Most people can imagine what it’s like to be lost in a crowd where no one seems to speak your language. What’s a scary scenario for some is a daily reality for many neurodivergent people. There’s a lived experience of feeling out of place that stretches from early childhood all the way through to adulthood. A sense that you don’t understand the culture and the customs and the unwritten rules. In many cases, neurodivergent people feel a profound sense of social anxiety when engaging in everyday activities that other people wouldn’t think twice about.

In today’s post, we’ll talk about some techniques and strategies you can use to cope with social anxiety.

Identify Triggers

man in crowdA key part of learning to cope with and plan around social anxiety is understanding your triggers. Spending time thinking about past scenarios that brought out your social anxiety is helpful. Some questions that might help you identify your triggers include:

  • Do you struggle with informal or formal settings?
  • Is your anxiety more likely to be triggered by strangers, acquaintances, or friends?
  • Are there particular topics of conversation that make you uncomfortable?
  • Have you noticed any environmental triggers? (loud noises, bright lights, etc.)
  • Did you feel others judged you or expected you to behave a certain way?

If you’re having trouble identifying your triggers, begin paying special attention to how your body feels when you start to feel anxious. Anxiety often creeps up on us bit by bit. By learning to recognize the signs of anxiety, we can start planning how to respond in those situations.

Set Healthy Limits

We all have different capacities for social interaction—some people feed off it, while others burn out after a little while. Spend time thinking about how long your battery lasts at social events, and plan around those limits. If you’re worried about a work event or birthday party that might run long, planning an early exit might help you feel more comfortable.

Anxiety feeds on uncertainty. You may find that a little forethought and planning takes some of the anxiety out of social interaction.

Ask for Clarity

When you’re neurodivergent, it does feel at times like everyone else is speaking a language you can’t quite make sense of. Understandably, this is a common cause of anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with asking people to clarify what they mean. Or for more information on something. Give yourself permission to act like someone would when traveling in another country. Naturally, you might need someone to slow down or explain something in greater detail.

Grounding & Mindfulness

Several critical skills can help manage stress and anxiety. Mindfulness and grounding practices work by helping you focus on the present rather than worrying about the future or unknowns. Some people do this with breathing techniques, while others focus on sensory input from the world around them, paying careful attention to smells, textures, tastes, and patterns.

If you feel your anxiety spiraling out of control, excuse yourself to go get a bite to eat or to go to the bathroom. Use this as a break to reset by focusing on your senses.


Anxiety is difficult to manage and very common among neurodivergent individuals. We live in a world that expects people to conform and frequently punishes them when they don’t. Being neurodivergent doesn’t mean that you’re broken. It’s a difference in how you perceive and interact with the world around you.

If you’re interested in working together to build out a plan to cope with anxiety, please reach out to schedule a consultation. I would love to be your partner on this journey through anxiety therapy or neurodivergence counseling.

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