Social anxiety presents itself in multiple forms. And living with a roommate when you have social anxiety is something that can take some adjusting to. According to the Anxiety And Depression Association Of America, the defining feature of social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation. This takes on a whole other meaning when social anxiety is put within the context of living with roommates.

Before we move on to that aspect of this article, let’s try and understand what social anxiety looks like:

People with social anxiety may worry about acting or appearing visibly anxious (e.g., blushing, stumbling over words), or being viewed as stupid, awkward, or boring. As a result, they often avoid social or performance situations, and when a situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant anxiety and distress.

Many people with social anxiety also experience strong physical symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, nausea, and sweating, and may experience full-blown attacks when confronting a feared situation. Although they recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder often feel powerless against their anxiety.

When we put social anxiety with the dynamic of living with roommates, especially those that are more extroverted than you are, your home might not feel like a safe space.

We at Roomi understand it’s not easy. But if you really think about it, it’s not impossible either. Give the following tips a shot if you want to manage your social anxiety, especially when you’re around your roommates. And if they don’t work, remember to be easy on yourself.

Pick ‘fight’ over ‘flight’ when you’re feeling socially anxious.

We knew someone who battled with social anxiety and stayed hidden in their room, sometimes to the extent of starving because their roommates were in the kitchen.

“The more we expose ourselves to the situations that we fear, the more comfortable we become navigating them,”

Dr. Victoria Shaw

An easy way of going about picking the fight response over the flight response is by setting daily goals. They could look anything like the following:

  • I will try to give someone new a compliment.
  • I will try to smile at a stranger today.
  • Ask someone I just met a question.
  • Make eye contact with someone you’ve noticed around you but never spoken with.

Your daily goals could be tiny accomplishments that you make every day that help you step a little closer to where you wish to be. And, manage your social anxiety a little better when you’re living with roommates.

Agree to disagree with your socially anxious self.

This requires a preliminary step. Accepting that you are not your socially anxious self. Nope, that isn’t you. It’s just a small part of you. And that part, much like other parts of you, can be wrong sometimes (re: most of the time.)

Negative thoughts like “I will embarrass myself”, or “I don’t fit in here”, are so quick to consume our minds sometimes. But when you’re living with roommates, it might also feel like you have no where to go but your room.

In times like such, teach yourself to disagree with these initial thoughts.

“The way this works is someone with social anxiety will hear these thoughts and not judge them, but put them in the background of their mind. It becomes background noise while they socialize so that they can take a curious mindset,” 

Dr. Allison Forti, PhD, assistant professor at Wake Forest University.

And when silencing the negativity doesn’t work, work around it.

Honestly speaking, this is not something that will always work. And we’re here managing our expectations well in 2021.

If you’re living with roommates, and find it impossible to always be on top of your anxiety, try the following tips to work around it:

  • Tell yourself that every negative thought holding you down right now is just that. A negative thought.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself for having that negative thought.
  • “I agree to disagree with my anxiety”, repeat this about 5-10 times and see if anything changes.
  • Instead of a, “I am definitely going to embarrass myself”, play out a whole scenario in your head where you actually don’t!
  • Tell yourself your roommates are just that, human people who just happen to live in the same house as you.

Tell the roommates you’re living with about your social anxiety.

If you open the doors for conversations about the things that hold us back, you’ll be allowing others who probably feel similar emotions to help themselves too. That’s some great work right there.

If you can’t bring yourself to speak to them, try texting them or leave them a short letter. Writing our feelings down doesn’t just allow us to communicate more freely, but the process also gives us a certain clarity into our emotions.

If you’re scared to bring this up in front of your roommates, give it a couple test runs first.

For example, practice in front of the mirror, or in the shower. Start with one roommate and move on to the rest. Or visit the activity location ahead of time so you can identify a spot to get away for a moment if you’re feeling too anxious.

Prioritize self-care and know your limits.

We cannot deny that there might be a situation where your roommates do not understand you. And that’s also fixable. When this comes out to be the case, respectfully set your boundaries.

And if at all you’re being bullied, report your college, school, landlord, or anyone else that can help. Apps like Roomi also come in handy when it comes to finding like-minded individuals, so consider moving out entirely if you can.

Additionally, one of the best things you can allow yourself to indulge in when you’re not feeling at your best is some self-care. And it doesn’t have to be what YouTube and Instagram tell you it is. Do what makes you feel good (and falls within reason). Pump up that serotonin and make good use of that happy hormone!

You CAN do it, we believe in you.

D’you know what else Roomi does outside of helping its readers find healthier ways of dealing with their social anxiety? With our ever-increasing lists of rooms and roommates across the world, we help you find your perfect match!