The holidays are generally difficult for people who suffer from anxiety, and New Year’s may be the worst. For those with social anxiety, anything from parties to socializing to friends to drinking or dressing up can be a trigger. This can be compounded by well-intentioned loved ones who do not understand what you experience.

What is social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety is a medical condition and it is characterized by the presence of fear or anxiety about social or performance situations in which a person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others. These people see themselves through a distorted lens of shame and fear. To cope with social anxiety. many people develop safety behaviors and try to keep their “flaws” hidden. They may avoid eye contact or focus on their cell phones, instead of talking with people at a party. Or those with social anxiety may separate themselves from the larger group and sit in another room alone. These tactics may work in the short run, but they do not address the underlying issues.

How is social anxiety disorder treated?

One major tool that is used to help with social anxiety is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT therapy). Here the solution becomes finding ways to tolerate, rather than flee, the painful emotion. By creating a safe environment, a therapist can help a patient see that the worst-case scenario is not as bad as they think it is. Doing this changes the way a person thinking about the situation and, eventually, how they respond to it. Other people find that self-help tools can also help quiet their negative internal chatter.

If symptoms are severe enough, treatments such as ketamine infusions or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed in conjunction with counseling for continued practice of skills.

Social anxiety on New Year’s Eve

While social anxiety may prevent people from being 100% comfortable in social situations, there are several ways to make it through New Year’s Eve and enjoy it:

• Prepare – Do not overwhelm yourself with commitments and understand that you do not have to attend every gathering. Decide which event you want to go to, and start practicing ways to get comfortable with attending. Come up with a few talking points as this may help you feel more prepared when it comes time to converse.

• Take a Friend – Invite a friend or family member to attend the event with you. This is someone who knows that you have social anxiety and is there to help you if you need it. Come up with a code word so if it comes down to needing an escape you can drop this into a conversation and your friend or family member will know what to do.

• Lend a hand – Volunteer to arrive to the event early to lend a hand. By helping in the preparation you can build a certain comfort level prior to the rest of the party arriving. You now have become part of the hosting and this can help boost self-esteem.

We hope these tips help you enjoy New Year’s Eve 2020. However, if you suffer from severe anxiety that prevents you from leaving the house on a regular basis, talk to your mental healthcare provider about your treatment options. Ketamine infusions are effective for up to 70% of patients suffering from anxiety and depression—we may be able to turn your light back on and get you back out there, enjoying life again.