6 Ways to Beat Social Anxiety

Everyone needs a room of one’s own, some more often than others.  In Part 2 of this series on the various states of solitude, Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen offers tips on how to tell the difference between satisfied solitude and fearful avoidance. Plus - how to ease your social fears.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
6-minute read
Episode #20

In Sometimes I Just Want to Be Alone, we explored healthy and less-healthy ways of seeking solitude. 

Confused about the difference between rejuvenating solitude and fear-driven avoidance?  Here are questions to ask yourself and some tips to try:

Is Wanting to Be Alone a Problem?

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1)   How do you feel when the phone rings?  Likewise, how do you feel when you are invited to an event?  When someone wants your company or attention, pay attention to your reaction.  If you experience dread, resistance, or physical symptoms like a racing heart, shallow breathing, or a clenched stomach, these may be signs of social anxiety or past trauma.  However, letting that call go to voicemail because you are immersed in something else, or simply deciding not to answer the phone for a while is intentional, not avoidant.

2)   When you get some time alone, how do you feel?  If the answer is rejuvenated, energized, or otherwise positive, then rock on, my introverted friend.  If the answer is “relieved,” look closer. “I don’t have to go to that party and feel awkward!”  “I didn’t have to talk to him!” “Phew, no one noticed I wasn’t there.”  Relief in moderation is typical, but consistently turning inward for relief may imply avoidance. 

3)   If you feel like you can only be yourself when you’re by yourself, here is a question: What would happen if others saw the real you?  If the answer is something negative, then your job, your friends, your spouse, or whomever you’re performing for might be a poor match for the real you.   A change may be in order.  On the flip side, if you think “the real you” isn’t safe to display—perhaps you believe you’re broken, unloveable, or worthless—it may be time for some hard work with a qualified therapist you like and trust.

4)   Overall, the biggest question to ask is this: Does time spent alone keep you from living your life?  If you crave solitude only to escape from the world, this might be a red flag.  But if time on your own helps you live your life, and you want to be alone because you are recharging your batteries, immersed in a solitary project, or genuinely enjoy your own company, close that door and do your thing! 

If you have determined that social situations do make you more than a little uncomfortable or actually keep you from living your life, here are 6 tips to feel better....


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen was the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast from 2014 to 2019. She is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. Her debut book, HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, was published in March 2018.