Here’s How to Cope with Social Pain


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Most people are affected by social pain at some point in their lives. The causes of social pain vary. Examples include traditionally understood issues such as being bullied at work or school, being rejected, or losing a loved one.  One study suggests that social pain has increased during the Covid19 pandemic. 

It is possible to experience social pain without realizing it has a name.  People may feel depressed or anxious without knowing it is the medically termed condition referred to as social pain.  But what is it exactly?  Experts have determined that “social pain” involves sever and debilitating emotions in response to situations concerning other individuals or groups of people.

Everyone has different life experiences, belief systems, and chemical makeups which cause different emotional responses in different people to the same or similar circumstances.  While some seem unimpacted by certain situations, others find those same situations difficult.  Those with social anxiety, depression, or anxiety often feel lonely, sad, and sometimes worthless.  These negative responses and feelings often wreak havoc in personal relationships and create feelings of being overwhelmed and helpless.

Social pain can be just as painful as physical pain.  Choosing to handle it in a positive way can dramatically improve the quality of life for anyone experiencing social pain.

Social Pain is a Real Thing

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Understanding that social pain is a normal human experience might go a long way in easing your distress. It may help you to know that it is okay to feel bad and that many people feel the same way. Interacting with others isn’t always easy.  Sometimes people accidentally say or do the wrong thing and are not intentionally trying to hurt you.  It can seem devastating when it happens, but social pain and anxiety often fade over time.  If you just can’t shake these negative feels you can consider taking the following steps to make yourself feel better.

Steps to Managing Social Pain

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Learning coping skills to properly deal with social pain is definitely worth the effort.  Taking just a few easy steps can get you back on the path to a more satisfying, productive, and emotionally stable life. Don’t let yourself be ashamed or embarrassed if you suffer from social pain.  When the symptoms begin to feel unbearable, the following strategies can help you cope:

Give Yourself a Break

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Although it could seem challenging at first, try distracting yourself with fun activities. Distraction is an excellent tool to help you forget about negative thoughts or feelings.  For example, you can divert your mind’s attention from what’s bothering you by taking a walk, listening to pleasant music, reading a book, or watching your favorite movie.


Exercise is another great way to relieve the tension that accompanies social pain.  Whichever activity you choose, allow yourself to relax and enjoy it as much as possible. When you exercise your body releases endorphins which chemically result in happiness and relaxation.   This simple coping strategy will give your mind a chance to rest and take a refreshing timeout. Plus, you may find that putting your focus on something else gives you a new perspective. You may feel differently about a painful episode in your live given some time to gain perspective.   

Celebrate Your Senses

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Joyful experiences related to touch, smell, taste, hearing, and sight can frequently relieve social pain. In fact, many sensory experiences can replace social pain with pleasure and comfort. Taking a warm bath, looking at beautiful artwork or landscapes, watching your child play, snuggling with your dog, or smelling freshly baked cookies are all good examples of sensory-based therapy.  Any tactile experience that you find calming, soothing or that brings you joy can release you from the grips of social pain.

Reach Out to Others

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Connecting with people you like, love, or enjoy can positively impact how you feel. Personal relationships can help you move on from bad experiences. Think of it as a form of cleansing your “people palate.”  Any type of communication can be helpful. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made in-person interactions almost impossible. Thankfully, we have technology such as zoom and facetime to help us stay connected with others.  Chatting with friends and family can be quite effective in boosting your mood.

Recall Good Times

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Jog your memory into recalling the successful social relationships you’ve had in your past. The more often you think about positive past social experiences, the more likely you will repeat them in a present experience. To get started, look at photos taken during happier times. You can also read mail and text messages that brought you happiness or made you laugh. Although you may feel a bit melancholy by remembering good times, it can often be better than suffering from your current social pain.

Reflecting on good times is a way of reminding yourself that you have enjoyed social interactions with others without pain, and you can do it again. It can bring hope that more good times are on the way.

Avoid Making It a Big Deal

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Perspective is key.  Whatever the painful situation, try not to attach too much significance to it.  It may seem important now, but down the road, you may change your mind.  You may realize that many upsetting situations in your past were not worth your time or energy. For example, you may have felt rejected after being fired from your job.  Later, you found a much better job and realized that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to you.

Exaggerating the significance of an event or situation can also lead to misunderstandings. For example, if a new friend has not called as promised, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to talk to you.  An unexpected situation may have arose or they may just have become distracted.

Seek Professional Help

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Although people usually recover quickly from painful social interactions, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. This is more common if a particular type of situation frequently occurs or if negative feelings associated with a situation are severe. If you are finding it difficult to heal from a hurtful circumstance or social pain, it might be time to seek professional medical care. Trained mental health professionals can help you work through the issues that are troubling you and support your efforts to succeed in your mental wellbeing.

 If you need help with severe feelings of depression, aggression, or suicidal thoughts, please immediately contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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