Updated 13 July 2015

Good deeds can improve your social anxiety

If you suffer from social anxiety disorder, performing acts of kindness can help you to relax and interact with others more easily, a study has found.


People with social anxiety who perform good deeds may have less trouble relaxing and interacting with others, new research finds.

These acts of kindness can boost feelings of happiness and foster positive views of the world. Over time, deeds that promote positive interactions may enable people with this disorder to socialize more easily, the Canadian researchers said.

"Acts of kindness may help to counter negative social expectations by promoting more positive perceptions and expectations of a person's social environment," study co-author Jennifer Trew, of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, said in a journal news release. "It helps to reduce their levels of social anxiety and, in turn, makes them less likely to want to avoid social situations."

Social anxiety disorder causes people to feel threatened or anxious about mingling with others. It's more than just being shy. The disorder may make people feel so uncomfortable that they avoid socialising entirely to avoid angst or the possible embarrassment.

Read: High serotonin may increase social anxiety

The four-week study involved 115 undergraduate students with high levels of social anxiety. The students were randomly divided into three groups. The first group was told to perform acts of kindness, such as doing a roommate's dishes, mowing a neighbor's lawn, or donating to a charity. The second group was exposed social interactions, but instructed to not engage in good deeds. The third group recorded what happened daily but these participants were not give any specific instructions on how to interact with others.

The study revealed the group that engaged in acts of kindness had the greatest reduction in their desire to avoid social interactions. This was especially true during the first part of the intervention, the study found.

The researchers concluded good deeds are a valuable tool to help people with social anxiety interact with others more easily by easing anxiety and fears of possible rejection.

Treatment strategies that involve doing good deeds can improve quality of life for people with social anxiety, the study published recently in the journal Motivation and Emotion concluded.

"An intervention using this technique may work especially well early on while participants anticipate positive reactions from others in response to their kindness," study co-author Lynn Alden, of the University of British Columbia, in a journal news release.

Read more:

Group therapy may ease social anxiety disorder

Oxytocin lessens anxiety in social situations

How to deal with social anxiety disorder

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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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