The Power Of Community: Social Anxiety Support Groups

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Social anxiety is a common mental health concern characterized by nervousness and self-consciousness in social situations. Often arising out of a fear of judgment or embarrassment, social anxiety can significantly affect an individual’s daily life and relationships; and in some cases, it can rise to the level of a disorder. While conventional treatment methods like medication and therapy can help an individual effectively manage social anxiety, support groups may also play an important role in recovery. Given the unique challenges of this mental health concern, it can help you experience a community of people who understand social anxiety and can provide a helpful and supportive environment for addressing it. Below, we’re going to discuss the value of support groups for social anxiety and how you can take advantage of this valuable resource. 

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Support can be crucial when you’re managing social anxiety

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety refers to feelings of fear and nervousness in social situations. While it is normal to feel anxious occasionally in social settings, excessive worry can seriously disrupt one’s life—and it may be a sign of social anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder that affects approximately 7% of US adults.

The condition can make it hard for an individual to foster healthy relationships, participate constructively at work or school, and perform a variety of other everyday functions. Despite these potentially challenging effects, social anxiety is a treatable condition. Symptoms can be successfully managed through a combination of therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and other strategies, including support groups. 

What are social anxiety support groups?

Support groups are communities in which individuals with a common concern can come together and exchange their experiences, provide support, and learn coping strategies. Social anxiety support groups can be particularly helpful because they encourage connection and interaction between constituents that may otherwise be lacking in their lives. These groups typically follow a structured format and may be led by a mental health professional or simply an individual who can help facilitate conversation. Participants are often encouraged to discuss their thoughts and feelings while also offering support and guidance to other participants.

Benefits of social anxiety support groups

  • Safe and supportive environment
  • Sense of community and belonging
  • Opportunity to discuss experiences and feelings
  • Chance to learn coping strategies and techniques
  • Validation and normalization
  • Decreased isolation and loneliness
  • Encouragement and motivation

One of the most significant benefits of social anxiety support groups might be the community feel they provide. For individuals with social anxiety, it may be challenging to connect with others, which could lead to feelings of isolation. Participating in a support group allows individuals to feel accepted by a cohort of people who understand their experiences and can offer support.

Another key benefit of social anxiety support groups is they provide the opportunity for people to discover helpful coping strategies. Through group discussion and interaction, participants can learn new ways of managing their anxiety by developing techniques together and providing each other with insights based on their own experiences. The group setting can also provide reassurance and encouragement, helping individuals feel validated and more confident in their ability to manage anxiety.

How to find a social anxiety support group

To start your search for a social anxiety support group, consider utilizing sites that combine information on support groups. This can give you an idea of your options and provide a good jumping-off point. For example, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) has a support group lookup feature that allows you to search through different types of support groups in various locations. You can filter results to search through only support groups related to social anxiety. You can also search through the site Meetup to find social anxiety groups near you.  

Online support groups can also be a helpful resource. These groups are typically run through social media platforms or websites and provide a space for individuals to connect with others and exchange their experiences. One such resource is the Mental Health America Inspire site, which provides a community for people living with a range of concerns. The ADAA also has four online communities dedicated to specific mental health concerns. 

Consider asking a healthcare provider if they have recommendations. They might know about smaller or less formal support groups in your area. Additionally, nearby hospitals or community centers may host groups that are aren’t as well advertised. 

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Factors to consider when choosing a social anxiety support group

When choosing a social anxiety support group, there might be several factors to consider, including group size and format, location, facilitator qualifications and experience, and group culture and dynamics. The size and format of the group could play an especially large role in determining its effectiveness for individuals with social anxiety. For instance, smaller groups might provide a more intimate setting where individuals feel comfortable discussing their experiences and feelings. Larger groups, on the other hand, could offer more opportunities for interaction and discussion.

Location may be another crucial factor when choosing a social anxiety support group. Joining a group that is conveniently located could make it easier to stay engaged and participate regularly.

The individual who conducts meetings can make a significant difference in a support group’s efficacy. A trained facilitator with experience working with individuals with social anxiety can help create a supportive and safe environment and provide enhanced guidance as participants work through their challenges.

Additionally, consider the group's culture and dynamics to determine whether it aligns with your needs and goals. Some groups may have a more structured format, while others may be more informal. Try to find a group that feels comfortable and safe for you. This could make it easier for you to connect with others and participate in discussions. 

What to expect in a social anxiety support group

Meetings for support groups may look different depending on how structured or large a group is. During a group session, participants are often encouraged to talk about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Some groups may cover different facets of social anxiety during each meeting. For example, during one meeting you may discuss managing nervousness when meeting new people, and during another, you might focus on developing techniques for alleviating the physical effects of anxiety. In addition to group discussions, support groups might include activities like mindfulness exercises and relaxation techniques that can help individuals manage their anxiety. 

How to prepare for a social anxiety support group

Joining a social anxiety support group might be a significant step for you, so it can help to prepare yourself for the experience, which could include:

  • Setting clear goals for your participation
  • Researching the group and facilitator to ensure it aligns with your needs
  • Preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for the group session
  • Being open to discussing your experiences and feelings
  • Remaining patient and give yourself time to adjust to the group dynamic

Determining your objectives regarding participation in the group could help you focus your attention and get the most out of the experience. These goals might include learning new coping strategies, connecting with others, or feeling less isolated.

Learning more about the specific support group you’re joining and its facilitator can help you feel more confident and prepared for the experience. This might include reading reviews, checking out the group's website, and reaching out to others who have participated in the group.

Preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for the group session might involve reflecting on your experiences and feelings while also getting into a positive state of mind. Try to be open to expressing to others, which could help create a sense of connection and support.

Lastly, joining a support group could be a significant change, and it might take time to get used to the environment and connect with the other participants. It might take multiple sessions for you to start to settle into the group and feel comfortable expressing, and that’s OK.

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Support can be crucial when you’re managing social anxiety

Finding support through online therapy

Research suggests that online therapy can provide effective care to those who feel uncomfortable in social situations. For example, in one study, researchers found that online therapy significantly improved symptoms of social anxiety disorder in participants, in addition to decreasing symptoms of general anxiety and depression. The study also mentions that these results were sustained for a year post-treatment. 

Online therapy is another effective tool for managing social anxiety and providing personalized, effective care. Through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can receive support remotely, which can be helpful if you’re not comfortable speaking with a therapist in person. Your therapist can also help you get hold of useful resources, such as at-home exercises geared toward helping you manage social anxiety symptoms on your own time. By combining the support of a social anxiety group with tailored guidance and care, online therapy can help you manage social anxiety and improve your mental and emotional well-being.

Takeaway

Support groups can be particularly effective in helping individuals navigate the unique challenges of social anxiety. By providing participants with the opportunity to connect with people who are experiencing similar challenges and learn coping strategies, support groups can help individuals alleviate symptoms of social anxiety and improve their overall quality of life. These groups can also complement primary forms of care, like online therapy, which can help provide you with personalized treatment for social anxiety. With the right resources, support, and guidance, you can manage social anxiety and take the next steps on your mental health journey.
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