Children and teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may live with symptoms into adulthood without ever being diagnosed. Although SAD is the third most common mental health disorder, many parents and teachers are not familiar with the signs and symptoms in children and teenagers.
Those with SAD experience an intense fear or phobia of social situations. Although most teenagers go through periods of normal anxiety related to the changes, those with SAD experience fear that is out of proportion to the situations that they face. For some adolescents, social anxiety becomes chronic and affects everything – doing well in school, making friends and extracurricular activities.
It’s important to note that not all of the following behaviors mean your child or teen has a social anxiety order, but it’s important to look into it with a specialist if the behavior repeatedly occurs.
· Fear of new things
· Irritability, crying, or whining
· Freezing or clinging
· Refusing to speak
§ Fear of reading aloud or answering questions in class
§ Fear of talking to other kids
§ Fear of being in front of the class
§ Fear of speaking to adults
§ Fear of musical or athletic performance activities
§ Fear of ordering food in a restaurant
§ Fear of attending birthday parties
§ Fear of having friends visit
§ Refusal to participate in activities or school
Look for a teenager who...
§ is quiet
§ keeps to him/herself
§ becomes more withdrawn if encouraged to talk
§ is hesitant
§ fears being embarrassed or humiliated
§ crosses his/her arms
§ keeps his/her head down
§ displays few facial expressions
§ has nervous habits such as hair twirling or fidgeting
Treatment of SAD in children and teenagers is aimed at helping to alleviate anxiety and allow the student to cope with school and day-to-day functioning. Effective treatments under the watch of a professional may include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Family therapy
In addition to standard treatments, there are a number of coping strategies that can be employed by teachers, parents and students to manage social anxiety both in and out of school. This, in addition to professional help, can really help combat SAD in children and teens.
Schools can play an important role in this process, as it is the place where social anxiety disorder can often have the most negative effect on a child. School-based interventions led by psychologists that teach social skills training and academic skills training are helpful ways that schools can intervene in cases of SAD.
If you worry your child or teen is suffering from a social anxiety order, get help! If not treated, SAD can worsen into more anxiety issues or depression.