Coping with social anxiety can be exhausting, and for some people, it’s downright depressing. In one study, researcher Dr. Murray Stein and his colleagues found that 35% of individuals with social anxiety disorder had experienced at least one major depressive episode. Symptoms can include low mood, decreased interest or pleasure in daily activities, sleep and appetite problems, fatigue, decreased concentration and feelings of worthlessness.
Why do social anxiety and depression often go together?
1. Too little people contact. Everyone needs a certain amount of social interaction to feel happy and content (even introverts). If you don’t get enough people contact, it’s natural to feel sad, lonely, and even depressed. Even if you’re anxious around certain people, hopefully there are at least a few people with whom you feel comfortable. Make sure you rely on them for support.
2. Avoidance: If you avoid a wide variety of social situations, your life becomes more and more restrictive, and depression can follow. Most likely, as you begin to address your social fears and become more comfortable in social situations, your depression will lift. Make sure you include some fun things in your life that don’t elicit anxiety. Drawing, reading, listening to music you like…
3. Self-Blame: You may blame yourself for having this problem.
It’s important to remember that no one chooses to have social anxiety disorder any more than one chooses to have diabetes, for example. Both are very real problems, deserving of careful attention and treatment. Beating up on yourself serves no useful purpose; it only keeps you stuck. Instead, try self-acceptance and self-compassion.
4. Inactivity: A vicious cycle can develop in which you feel depressed, and then become less active (you don’t feel like doing anything). The less active you are, the more depressed you feel. If you’re having difficulty breaking out of this cycle, write out a daily schedule by the hour or even half-hour of what you will do when, and then stick to it. This will seem very difficult at first, but it’s enormously useful. Schedule a few walks around the neighborhood or a nearby park. Exercise is a great depression buster.
5. Minimizing: Make sure you’re giving yourself credit for your accomplishments, however small they may seem. The only way to change behaviors is step-by-step. If you have difficulty recognizing all you have done, make a list of your accomplishments/progress. Refer to this whenever you start focusing exclusively on how far you have left to go.
6. Common underlying factors: It’s possible that both depression and anxiety disorders share some underlying contributing factors. You may be vulnerable to both types of problems for the same reason, whether it’s an inherited biological predisposition or environmental factors that influence the development of both these disorders.
7. Hopelessness: “I’ll never get any better.” This thought frequently pops up in people’s minds. Know that it’s simply not true. Read success stories (there are some on this blog here and here) to generate hope. And remember, someday you will be one of those success stories.