This year, make sure you’re prepared for the intense socializing that happens around the holidays. Use the tips in this guide to better understand and manage your ADHD-related social anxiety.

Social Anxiety and ADHD

Social anxiety affects about 12% of the population. This condition is a type of anxiety disorder which involves a significant level of nervousness or fear in social settings, especially when it comes to possible scrutiny from others.

A person with social anxiety will worry about potentially embarrassing themselves in front of others or feeling rejected by an individual or group. They often imagine the worst possible outcome of a social interaction and worry that their anxiety will be visible to others. Due to these fears, they may end up avoiding many social situations.

Social anxiety can happen to anyone, but those with ADHD are already prone to having anxiety. In addition, noticeable ADHD symptoms like fidgeting and restlessness can feed into someone’s fears of being judged by others in social settings. The symptoms of ADHD may also create some challenges with social skills, like having trouble focusing during a conversation (inattention) or frequently interrupting others (impulsivity).

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD), which affects a significant portion of people with ADHD, can also contribute to social anxiety. People with ADHD often have intense emotional responses to feelings of rejection or criticism, and they struggle with low self-esteem. It’s easy to see how an inability to cope with rejection — whether real or perceived — can contribute to social anxiety.

Holiday Triggers for Social Anxiety

It’s not uncommon for people to feel like their social calendar fills up fast during the holidays. This time of the year is packed with work parties, family gatherings, school concerts, gift exchanges, and many other festive events. On top of that, many folks travel for the holidays and are pressured to make plans to see as many friends and family members as possible during their visits.

These types of activities can be triggers for social anxiety. Making small talk, attending parties, and eating and drinking in public are all examples of scenarios where people may experience social anxiety. Because this time of the year is so busy, it can feel like there’s very little rest between events that cause social anxiety. On top of that, it can feel harder to say “no” to an invitation due to family obligations and not wanting to put a damper on the holiday cheer.

Ways to Manage ADHD Social Anxiety

Try some of the following strategies to overcome some of your social anxiety this holiday season.

1. Bring a buddy.

Having a trusted confidante by your side at holiday events can be a huge help. Choose a supportive friend or family member who understands your social anxiety, and ask them to tag along. When you’re feeling anxious, you can just chat one-on-one with your companion to feel more comfortable. When talking to others, they can help steer the conversation in another direction if they sense that you’re feeling nervous.

2. Set boundaries.

One of the best ways to manage social anxiety during the holidays is to make thoughtful decisions about which events to attend and how much time to commit to each one. You don’t have to RSVP “yes” to every single gathering. Decide which ones are the most important to you and prioritize those. Then, set boundaries to help minimize your anxiety, like only going to your office holiday party for an hour or two rather than staying all evening.

3. Practice positive thinking.

People with social anxiety often dwell on the worst case scenario for social interactions. It can help to reorient your thoughts to imagine realistic outcomes instead. This can be quite a challenge, so if you’re struggling with negative thought patterns, consider trying cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT. This type of psychotherapy can help you develop a healthier mental attitude and learn strategies for managing stress.

4. Get treated for ADHD.

Finding the right treatment plan is the most effective way to manage your ADHD symptoms, including social anxiety. Talk to a healthcare provider about your treatment options and develop a plan that works for you. If you’re already taking medication but feel like your symptoms are still difficult to manage, there may be another medication or a different dosage better suited to your needs. Our team at Done is here to help if you’re looking for convenient, affordable, and accessible ADHD care.