Overcoming Social Anxiety and Pursue Intimacy
This article is a continuation of an article that was written earlier this year on the topic of social anxiety and how to explore ways to connect with people in the midst of this very real fear. Dr. Chris Grace shares further shares some thoughts and resources on overcoming social anxiety and pursuing a connection with others.
1) If you are not sure if your shyness is at a level consistent with or considered a true social anxiety, you can start by taking this survey, the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale. It can help give you a gauge to see where you score on social anxiety.
2) Here is a previous blog you can find on our CMR website about anxiety and relationships (INSERT BLOG LINK HERE) and here is a blog from some experts discussing social anxiety.
3) If you scored high on the above scale, or are still concerned with your anxiety, I suggest you start by discussing your symptoms with your doctor or the professional who diagnosed your anxiety. If you are not sure where to go or who to talk with, and if you are in the Southern California area, you can stop by our center (the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships) and we would be happy to provide some insights and referrals. We have a counseling center here on campus (Biola Counseling Center website here) and highly recommend some other Christian based counseling centers as well, such as the Center for Individual and Family Therapy (insert CIFT link here).
4) If you are open to professional counseling, I suggest finding a counselor who is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It has been shown to be an effective treatment for social anxiety. It is particularly effective when combined with anti-anxiety medication. A CBT counselor can provide other tools to help you manage your anxiety in social settings. For example, they can help you better understand and be aware of your anxious thoughts, and learn ways to overcome them. If you are currently avoiding situations that provoke anxiety (e.g., going to a party), you may be reinforcing yourself for not going (because not going decreases the the anxiety, and this feels good.) Simply knowing this and taking some small steps in the other direction can be very effective in helping prevent this.
5) Know that God is aware of your situation, is present with you, and provides help in times of anxiety and need. Seek new ways to connect with Him, where you can meditate on passages like “Be still and know that I am God.” Praying through Scripture can be immensely helpful. Here are 10 verses that I often pray and meditate on when I am anxious:
1. Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
2. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7-8)
3. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)
4. I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)
5. When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (Psalm 94:18-19)
6. When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted. (Psalm 138:3)
7. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
8. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11: 28-31)
9. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
10. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:6-8)
Christopher Grace serves as the director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and teaches psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology. He and his wife, Alisa, speak regularly to married couples, churches, singles and college students on the topic of relationships, dating and marriage. Grace earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Colorado State University.