Social anxiety can impact anyone. It refers to any individual who deals with irrational anxiety in social situations or through different interactions. Neurodivergent people often get labeled as “socially anxious,” though it’s even more common that they get mislabeled as shy. For those on the autism spectrum or with other neurodiverse conditions, being around groups of people or having to interact with strangers can be even more overwhelming. With that in mind, let’s take a look at six ways you can navigate neurodivergent social anxiety.
1. Accept Your Anxiety
If you’re neurodivergent and you’ve struggled with unfamiliar social situations, speaking in front of groups, or even interacting with friends and family at times, you could be dealing with social anxiety. It’s important to accept that and understand it. Don’t mislabel yourself or try to downplay your feelings. The sooner you accept that you’re dealing with social anxiety, the sooner you can take active steps toward managing it.
2. Don’t Blame Yourself
It’s not uncommon for people at the higher end of the neurodivergent spectrum to place blame on themselves or somehow feel guilty for being socially anxious. Unfortunately, that can lead to even more anxiety. You can’t blame yourself for social anxiety any more than you can blame yourself for being neurodivergent. It’s not something you did or something you can control. Let yourself off the hook.
3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Exposure Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the best ways to deal with social anxiety as a neurodivergent individual. Almost anyone can benefit from CBT for social anxiety, but for someone on the spectrum, it can help them learn specific coping strategies unique to their comfort zone. Like everyone else, it can also help decrease the fear caused by social situations and help you replace negative thoughts with more positive ones. It’s important that your therapist also understands how to incorporate social exposure activities into therapy, to help you manage and overcome your social anxiety long-term.
4. Social Skills Training
It’s not uncommon for people who are neurodivergent to want to learn better social skills. Social skills training is a fantastic way to make you feel more comfortable around people and fight back against anxiety. This type of training can help with everything from interpreting body language and facial expressions to learning how to engage in reciprocal conversation and ask questions that remain on topic. The more prepared you feel in social settings, the less anxious you’ll be. Social skills training can make that a reality.
5. Receive a Proper Diagnosis
If you’re on the spectrum, you might not have a social anxiety disorder. Your desire to be solitary and your hesitation around groups of people could be the result of your neurodivergent condition. It’s important to receive a proper diagnosis, either way, to get more clarity around your own specific and individualized needs. With that in mind, if you tend to struggle in social situations, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or mental health professional. Getting an official anxiety diagnosis is the best first step toward actually treating it. Anxiety can feel much worse to a person with a neurodivergent issue. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t navigate those waters and find comfort in social situations.
Lean on your support system and people you already are comfortable around. Use some of these tips to help you find that comfort. If you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to contact me for more information or to set up an appointment as soon as possible.