Social Anxiety in Young People

What does it look like?

Social anxiety (also known as ‘social phobia’) is the fear of social situations and being judged negatively by others. Of course, it is completely normal to have some fear in social situations. We are social creatures after all who have thrived in evolutionary terms because of our ability to collaborate and work in groups. As a teenager or pre-teen it is very important to find our tribe/feel accepted by peers.

Social anxiety only becomes a problem when the fear is intense and debilitating. For example, the child may have trouble interacting with people and attending social gatherings. It may be difficult to perform everyday activities  – ordering food in-person or over the phone, doing a presentation, talking in social gatherings all become dreaded. As psychologists, we worry most, when the young person is avoiding doing things that they care about or enjoy such as hobbies and seeing their friends because of their fears.

In this blog, we will explain what social anxiety is to help you recognise and understand it better for your child.

“What does social anxiety look like?”

Physical symptoms of social anxiety in a novel social situation are:

  • Intense blushing, sweating, rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling or shaking when talking
  • Dizziness, nausea
  • Mind ‘goes blank’ (which creates difficulty in speaking)

For school-aged children and teenagers with social anxiety, they could exhibit similar symptoms:

This overwhelming self-consciousness can impact far and wide on life. Relationships, self-esteem, school or work achievement and quality of life is impacted. Gradually, life can shrink and lots of opportunities are missed. This can lead to low mood in the longer term.

What to do about it

For young people in school it is important to do something as soon as possible to interrupt the avoidance. At this crucial stage in development, young people need to be able to socialise to develop their personality, self-esteem and social skills.

Understanding social anxiety and how they manifest in behaviours is the first step. Therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help give the young person the skills they need to manage the anxious thoughts.

There are lots of good books available to help get started with this – we like this one in particular.

In our next blog, we’ll explore deeper on the topic of social anxiety. Sign up to our hints and tips email for news on our upcoming webinar on social anxiety and to get all our latest hints and tips from the therapy room.

Take care.

Pocket Family Psychologist

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"Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative"

“Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative. During the second period of lockdown and home-schooling; parents and children found themselves again in a period of upheaval and transition. Many parents and carers were extremely worried about their children’s mental health and their own ability to be present and engaged whilst also playing the role of teacher and care giver. Dr Shortland gave attendees an insight into how many parents were feeling; tips on supporting children and helping them cope whilst studying from home and also managing their mental health. She also helped us realise the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to effectively support our children. It was such a useful session that we realise it was also pertinent for not only children’s mental health but also adults! We will be holding another session with Dr Andrea and MediaCom soon.”

Avelon Thompson, MediaCom (following a parenting workshop)