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Make New Friendships Despite Having Anxiety

By HERWriter
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Mental Health related image Photo: Getty Images

You can never have too many friends, but sometimes the idea of making new friends is scary. For women with anxiety, new friendships can seem impossible. However, experts have some advice for women with anxiety who do want to create additional friendships.

Carole Lieberman, a media psychiatrist and the author of “Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets,” said in an email that women need to think about the reasoning behind the anxiety over making new friendships.

“The anxiety that women feel when they attempt to make new friendships is the fear of rejection,” Lieberman said. “This is rooted in childhood experiences on the playground or in school, where girls were mean to them or excluded them. These unconscious memories sprout up to remind women of the feeling that no one wants to be their friend. So, the best way to overcome this is to acknowledge where the fear comes from and then tell yourself that you are not back in kindergarten and women will be more receptive to making friends.”

Karen Koenig, a psychotherapist with over 30 years experience working with women and the author of “The Rules of ‘Normal’ Eating,” said in an email that many of her clients have anxiety in some form and tend to turn to food to help with this issue. Her advice to help women improve friendships and decrease anxiety includes:

1. “Recognizing the baggage they bring from childhood to friendships around trust, validation, sharing, rejection, abandonment, shaming, etc. and separating the two, which usually involves explaining how negative transference reactions impede effective functioning in the present.”

2. “Encouraging them to talk more to people in general – [in] line in the supermarket, while they're waiting to pick up the kids at school, in the waiting room at the dentist, etc. This is to get them more comfortable with small talk, smoothing the way toward getting to know people.”

3. “Suggesting they eavesdrop on conversations wherever they are and decide which people (or women) would make good friends, which ones wouldn't and why.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.