How Do I Talk to Someone Who I Think Has Social Anxiety?

Tips About How to Discuss Signs of Social Anxiety in Someone You Know

Talk to someone about social anxiety.
Learn how to bring up the topic of social anxiety. Moyan_Bren / Flickr

If you think someone you know may have social anxiety disorder (SAD), it can be hard to know what steps to take to approach that person about the problem. Many people with SAD wait years before getting help, and most do not seek help at all.

If you think that someone you know has social anxiety disorder, your involvement could make a difference in that person's life.

Below are some tips about how to talk to someone with social anxiety.

When is social anxiety a problem?

Is your friend simply shy or is it SAD? If she is not functioning well in day-to-day situations and is using avoidance as a coping strategy, these are some signs that it is time to seek professional help.

Although it is important to broach the topic of social anxiety, direct confrontation probably won't get you far. People with social anxiety disorder are likely to react with embarrassment at the mention of the topic and denial of symptoms.

Unless you have a close relationship and have discussed problems with anxiety in the past, you may have more success approaching the subject using different methods. Below are some ideas about how to introduce the topic of social anxiety.

  1. In an email, you could provide links to literature about SAD such as the following. Mention that you thought these articles may be of interest.
  1. If email is not an option, you could provide the person with paper-based literature. Print out some key articles on the topic (such as the links above) and mention that you think they might be of interest.
  2. Buy the person a book about how to cope with social anxiety. Tell the person that you came across this book and you thought that it might be of interest.
  1. Show the person a video about social anxiety disorder.
  2. Watch a movie about a character with symptoms of the disorder.
  3. Tell someone in a helping position (such as a clergy person or counselor) about your concerns. Ask that person to broach the subject with your friend or family member.
  4. If you suspect your friend or family member may have another disorder (such as depression), it may be easier to broach the topic of the other symptoms first. Once that person is talking about symptoms, the conversation may naturally progress to social anxiety.

If and when the person is willing to talk with you about social anxiety, it is important to listen carefully and be sensitive to the other person's feelings.

Encourage the person to talk with a doctor and indicate that you will go along to provide support. Although approaching someone about a problem with social anxiety can be awkward, the goal of getting that person appropriate treatment such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication is well worth it.


ABC News On Call. Living with anxiety disorders. Accessed March 17, 2009.