Question: "How can a Christian overcome social anxiety?"
Answer: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in the U.S., with social anxiety disorders being number one among them. People who experience anxiety may feel like they cannot control it, and indeed there are types of anxiety that are triggered by physical conditions. But the fact that cognitive therapy is usually the best treatment for this type of disorder reveals the battle is most often in the mind. The Bible teaches that Christians can control how they think and what they think about because God has given us the Holy Spirit to teach such things (John 14:26–27). Most people never consider that they can control their thoughts to a great degree. But with practice, prayer, and help from God, the battle can be totally overcome or at the very least controlled so that the anxiety is manageable (see Philippians 4:7). We know God’s plan for His children does not include a life of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
Social anxiety (SA) is an unreasonable fear of being in public situations. Often, the sufferer of social anxiety disorder believes other people are examining him with a critical and judgmental eye. Sufferers are extremely self-conscious and are in perpetual fear of embarrassing themselves. Because those with social anxiety are usually perfectionists, a helpful thing for them to learn is that no one is perfect, except for Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:22). Western culture has bombarded people with the false idea that perfection can be attained if you look a certain way, own a certain thing, or have a certain career. The Bible tells us none of these things matter to God; He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Those suffering from SA should realize they are not perfect—and neither is anyone else (Romans 3:23).
The principle of sowing and reaping is found throughout the Bible and is active in our everyday lives (Galatians 6:7; Proverbs 11:18). Jesus said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). To the social anxiety sufferer, it appears everyone else seeks to judge him. This is often because he himself has a critical eye and has spent too much energy judging others. Because the social anxiety sufferer is so critical of himself and others, he assumes others have the same thinking. When we sow a forgiving, loving, merciful attitude toward others, we will reap the same (Luke 6:38).
Many social anxiety sufferers have been victimized in the past by some sort of trauma or an overbearing, critical parent. Such incidents may lead us to develop certain attitudes about ourselves and others without even being aware of it. For those who experience extreme social anxiety, it may be beneficial to meet with a Christian counselor for help in healing. Ultimately, we can depend on the Holy Spirit to provide us comfort in our pain, guide us into truth (John 14:25–27; 16:33), and produce His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23).
For those who struggle with social anxiety and extreme shyness, we encourage a biblical view of self. As believers, we are loved (Romans 5:8), we are accepted (Ephesians 1:6), and we are not condemned (Romans 8:1). Being secure in Christ, we have the freedom to reach out to others and love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:33).