Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: For as long as you can remember, you’ve totally freaked the eff out when standing in front of a room of people at work, heading out to happy hour, or going out on that Hinge date. And it’s not just run-of-the-mill nerves—it’s the kind where it feels like your heart is going to beat out of your chest and you’ve got full body sweats, shaky hands, and intense nausea. All from the intense worry about how you’ll be perceived or judged.
This isn’t just a “you” thing—it’s likely social anxiety disorder, which goes way beyond typical shyness, says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). The extreme anxiety that accompanies being in social situations (whether with friends or at work) is incredibly real, and not something you can just brush off or “get over.” In fact, 15 million American adults have social anxiety, says the ADAA, and it can impact people’s social lives, prevent them from taking jobs, and majorly interfere with day-to-day life if unaddressed.
“Being around other people with similar struggles helps people feel a sense of community [because they know] they’re not alone,” says Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a New York City neuropsychologist and member of the teaching faculty at Columbia University. When you’re surrounded by people who “get it,” you’re more apt to open up. “In time, this can ease anxiety,” she says.
A group led by a mental health expert can also help arm you with tools you need to overcome the anxiety that can feel choking in real-world situations, including mindfulness techniques, breathing, and cognitive skills (like replacing old thoughts with new ones), adds Dr. Hafeez.
Ready to take the plunge? If you live in NYC, here are six places to find a social anxiety support group near you.
These groups, informally organized by members, feature meet-up events (like dinners and game nights) where you can meet people and be social without worrying that others are being all judgey. This one focused specifically on people with social anxiety has more than 12K members.
Located in Midtown Manhattan, this center uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) led by mental health professionals to help you rewire your thoughts surrounding social fears. Here, you’ll find individual as well as group therapy.
19 West 34th St. Ste. 301, New York, NY 10001
In Midtown Manhattan, the practice works with those suffering from social anxiety or phobia via group workshops. Goals include boosting self-confidence, building healthy relationships, and improving social skills.
260 Madison Ave #8023, New York, NY 10016
This national advocacy organization’s NYC chapter offers unique support groups that people with a range of mental illnesses can choose from, including how to use humor to boost emotional resilience and young adult groups—all of which cater to a wide range of people struggling with mental health. You might also consider the NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer classes, which can help equip you with the skills needed to better deal with symptoms and reduce stress.
505 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1103, New York, NY 10018
This practice serves a variety of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety, and teaches skills ranging from Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Exposure Therapy in their Manhattan and Brooklyn offices.
Manhattan: 200 West 57th St, Suite 404, New York, NY 10019
Brooklyn: 3692 Bedford Ave, Suite P2, Brooklyn, NY 11229
Located on Lexington Avenue between 41st and 42nd Street, this practice also focuses on teaching CBT. They treat a range of mental health disorders, including social anxiety, and hold group therapy for people with anxiety.
380 Lexington Avenue, 17th Floor, New York, New York 10168
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