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Komi Can’t Communicate Is a Positive Example of Supporting Someone With Social Anxiety

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Komi Can’t Communicate is a slice-of-life comedy anime based on the popular shonen manga of the same name. The series follows high school student Shoko Komi as she works through her crippling social anxiety with the help of her friends, Tadano and Najimi. Komi’s behaviors are similar to Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

Even though Komi is worshiped as the goddess of her high school given her beauty and “graceful” personality, her classmates don’t realize that her aloofness results from crippling social anxiety. Komi is terrified of interacting with people around her, even though she desperately wants to communicate and make genuine connections. When Tadano transfers to Komi’s elite school, his exceptional observation skills allow him to understand Komi’s feelings. He decides to help Komi achieve her goal of getting one hundred friends by the end of their high school years.

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What is Social Anxiety Disorder, and How Does It Effect Komi?

komi frozen up komi can't communicate

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is one of the social disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a reference guide used by health professionals worldwide. There are two categories of Social Anxiety Disorder: Generalized Social Anxiety — the most severe, all-encompassing form — and Performance Only Social Anxiety — anxiety related to one social situation like public speaking. SAD symptoms can be mental and physical. For example, someone with SAD might avoid social situations and have negative self-perceptions while also experiencing increased heart rate, shaking, sweating, or digestive issues.

Although the anime doesn’t explicitly state it, Komi has the telltale signs of General Social Anxiety Disorder. Throughout the Komi Can’t Communicate, the audience can see her extreme uneasiness toward social situations. Komi also exhibits physical symptoms when she shakes, sweats, and blushes. Because Komi’s classmates deeply admire her, they put her on a pedestal and revere her from afar, further isolating her and making it harder for her to connect with them. Komi misunderstands her classmates’ admiration as avoidance which exasperates her anxiety and negative self-perception.

RELATED: Komi Can’t Communicate: Komi and Najimi Are The Classic Introvert-Extrovert Foils

Komi’s Friends Help Her to Overcome Anxiety

Komi with her friends in Komi Can't Communicate.

What ultimately sets Komi on the path of overcoming her social anxiety is her determination to connect with others despite how hard it is to do so. Tadano empathizes with Komi’s efforts and decides to help her, starting by becoming her first friend. According to mental health experts, a few tips to help someone overcome SAD are to be patient, avoid avoidance, remain positive, celebrate small wins, and encourage them to seek professional treatment. Although not perfect, Tadano and Najimi consistently offer Komi this support.

When Tadano notices Komi’s inability to speak, he suggests she communicates by writing. Tadano and his classmates patiently create space for Komi to communicate via writing, but it quickly becomes a crutch. Where Tadano might coddle Komi, Najimi pushes Komi out of her comfort zone and into social situations. Najimi regularly invites Komi and Tadano to social events like going to the pool over the summer or playing games with classmates. Tadano’s patience, empathy, and Najimi’s outgoing nature create a balanced duo and a safe place for Komi to grow. As a result, the audience can see Komi’s growth throughout the series. Her classmates also start to understand Komi and see her as a fully actualized person instead of an untouchable deity.

Even though Komi Can’t Communicate portrays the misunderstandings between characters and Komi’s physical reactions for laughs, the anime doesn’t shy away from the realities of social anxiety. Komi has a tough time making friends even though she desperately wants to — something that’s relatable to the audience. She starts her journey to overcome her social anxiety with the support of her friends. Although it’s not perfect, Komi Can’t Communicate can be a positive example of how to overcome social anxiety and how to help someone who’s dealing with it.

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