A Guide to Social Anxiety for Gen Z

A Guide to Social Anxiety for Gen Z

Members of Generation Z include people who were born between 1995 and 2010. Sandwiched between Millennials and Generation Alpha, Gen Z individuals are growing up in a time of uncertainty and stress. This generation is also significantly more likely than other generations to report negative mental health according to a recent survey by the APA. One of the major types of mental health struggles that Gen Z is having a hard time with is Social Anxiety.

Social Anxiety, also called Social Phobia, is an intense and persistent fear of being evaluated or judged by others. The fear can significantly impact work, school, and day-to-day activities. It can also be challenging for those with Social Anxiety to make and keep friends. Here are some common situations people with Social Anxiety Disorder tend to have difficulty with:

  • Speaking in public
  • Going on a date
  • Making eye contact
  • Entering rooms
  • Using public restrooms
  • Going to social gatherings
  • Starting conversations
  • Eating on front of others

As you may have guessed, many of these situations are part of the every day life of someone in school or work. With Social Anxiety at an all time high, that means there are a lot of anxious teens and young adults in the classroom and workplace.

If you find yourself in this category of struggling with Social Anxiety, some simple tips can help.

1. Take Small Steps

One of the first steps in understanding your anxiety is to make a list of situations and rank them based on your anticipated discomfort. For example, you might expect a greater amount of anxiety starting a conversation with a new friend versus making a phone call to schedule a doctor’s appointment. When challenging yourself to face your fears, start with activities that are lower on your list and move up. In therapy, we call this a fear ladder. The term ladder is used because you move up the list in a similar way that you would climb rungs on a ladder; each step helps you get to the next. Make sure to celebrate the small wins in addition to the big ones. Each step builds on the next.

2. Practice Self-Care

Anxiety is an intense emotional experience that can feel cognitively and physically draining. Practicing good self-care can help. Positive self-talk, deep breathing, and grounding techniques are examples of strategies that you can practice. Other healthy self-care practices include exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep.

3. Try Visualization

It can be helpful to prepare for social situations using visualization. This means imagining or even role-playing specific concerns with someone you trust, putting them on paper, or thinking about them in your head. When you visualize a situation, you practice coping with the anxiety and prepare for the ways in which you can deal with the situation in real life.

4. Seek Professional Help

If you have tried on your own to manage your Social Anxiety and are still struggling, it may be time to speak with a psychologist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an empirically supported treatment for Social Anxiety and has shown success across adult, adolescent, and child populations. We do know that compared to other generations, Gen Z is one of the most open minded when it comes to therapy. This is a major positive when it comes to tackling then Social Anxiety epidemic in this group that we have started to see.