If you suffer from social anxiety, you know how it feels at the exact moment the anxious thoughts start to creep in: You're out with friends or co-workers and your heart starts racing. Suddenly you're too overwhelmed to contribute, even a little, to the conversation.
And it's not only in group settings that social anxiety can appear, says Pamela Larkin, a therapist who specializes in anxiety and relationships at Optimum Joy. It can be during one-on-one interactions too.
"It really does impact all spheres of someone's life," she says "Dating, work life, family life, and even friendships."
Being nervous for a date or a large party, while normal, is not the same as experiencing social anxiety.
Those with social anxiety, sometimes called social phobia, avoid everyday activities for fear of being judged negatively. This could manifest in declined party invites or canceled dates, but could also affect smaller interactions like returning items to a store.
If you're looking for a way to cope with your social anxiety, there are a number of books that offer some aid. "Anxiety is your body telling you there is some level of unsafety you're going to experience," she says.
Reading these books can help you start thinking: "This might feel uncomfortable but I am safe."
Here are four therapist-recommended ones.
1. How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety by Ellen Hendrikson
"This book is written by a person who also struggles with social anxiety, allowing the reader to feel that she can relate to the experience," says Jessica Small, a therapist at Growing Self Counseling & Coaching in Denver, Colorado.
2. Hey Warrior by Karen Young
"Hey Warrior" is a children's book which explains what anxiety is and where it comes from. "I think it's a really great way to get some psychoeducation on anxiety," Larkin says.
3. The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook by Dr. Martin M. Antony and Dr. Richard P. Swinson
In this book you'll find daily activities that can help you find your strengths and weaknesses through self-evaluation. "I like it because it allows you to address your anxiety at your own pace," Larkin says.
4. The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety by John P. Forsyth and Georg H. Eifert
Also a workbook, this offers exercises that focus on mindfulness and how to approach your anxieties and fears. Both Larkin and Small suggest this book.
"This is based on Acceptance Commitment Therapy, which is a common theory used by therapists to manage anxiety and has a strong mindfulness component," Small says.