What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) affects 1 out of 3 adolescents between 13 and 18 years old. Over 19 million people across America suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD) today. It is themost common anxiety disorder and third most common mental health disorder in the country. Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia, is marked by ongoing and pervasive fear of social interaction and/or situations where embarrassment might occur. While it is common to experience some anxiety in new social situations, individuals with social anxiety disorder feel overwhelming self-consciousness, distress, and fear of judgement in day-to-day social interactions. SAD prevents individuals from having normal relationships and interactions. It can also negatively affect normal daily activities. Additionally, those who suffer from SAD often experience intense worry about upcoming social situations (causing distress days or even weeks in advance).
People with social anxiety disorder frequently avoid social interactions all together. This leads to diminished relationships, withdrawal and overall isolation. Like many other anxiety disorders, those with SAD may realize and acknowledge that their anxiety is often unreasonable or unwarranted, but still find themselves trapped in the cycle of anxiety and fear of social humiliation or embarrassment. Strong physical symptoms, such as nausea, trembling, sweating, or blushing, may occur in sufferers even in “normal”, everyday social situations.
How Do I Know If My Teen Has Social Anxiety?
If you are a parent, then it is likely you hope your child will grow up feeling self-assured and comfortable in their own skin, as these characteristics are some of the most vital when it comes to thriving socially, and thus, achieving an overall sense of wellbeing. Unfortunately, there are many children who mature into socially anxious teenagers. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and there may be multiple factors that contribute to a teen’s social anxiety.
As with most mental health disorders, social anxiety disorder is not attributed to one single cause. Nonetheless, there are certain factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing SAD including genetics, brain chemistry, and/or trauma. This means those who have first-degree family history, chemical imbalances in the brain, or have experienced long-term stress or trauma may have an increased risk of being diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder tends to emerge in adolescence and because of this trend, mental health professionals have explored additional risk factors for this younger population.
- Demeanor – a child who is inherently shy, withdrawn, and/or apprehensive to try new things may be at an increased risk for the development of social anxiety disorder as they enter into the adolescent and teenager years.
- Health or Physical Issues – if a teen has any sort of health or physical problem that is noticeable to others (like a physical deformity, large scar, birthmark, etc.) they may be more prone to suffering from social anxiety.
- Speech Problems – having a speech impediment can be challenging for many reasons, and can negatively affect a person’s confidence and self-esteem. This is especially true with teenagers. Low self-esteem often impacts a teen’s willingness to put themselves “out there” in social situations. Unfortunately, the more time a teen (or anyone) spends alone and isolated, the harder it becomes to re-engage with others.
- Being bullied – bullying is unfortunately a very prevalent occurrence in schools and on the Internet. Being bullied can affect many areas of a person’s life, including social relationships.
- Parenting style – . Some medical and mental health professions attribute the development of SAD in teenagers to parenting styles. Much research indicates a strong correlation between overprotective parenting styles and social anxiety disorder in the child. This could be because overprotective parenting styles may keep children from experiencing a healthy level of social interaction, and thus, lacking the opportunity to learn the necessary social skills.
If you notice your teenager is struggling socially, there is a chance they may be suffering from social anxiety disorder. Knowing the signs and symptoms of this mental health disorder is the first step in helping your teen get the necessary help.
- Anxiety about being with other people (especially people they do not know)
- Difficulty talking to and/or having “normal” conversations with others
- Feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious around other people
- Experiencing embarrassment while interacting with others
- Fear of being embarrassed
- Self-judgment and criticism after social interactions
- Fear of being judged by others
- Worry for days or weeks before a public event
- Avoidance of public places and/or social situations
- Difficulty making friends and maintaining relationships
- Blushing, sweating, shaking, or rapid heart beat when in social situations
- Stomach aches and nausea as a result of being around other people (other physical symptoms may include – confusion, diarrhea, muscle tension)
Every teen with social anxiety disorder will experience the same symptoms (or same severity). And while the symptoms can be quite significant and impair functioning in a variety of ways, social anxiety disorder is treatable.
Treatment Options for Social Anxiety
Treatment for a social anxiety disorder often involves psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. A treatment plan for SAD is typically based on the severity and frequency of symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most commonly used approach to treating social anxiety disorder (and anxiety disorders overall). Cognitive behavioral therapy is typically short-term and goal-oriented. For teens with social anxiety disorder, this method of psychotherapy targets the unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviors that drive the social anxiety, and provides the tools and skills to manage the thoughts and choose healthier behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy also helps teens with SAD understand the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
While not as common as CBT, exposure therapy can be an effective psychotherapeutic approach for teens with social anxiety. Exposure therapy gradually exposes the teen to their fears (while keeping them safe), while teaching helpful strategies for managing the fear. Exposure therapy is based in the belief that the more a person encounters their fears, the less and less scary they become. Exposure therapy also helps teenagers learn they can feel fear, and “do it” (whatever it is they are afraid of – in this case, social situations) anyways.
Medication is often prescribed to teenagers who struggle with social anxiety disorder, especially if SAD is significantly impacting their functioning. Overall, anxiety medication targets the brain’s emotional control center and aids in the circuits functioning more efficiently. A variety of medications, combined with therapy, may be prescribed to teenagers with social anxiety disorder, including:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): Typically prescribed for individuals with depression, SSRIs such as sertraline (Zoloft, citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), and fluoxetine (Prozac), help the brain to slow the re-absorption of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety and overall mood).
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines fall under the class of medications called sedatives, and while they are not the typically the first course of treatment for teens with SAD (due to the addictive nature of the drugs, and the risk of developing a tolerance), they are sometimes prescribed. Benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and alprazolam (Xanax), work by affecting the activity of the brain’s neurotransmitter GABA, and as a result, tend to have a calming effect on the parts of the brain that become “excitable” (which translates to anxiety for many).
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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).
- Control Your Breathing. Anxiety can cause changes in your body that make you uncomfortable. ...
- Try Exercise or Progressive Muscle Relaxation. ...
- Prepare. ...
- Start Small. ...
- Take the Focus Off Yourself. ...
- Talk Back to Negative Thoughts. ...
- Use Your Senses.
Social anxiety disorder is typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Individual psychotherapy – Psychotherapy can help your teen understand the intense anxiety he or she experiences, and find healthy ways to cope and, hopefully, overcome it.How do I help my daughter with social anxiety? ›
Gently encourage your child to join in social situations, do things in front of other people, and start new activities. Avoiding social situations can make the issue worse. If your child has an anxious reaction to a situation, don't worry. Try the situation again another time with more preparation.What causes social anxiety in a teenager? ›
Social anxiety may occur after a frightening or hurtful experience such as being bullied or abused. Being very self-critical can also be a factor.What is the fastest way to cure social anxiety? ›
- Learn stress-reduction skills.
- Get physical exercise or be physically active on a regular basis.
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Limit or avoid caffeine.
- Participate in social situations by reaching out to people with whom you feel comfortable.
Breaking Free From Anxious Symptoms
Getting professional help is key to your future well-being. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavioral activation (BA) are two recommended psychological approaches to breaking free of social anxiety. Both are evidence-based and equally effective in treating social anxieties10.
- Show genuine interest in other people.
- Just stop worrying about what people think.
- Identify the emotion behind your idea.
- Get good at telling stories.
- ADOPT HEALTHY MENTAL HEALTH HABITS AND ROUTINES. ...
- TALK ABOUT IT: DON'T BOTTLE UP SOCIAL ANXIETY. ...
- ADOPTING A POSITIVE ATTITUDE INCREASES MENTAL HEALTH. ...
- HELP YOUR CHILD DEVELOP INTERPERSONAL SKILLS. ...
- TEACH YOUR CHILD RELAXATION TECHNIQUES.
Parenting factors of insecure parent–child attachment; negative parenting styles, such as overcontrol or criticism; and modeling social anxiety have been implicated in the development of SAD in children.What triggers social anxiety in kids? ›
Children who experience teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule or humiliation may be more prone to social anxiety disorder. In addition, other negative events in life, such as family conflict, trauma or abuse, may be associated with this disorder.
- Blushing, sweating, shaking or feeling your heart race in social situations.
- Feeling very nervous to the point of feeling nauseated in social situations.
- Not making much eye contact when interacting with others.
Social anxiety disorder typically starts in childhood or adolescence. Among individuals who seek treatment as adults the median age of onset is in the early to mid-teens with most people having developed the condition before they reach their 20s.Can social anxiety be cured naturally? ›
You can start with home remedies such as exercise and deep breathing. But if these don't work, talk with your doctor about prescription medication or counseling. Mental health professionals can help you cope with anxiety and become more sociable.How do you build social confidence? ›
- Take Big Leaps Out of Your Comfort Zone. Write down a list of all the people and social situations that intimidate you. ...
- Reframe Mistakes as Positive Learning Opportunities. ...
- Spend Time With Confident Friends. ...
- Meditate. ...
- Socialize With Everyone. ...
- Make Plans and Invite People. ...
- Practice Self-Amusement.
- Share Things About Yourself First. ...
- Be Patient. ...
- Hone In on Interests. ...
- Watch Your Body Language. ...
- Avoid Personal Questions. ...
- Don't Interrupt Their Train of Thought. ...
- Suggest an Activity.
Foods naturally rich in magnesium may, therefore, help a person to feel calmer. Examples include leafy greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety.How do you get the root of social anxiety? ›
Challenging Negative Thoughts and Beliefs
In order to address the root cause of social anxiety, one must challenge the negative thoughts that fuel the condition. This means identifying and questioning the thoughts that make one feel anxious or uncomfortable in social situations.
The four levels of anxiety are mild anxiety, moderate anxiety, severe anxiety, and panic level anxiety, each of which is classified by the level of distress and impairment they cause.Is social anxiety is Curable? ›
Social anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses, but it's still poorly understood outside of scientific circles. The good news is that it's highly treatable, according to Stefan G. Hofmann, the director of the social-anxiety program at Boston University.What do schools do for social anxiety? ›
Therapists treat social anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Therapists teach students skills to calm themselves. They also teach ways to adjust thoughts that lead to anxiety and ways to use more helpful thoughts in situations that trigger anxiety.
- Prepare for social events.
- Take a gradual approach to social events.
- Use positive self-talk.
- Work on your wellbeing.
- Fight Negative Thinking.
- Set Small Goals.
- Practice Social Skills.
- Meet New People.
- Say Yes to Invitations.
- Stay in Touch.
- Frequently Asked Questions.
Repeated exposure to overly harsh and critical parenting may condition children to overreact to their mistakes, thereby increasing risk for anxiety disorders.Do you develop social anxiety or are you born with it? ›
Though social anxiety disorder typically starts in childhood or adolescence, people can also develop it later in life. The causes of social anxiety are biopsychosocial, which means it can be a result of a combination of a person's biology, psychology and social environment, says Neal-Barnett.Who is most likely to get social anxiety disorder? ›
People who are naturally more reserved and those who have experienced trauma like childhood abuse or neglect are more likely to develop the disorder. Additionally, those with a first-degree blood relative who has the disorder are anywhere from two to six times more likely to experience Social Anxiety Disorder.Can a child overcome social anxiety? ›
The good news is that social anxiety disorder is very treatable and kids can learn to cope with their symptoms and implement strategies that work across a wide variety of settings.Can overprotective parents cause social anxiety? ›
Parental overcontrol (also referred to as overprotection) is a specific parenting behavior associated with elevated levels of social anxiety in youth.What drugs are best for social anxiety? ›
Sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and venlafaxine ER (Effexor XR) are FDA-approved medications for social anxiety disorder. Non-medication treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and support groups, may be helpful in relieving anxiety symptoms.Is social anxiety normal during puberty? ›
Adolescence is associated with the onset of puberty, shifts in social and emotional behavior, and an increased vulnerability to social anxiety disorder. These transitions coincide with changes in amygdala response to social and affective stimuli.Does social anxiety go away with age? ›
For some people it gets better as they get older. But for many people it does not go away on its own without treatment. It's important to get help if you are having symptoms. There are treatments that can help you manage it.
Overcoming social anxiety takes time. There is no quick fix, but building your coping skills and learning how to tolerate distress can make it easier to manage the symptoms of your condition.What are 3 coping strategies for anxiety? ›
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Keeping active.
- Eating well.
- Spending time outdoors in nature.
- Spending time with family and friends.
- Reducing stress.
- Doing activities you enjoy.
- Lower your expectations.
- Ask others to help or assist you.
- Take responsibility for the situation.
- Engage in problem solving.
- Maintain emotionally supportive relationships.
- Maintain emotional composure or, alternatively, expressing distressing emotions.
Social coping (support-seeking) in which an individual reduces stress by seeking emotional or instrumental support from their community.What is the 5 5 5 method for anxiety? ›
First, you may want to start with a simple deep breathing exercise called the 5-5-5 method. To do this, you breathe in for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and then breathe out for 5 seconds. You can continue this process until your thoughts slow down or you notice some relief.