How to Not be Antisocial

“How do I stop being so antisocial?”

– Tom

In a world that seems to be all about extraversion and popularity, feeling antisocial can seem like a lonely battle. On the one hand, you may not understand why other people value connection so much. On the other hand, you may want relationships, but you find socializing to be exhausting and frustrating.

Many people who struggle with feeling antisocial feel immense shame about their experiences.

They want to make a difference in their lives. However, they might not know where to start. Or, they might feel discouraged and doomed to repeat the same patterns.

This article focuses on how to not be antisocial. Our article “Why am I antisocial” explores reasons for not wanting to socialize.

What does it mean to be antisocial?

To most of us, being antisocial means that we don’t want to socialize. To psychologists, antisocial has a different meaning and is related to sociopathy (Antisocial Personality Disorder). Antisocial behavior as a medical term is when you have a disregard for others.

In this article, we’re focusing on the popular meaning of the word: not feeling like socializing.

Let’s get into what you need to know.

  1. Coping with feeling antisocial
  2. Overcoming underlying reasons for feeling antisocial

Part 1: Coping with feeling antisocial

The right strategies can help you feel less antisocial. Keep in mind that what works best for someone else might not work best for you. It’s important to have an open mind when it comes to learning new ways to help yourself.

Reflect on the benefits of working on this change

Change can be challenging, and it’s essential to reflect on why the work matters to you. Think about why you want to change feeling so antisocial. Do you want to have more friends? Do you want to enjoy a satisfying intimate relationship? Are you interested in moving up in your career?

Write down whatever reasons come to mind. Keep this list handy and add to it as new reasons emerge. When old habits start tempting you, take a list of your motives. They can help remind you of why you’re doing this work.

Identify your antisocial triggers

Triggers refer to people, places, or things that make you feel more antisocial. Some people have many triggers, and others only have a few.

For example, do you struggle with feeling antisocial in all situations? Or just around certain types of people or settings? Are there any times where you do enjoy social interactions?

Keep in mind that triggers can also change over time. That said, identifying your triggers helps you understand your antisocial patterns. This can help you facilitate the steps you need for your situation to improve.

Consider journaling your thoughts and feelings for a few weeks. It can be as simple as writing “today’s social interaction made me feel…”

See if any interesting patterns emerge. These patterns can help you understand why you are antisocial.

Incorporate more mindfulness

Antisocial behaviors often manifest from a combination of anxiety, depression, or both. However, many people find that mindfulness can improve their mental health symptoms.

Mindfulness refers to consciously choosing to live in the present moment. Taking on this mindset is often easier said than done. Many of us ruminate on our perceived past mistakes and worry about our upcoming future plans. However, if you practice shifting your energy to the right now, you may feel less overwhelmed.

Consider adding more mindfulness into your life by:

  • Meditating for a few moments each day. It can be as simple as trying to focus all your attention on your breath for 10 minutes.
  • Taking deep, belly breaths.
  • Journaling your feelings.
  • Taking mindful walks. In other words, try to focus your attention on what you see, hear, smell, or feel. While you focus on these senses, you don’t try to change them but simply accept them.
  • Engaging in single-task activities. This means that rather than doing two things at the time, you do one thing and focus your attention on this.
  • Focusing on your gratitude. Even if you might feel worried about things in life, there will always be positive things we can remind ourselves of. What are some things you are thankful for?

Set two practical social goals a week

Changing your entire personality overnight isn’t possible- nor is it necessary! Nearly all profound change results from numerous small steps.

If you want to feel less antisocial, focus on setting realistic weekly goals for yourself. These goals should be action-based and concrete. Some examples include:

  • Saying hello to a stranger.
  • Texting an old friend to see how they are doing.
  • Asking your coworker about their weekend plans.
  • Making a phone call that you have been procrastinating.
  • Asking a family member to have lunch.
  • Sending an email to your boss.

The goals should be challenging, but not so difficult that you feel discouraged. Each week, assess your goals and how you felt completing them. If you didn’t achieve the goal, spend some time reflecting on any barriers that emerged.

Here’s our guide on how to be more social.

Increase your self-acceptance

Self-acceptance means acknowledging (and even embracing) who you are for exactly as you are. This concept may sound like a paradox, but self-acceptance can actually improve antisocial symptoms.[6]

Unfortunately, most people struggle with self-acceptance. If you don’t like yourself, you may feel a profound sense of shame. You may depend on external factors for validation. You might focus your efforts on accomplishing more things because you think those successes will bring more happiness.

Self-acceptance can be a lifetime journey, but here are some helpful strategies:

  • Remind yourself that your human value isn’t about what you do. It comes simply from existing. All humans are worthy to be happy and feel good about themselves.
  • Focusing on and celebrating your strengths, such as “I’m good at remembering things”.
  • Practice forgiving yourself for mistakes.
  • Challenge your negative thinking. If you for example tell yourself that “I’m terrible at socializing”, see if you can remember social situations where you did well.
  • Practice acts of self-care and self-compassion. Practice treating yourself and talking to yourself like you would talk to a friend you care about.

It should be noted that self-acceptance doesn’t absolve the need to work oneself. Instead, self-acceptance means that you can find a sense of peace with who you are. This transformation can help you feel more confident and courageous as you move through life. As a result, sustained change comes from a place of desire, rather than a place of shame.

Consider professional support

If you struggle with feeling antisocial, psychotherapy can be an invaluable resource. Therapy provides a safe and non-judgmental environment to process your thoughts and feelings. In therapy, you may learn skills related to:

  • Identifying triggers that increase antisocial behavior.
  • Increasing your self-esteem.
  • Practicing self-care.
  • Learning healthy boundaries.
  • Resolving issues pertaining to trauma.
  • Learning healthy coping techniques.

Moreover, you might benefit from pharmacological treatment. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication can help with emotional regulation. They can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Talk to your primary care provider or psychiatrist about your options.

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Part 2. Overcoming underlying reasons for feeling antisocial

Coping with social anxiety

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is common. Over 7% of American adults suffer from it.[1] It refers to the persistent fear of particular social situations. If you struggle with social anxiety, you may experience symptoms like these:

  • Excessively worrying about situations where you feel like you might be judged.
  • Intense fear of interacting with strangers.
  • Fear that others will “see” your anxiety.
  • Avoiding situations or things that you think could make you feel embarrassed.
  • Feeling anxious when thinking about socializing.
  • Thinking about worst-case scenarios that might happen.
  • Physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, an upset stomach, or a high pulse.

Some people think that they’re antisocial when in reality, they suffer from social anxiety. If you can relate to this, it’s not that you don’t value connection. It’s that your anxiety focuses on the downsides and risks associated with socialization. As a result, you may feel like connection either isn’t a virtuous goal, or it simply isn’t worth the emotional cartwheels.

Sometimes, the symptoms of social anxiety are very noticeable. For example, you know you feel nervous when meeting new people or giving a public speech. Other times, this condition can be more subtle. You may not recognize how worried you are about being judged, for example.[2]

If you have social anxiety, know that there are many powerful tools you can use to feel more comfortable socializing. See our article on how to make friends when you have social anxiety.

Overcoming negative experiences or trauma

All types of trauma can affect how safe you feel around other people. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse breach your inherent sense of trust. It can also make you feel self-conscious, scared, and angry. The following traumatic episodes can increase your likelihood of antisocial behavior:

  • History of childhood neglect.
  • Sexual abuse and rape.
  • Severe emotional abuse.
  • Severe medical injuries and near-death experiences.

After a trauma, it can feel like secure, healthy relationships are impossible. It doesn’t matter if the trauma occurred recently or many years ago. Trauma can fundamentally change brain chemistry. Instead of leaning on others for support, you’ve internalized that this idea is risky and even dangerous. As a result, you may find yourself withdrawing from others to protect yourself.[3]

If you’ve experienced trauma, therapy can help you cope. Here’s more advice on how to cope with trauma.

Coping with depression

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world. In the United States, it’s the leading cause of disability for people ages 15-44.[4]

At times, depression can make getting out of bed feel like a massive hurdle. If you struggle with depression, it’s not uncommon to move through your days feeling sad, angry, or even numb. In extreme cases, depression can trigger severe symptoms, like thinking about suicide.

However, some depression symptoms aren’t that obvious. For example, depression can also include more subtle symptoms like:[4]

  • Feeling pessimistic about the world.
  • Feeling like you have to force happiness.
  • Not being motivated to do things, like your usual hobbies or interests.
  • Starting to use more drugs or alcohol.
  • Feeling strong guilt.

It’s no surprise that these symptoms can make you feel less motivated to socialize!

Many who suffer from depression don’t seek help. But of those who do, many get better after just a few months. Exercising, socializing with friends, and being in nature, can help against depression.

It’s important that you seek help from a medical professional. Here’s a guide with more information.

Final thoughts

Feeling antisocial can feel lonely, but you’re not alone in your struggles. Change is possible. Many self-help strategies and professional interventions can support you in building more meaningful relationships.

If you feel lonely, take a look at our guide on how to make friends when you have none.

Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages SocialSelf’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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