Difficulties in building relationships
Not everyone finds it easy to stay socially connected or to make new friends. This might be due to being unable to leave the house, living a distance away from other people, or because social situations feel uncomfortable. Some people are more vulnerable – for example, if they move to a new area, have recently been bereaved, feel socially anxious, or live with a mental health problem that affects their ability to make and/or sustain relationships.
For individuals who are more isolated and have few social connections in real life, going online can be a source for meeting new people. If you are online, look for a website where people are either interested in meeting other people or that suits your interests. A few sites to consider include:
- Twitter Follow people who share your interests, comment on interesting tweets from the people you follow and write tweets yourself – soon you will develop your own online friendships.
- Friendsies is an online friendship platform where you can meet friends online. It uses a matching system based on personality and then sends compatible friends to your inbox. The best part: the site is free.
- LiveJournal is an online journaling service and features communities discussing a number of topics (e.g. politics, sports, and television shows). You can post a journal, comment on others and make new friends. The basic service is free to members.
For individuals who are socially anxious, going online can be a good way of staying connected. It can also be a way of challenging any unhelpful thoughts that can act as barriers to socialising. Some online forums can provide a safe way of doing this through virtual social interactions. However, care needs to be taken to protect your privacy and ensure that you don’t engage in unhelpful dialogues. You can unfriend or block people on sites such as Facebook if you feel that the communication is negatively impacting on you. Surround yourself with people who are optimistic and positive in their outlook.
If your social anxiety is more persistent and prevents you from participating in everyday life, there are also a number of support options available. Your GP can help you find an approach that will work for you. They may refer you to have cognitive behavioural therapy, which is one of the most effective treatments for social anxiety disorder. This may be offered online as well as face to face. See the NHS Choices Social Anxiety Disorder page for more infromation.
Mindfulness is an evidence-based approach that can help manage stress and a range of mental health problems. There are a number of apps and online courses available, including books and exercises that are available on Kindle. The Mental Health Foundation provides an evidence-based online course for a small fee, here, and one available app is Buddhify.
There are also online mental health services for treating panic and phobia, such as FearFighter, which is an online cognitive behavioural therapy-based self-help course available on the NHS in some areas. You can also pay for the course privately.
For those who live with a mental health problem that makes it difficult to socialise, peer-support groups can help enhance recovery as well as increasing an individual’s social support networks. Peer support is the help and support that people with lived experience of a mental health problem are able to give to one another.
Big White Wall is a supportive online community for people who struggle with their mental health. The service is available 24/7, and is completely anonymous and guided by trained professionals. Big White Wall is available for free in many areas across the UK through the NHS, employers and some universities. It’s free to all UK-serving personnel, veterans and their families.