Does the thought of walking into a room full of people at a party make you anxious? Do you not want to talk to anyone because you’re feeling depressed? Are your anger issues making you avoid social interactions for fear of ruining them?

Humans are social beings. We have lived in social groups for all of known history. It’s a good thing too because there are many well-documented benefits of having social relationships, both for your physical and mental health. Making an effort to build and maintain relationships can help you better manage the same issues that make you want to avoid them in the first place.

Still, regardless of how many advantages exist, they may not make it any easier for you to reach out. The following suggestions are intended as ideas to help you overcome the social interaction challenges you face.

A small peek inside a social scene at a diner

  1. Start with the Relationships You Have – Of course, we all should invest our time and effort in our existing relationships. But if you’re feeling alone, or that there’s no one to talk to, a good place to start reconnecting is with people you already know.Is there someone in your life, a family member or an old friend, with whom you’ve not been in contact recently? Try to make a point of getting in touch. Send them an email, give them a quick call or write them a birthday card. If there is someone at work, or even online, with whom you feel more of a connection than with others, don’t be afraid to work on the relationship.
  2. Try to Make Social Situations Work for You – If you just can’t bring yourself to attend large social gatherings, try to go to those where the groups are smaller. If you’re concerned that your anger or depression may get in the way of one-on-one interactions, perhaps you can go for a walk with the other person in a public place where your symptoms may be less likely to be an issue.
  3. Look for Opportunities to Interact that You Might not Have Considered – A relationship doesn’t need to be instantly close and personal. You can start by giving yourself more chances to just meet people. Take a yoga class at the community centre, volunteer your time to help out a favourite charity or look for support groups, both in person and online.
  4. Be Kind to Yourself – You’re not going to suddenly have lots of great relationships the moment you sign up for art class. You may even come across people with whom a friendship may be difficult. They’re dealing with their issues too. Try to have reasonable expectations. Your efforts to interact may or may not work out in each case, but try to stick with it. And give yourself credit for doing so.
  5. Listen and Be Listened To – Sometimes when we talk to an old friend or meet someone new, all we can think of is the anxiety we’re feeling or trying to hide our depression. Make it a point to actively focus on the other person and listen to what they have to say. Think about what they’re going through. And don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and feelings with them.
  6. Consider Speaking to a Mental Health Professional – People can tell you all day long that you need to reach out, find a partner or join a club. But none of it necessarily means you can or want to just hop up and get social. Even if you easily build relationships, sometimes your symptoms prevent you from being open for fear of being judged or damaging the relationship.Speaking to a mental health professional can help you express your thoughts and concerns without your fears getting in the way. The person you talk to can also help show you the way to manage your symptoms and be supportive in helping you get there.

If you feel you have difficulty building and/or maintaining relationships due to mental health issues, please contact us here at BRCook Psychological Services and schedule an appointment.

Bruce R. Cook

I have been a practicing mental health professional for the past 26 years and I have worked in various public and private practice settings throughout the GTA and Ontario. The populations that I work with are adults 18-64 and I have extensive experience working with both individuals on various presenting problems, and also as a couples’ therapist.

I am a certified solution-focused therapist, and I integrate a number of theoretical orientations into my practice including cognitive-behavioural, humanistic, psychodynamic, reality focused therapy. In essence, my experience and style have been dynamically moved into an eclectic approach that best seems to fit the client and their personal needs.
Bruce R. Cook