet?
  • You Just Need to Think Positive.
  • You Just Need to Face Your Fears.
  • I Know How You Feel; I'm Shy, Too.
  • Why Don't You Have a Drink to Loosen Up?
  • Let Me Order for You.
  • Wow, Your Face Just Turned Really Red.
4 Dec 2020

What causes an increase of social anxiety? ›

It can be linked to a history of abuse, bullying, or teasing. Shy kids are also more likely to become socially anxious adults, as are children with overbearing or controlling parents. If you develop a health condition that draws attention to your appearance or voice, that could trigger social anxiety, too.

How do I make friends without seeming desperate? ›

How To Not Come Off As Desperate
  1. Focus on shared interests. ...
  2. Invite a friend to something you'll do anyway. ...
  3. Avoid complaining about your social life. ...
  4. Match your friend's level of effort. ...
  5. Suggest a group meetup. ...
  6. Don't ask to hang out every time you make contact. ...
  7. Invite people to hang out after an activity.
24 Mar 2021

Why do I feel awkward around everyone? ›

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a mental illness. It belongs to a group of mental illnesses called anxiety disorders. People with social anxiety disorder feel very nervous and uncomfortable in social situations like meeting new people.

How do I become more socially confident? ›

How to Be More Socially Confident (Without Being Fake)
  1. Remember that you already play many roles in life. ...
  2. Slowly move beyond your comfort zone. ...
  3. Meet people who share your interests. ...
  4. Find a socially confident role model. ...
  5. Focus on other people rather than yourself. ...
  6. Know that people are focused on themselves.
30 Jul 2021

Why can't I talk to new people? ›

Selective mutism is a severe anxiety disorder where a person is unable to speak in certain social situations, such as with classmates at school or to relatives they do not see very often. It usually starts during childhood and, if left untreated, can persist into adulthood.

How do I mentally prepare myself to socialize? ›

How To Socialize Better If You're An Introvert
  1. Try Going Out When You Don't Want To. ...
  2. Practice Some Convo Starters. ...
  3. Give Yourself Some Goals. ...
  4. Make Sure You Recharge. ...
  5. Take Lots Of Breaks. ...
  6. Get Ready To Paraphrase. ...
  7. Wear A Statement Piece. ...
  8. Fake It 'Til You Make It.
18 Aug 2016

How do I overcome social anxiety and shyness? ›

8 Tips for Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness
  1. Incorporate probiotics.
  2. Reduce caffeine and alcohol.
  3. Consider therapy.
  4. Practice smiling.
  5. Leave your comfort zone.
  6. Bring in fun.
  7. Talk with a friend.
  8. Interrogate worries.

Is social anxiety curable? ›

It is more common in females than in males. However, social anxiety disorder is treatable. Talking therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medications can help people overcome their symptoms.

What is the root cause of social anxiety? ›

Family history. You're more likely to develop social anxiety disorder if your biological parents or siblings have the condition. Negative experiences. Children who experience teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule or humiliation may be more prone to social anxiety disorder.

Videos

1. How To Make Friends When You Have Social Anxiety?
(Social Anxiety Solutions)
2. How to Make Friends with Social Anxiety
(marinashutup)
3. 3 ways to make FRIENDS when you have social anxiety (it's possible!)
(Dr. Tynessa Franks)
4. 8 Signs You Might Have Social Anxiety
(Psych2Go)
5. Social Anxiety & Making Friends: How to Make Friends When You Have Social Anxiety
(Special Bridge)
6. How To Make Friends When You Have Social Anxiety
(Stephan Gunville)

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