In today's world, we develop friends not just from our hometowns or colleges anymore. We still value these relationships, however, it is more common now that friends are beginning to change over time and honestly… this is not always easy for us to accept.
Let's dive deep into the realm of 'friendship anxiety', understanding its facets and exploring ways to cope.
What is Friendship Anxiety?
Friendship anxiety, at its core, is the apprehension and stress associated with forming, maintaining, or simply interacting within friendships. While social concerns are as old as time, the rapid evolution of communication, especially via social media, has added layers of complexity. For the generations who grew up with greater access to social media and simply access to more online communities, the lines between genuine friendships and superficial connections and expectations can sometimes blur, leading to heightened anxiety.
Why Do I Have Anxiety About My Friends?
Several factors contribute to friendship anxiety - again being about the stress of forming, maintaining and interacting with friends:
Online Pressure and Expectations: Social media paints a rosy picture of everyone's life. When your feed is filled with snapshots of picturesque vacations, parties, or simple hangouts you weren't a part of, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) kicks in. You may feel this pressure yourself to capture moments that either don’t feel genuine or having to constantly plan things to show others.
High Expectations: The quest for the 'perfect' friendship, one without disagreements or differences, can set unrealistic expectations. You may keep things to yourself and overextend yourself so you show up as the “perfect” friend. (that sounds exhausting!)
Past Experiences: Previous betrayals, conflicts, or misunderstandings can make one wary and anxious about future friendships. This heavily weighs on your current friendships and causes fear of loses any of them.
Evolution of Identity: As we grow, so do our beliefs, interests, and values. The fear of outgrowing friendships or being left behind can be a source of anxiety.
Signs You Might Have Friendship Anxiety:
These are just a few things I have seen in working with clients with Friendship Anxiety:
Overthinking Interactions: Ruminating over a message you sent, a call you made, or even an in-person chat. This can even look like beating yourself up over any part of an interaction, second-guessing yourself and more. You might hear yourself asking friends “was I too much” or feel you are being a burden for sharing anything about yourself with friends.
Fear of Rejection: The constant worry that your friends will abandon or replace you. You may find here that you are holding things back or not sharing opinions, thoughts, or feelings so your friends won’t turn their backs on you.
Compulsive Checking: Refreshing chats or social media to check for replies or updates incessantly. This also includes keeping evidence to prove things to yourself about interactions.
Avoidance: Steering clear of social situations or interactions to prevent perceived judgments or conflicts. You find certain situations overwhelming and better to just put them off or not do at all so you can avoid any reason to second guess yourself or a friendship.
Physical Symptoms: When you begin to stress and experience anxiety regarding friends, you may notice: heart palpitations, sweaty palms, or a churning stomach when thinking about or interacting with friends.
Managing Friendship Anxiety:
This is not easy by any means. We try so much to control a situation so there is no negative outcome, but that often hinders ourselves and the friendship. Here are a few things that can help:
Open Communication: Talk about your feelings with your friends. They might be feeling the same way or could offer reassurance.
Limit Social Media: Designate specific times to check social media and stick to them. It can be overwhelming to spend time on social media. Turning off notifications and even moving the app(s) to your secondary screen off your main screen can help.
Self-reflection: Understand the root of your anxiety. Journaling can be a helpful tool to get out your thoughts and feelings so they don’t feel stuck inside.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Grounding exercises can help bring you back to the present and reduce anxious thoughts.
Seek External Activities: Engaging in solo hobbies or group activities can boost self-confidence and reduce dependency on specific friendships.
How Can a Therapist Help?
A therapist, especially one specializing in anxiety or interpersonal relationships, can provide strategies tailored to your specific needs. They offer a safe space to voice your anxieties and fears, help you unravel past traumas or negative events affecting your present, and provide you with coping mechanisms. Online therapy platforms are now making it even easier to access such guidance right from the comfort of your home.
Itt's vital to remember that everyone, at some point or another, faces challenges in friendships. Recognizing friendship anxiety and seeking support, whether through friends, self-help strategies, or professional assistance, is the first step towards nurturing healthier, fulfilling relationships.
Looking for a therapist to help with anxiety when it comes to friends? Discover the convenience of online therapy with Better Minds Counseling & Services (we also offer friend therapy). We specialize in assisting adults with anxiety through our virtual mental health solutions. Brittany Webb, LPC CCATP, a certified clinical anxiety treatment expert and licensed professional counselor, is ready to help you enhance your self-care toolbox! Schedule your free introductory session with her today!
Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.