By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 28 January 2015)
Many people who suffer from panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder already have a tendency toward introversion, and feeling fearful or depressed can make it difficult to socialize. For some people, this becomes a vicious cycle, with isolation increasing anxiety and depression, which in turn reduces motivation to go out and interact with people.
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, it’s very important to have supportive people around you and maintain regular social contact. If those you associate with aren’t supportive and you can’t bring yourself to make new friends in person, there are plenty of support groups both live and online for people with anxiety disorders (I’ve provided links to these groups at the bottom of this article).
Tell Others About Your Anxiety
Sharing worries with another person can significantly reduce anxiety. The other person can provide a reality check, reassuring you that the worst is unlikely to happen, you shouldn’t let your fears get the best of you, and you aren’t alone.
Not talking about panic disorder can make it worse, whereas opening up to supportive people can bring significant relief for a number of reasons:
- You’ll have less fear about having panic attacks in front of other people if they know about your disorder, which reduces the likelihood that you’ll panic in their presence.
- Many people have experienced problems with anxiety, depression, and other issues, so they are likely to be sympathetic.
- Telling others about your problems can give them the courage to open up about their own anxiety, depression, or other mental or physical health issues, so that they will be more relaxed around you in the future as well.
- Other people may have good coping strategies that they can share with you.
Choose Your Friends Carefully
When seeking social contact, it’s important to be choosy. The people you associate with should be positive and supportive. Otherwise, they can do more harm than good.
Although socializing with others tends to be very good for anxious people, there are situations in which it is counterproductive. Critical, contemptuous, or cruel individuals are likely to make things worse, particularly if you feel dependent on someone who is not very nice to you.
Sometimes panic disorder can act as a signal that one or more relationships in your life need evaluating. Do you have people in your life who continually take, emotionally or physically (time, money, energy, etc.), and give little or nothing in return? Unless these people suffer from mental or physical illnesses that make it difficult for them to reciprocate, you may need to reduce contact or even cut ties in some cases. Of course, this can be tricky when the other person is a family member who has a drug problem or other issue. In such cases, it can be beneficial to join a support group or forum associated with that particular problem.
Volunteer to Help Others
Doing things for others provides a helper’s high that can combat feelings of anxiety and stress, as well as reducing the risk of suffering from physical illness (for more information on this, see “The Science of Good Deeds” by Jeanne Lerche Davis – there is a link to this article in the reference list below).
In addition to helping friends online by providing emotional support on forums and via e-mail, look for local volunteer opportunities where you can make a contribution. Or help a family member, friend, or neighbour by providing practical assistance with something. You can also significantly improve the lives of those who suffer from loneliness by offering your company. This sort of meaningful social activity provides great anti-anxiety benefits.
Online Anxiety Support Groups and Forums
Joining an anxiety support group or forum can provide a number of benefits. You get the social support you need and the opportunity to share experiences with those who understand what it’s like to suffer from anxiety, as well as the opportunity to help and support others.
There are plenty of resources online for people suffering from anxiety disorders who want to join support groups and forums, such as:
There are local anxiety support groups in many areas as well. A quick online search usually turns up quite a few regional options.
More Anxiety Resources
For a full list of anxiety and panic remedies as well as free resources, visit the main Anxiety and Panic Disorder page.
- Lerche Davis, J. (Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD, 2005). “The Science of Good Deeds: The ‘Helper’s High’ Could Help You Live a Longer, Healthier Life.” WebMD.com.
- Maertz, K. (2014). “Panic/Anxiety Attacks.” University of Alberta, UWell.UAlberta.ca.
- Smith, M., MA; Segal, R., MA; & Segal, J., PhD. (2012, January). “Therapy for Anxiety Disorders.” HelpGuide.org.