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Social Anxiety Disorder

By Yuet L.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is one of the most common anxiety disorders in the world. Not only do adults have this mental illness, but children and teenagers may also experience social anxiety.

Although many people believe that social anxiety is just like “being shy” and “not wanting to talk,” it is truly more than this.

Let me declare. Social anxiety is more than “being quiet.”

It is an overwhelming long-term feeling of anxiety and fear in social situations. It also makes the person feel overly self-conscious with the fear of being negatively judged, scrutinized, and humiliated by others.

Signs and Symptoms

Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating themselves
Intense fear of interacting and talking with strangers
Social withdrawal
Avoiding being the center of attention and speaking with people
Have trouble making eye contact
Avoiding everyday social situations such as attending parties, interacting with strangers, and eating in front of others
Over-analyzing social situations
Physical symptoms include: Blushing, sweating, trembling, shaky voice, rapid heartbeat, mind blanking, upset stomach 


Having some of these symptoms might not necessarily mean that your child has social anxiety.
The best way to know whether your child has social anxiety is to seek a professional for psychological diagnostic testing.

SAD in Children and Teens

Social anxiety disorder is also quite common amongst children and teenagers, usually starting between ages 8 to 15. Therefore, as teachers, parents, and adults, it is vital to be aware of situations that might trigger children with SAD.

Meeting with new people
Talking with strangers
Having to interact with authority figures
Large family gatherings
One on one conversations
Attending classes at school
Presentations and group work with fellow students
Eating in public


Triggers might again vary from person to person since every child is different from the other. 


SAD at School

Since school is a space that involves a lot of interactions between students and teachers, this might affect your child’s performance at school. Students with SAD therefore benefit from small adjustments in classroom activities that still allow them to participate and learn in school.

Some examples include:

1. Avoid or perform poorly in group projects
As they might struggle to express their opinions and fail to be assertive 

Possible support: 

Teachers – Purposely group the children with people they are more comfortable with or allow students to work alone. 


2. Unable to present or talk in front of the whole class
Children with social anxiety often fear speaking in front of many people, as they are afraid of being the center of attention. Therefore, they might either fail to complete the task or struggle to stop stuttering when talking/presenting. 

Possible support: 

Parents – Teach your child some relaxation methods before presenting, e.g., deep breathing, relaxing your muscles, guided imagery, meditation.

Teachers – Assign an alternative assessment for the student to avoid triggering their anxiety.


3. Skip school
Teens or children with social anxiety might skip school purposely to avoid facing uncomfortable social situations at school.
This might affect your child’s learning, since they might not be able to catchup with the rest of the class.
Possible support: 

Parents – Make sure not to judge them and force them to go to school if they feel incredibly uncomfortable. Help them take baby steps into going back to school, e.g. ask them to go to school for only one day per week, then gradually increase the amount.

Teachers – Send learning materials to the student and give extra support to the student.


4. Miss out on learning opportunities
They might avoid joining extracurricular activities such as tutoring lessons, joining after-school clubs, community service, etc. 
This can possibly restrict their learning and perform worse in school compared to others who have extracurricular activities.
Possible support: 

Parents – Suggest alternative learning activities that require less social interactions for your child, for example, online tutoring lessons or activities.


Treatment for SAD

Anxiety disorders are typically responsive to treatment (https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/social-anxiety/causes-social-anxiety/ ). Make sure to mention this.

Although it is difficult to cure social anxiety completely, some treatments can reduce the symptoms and frequency of anxiety. The best way is to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy(CBT), which is talking therapy with therapists, counselors, or psychologists. CBT can help your child recognize their own thoughts and feelings, determine possibly why their anxiety is triggered, and help reduce anxiety.

Medications such as antidepressants prescribed can also help lessen the symptoms of anxiety. Since SAD is highly responsive through treatment, combined with the help of medications and psychotherapy, it can be improved significantly.

Overall, social anxiety disorder can drastically impact your child’s life and also their academic performance. If symptoms are getting too severe and are affecting your child’s daily life, it is essential to seek professional help. If your child is struggling with social anxiety disorder, contact the BFDC for more support.

***

Sources:
https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-anxiety-disorder-more-than-just-shyness
https://www.psycom.net/social-anxiety-how-to-help-kids
https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/social-anxiety/causes-social-anxiety/
https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/how-to-get-over-social-anxiety
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353561