Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you knew you had to give a speech in front of people? Sweaty palms before a date? Well, that’s TOTALLY normal.
However, for people who suffer from social anxiety, the fear goes way beyond that. The fear becomes so all-encompassing that they may shake, have difficulty breathing and even have a full-fledged panic attack. Social phobia affects about 5.3 million people in the United States. The average age of onset of social phobia is between age 11 and 19 — the teenage years. People with social anxiety are at a higher risk for depression, alcoholism, and even thoughts of suicide. Teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD) often live with the problem through 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.
Social Anxiety in Teens – From A Teens Perspective
My daughter is sixteen and suffers from social anxiety and depression. She recently attended a school party with me for her 6-year old brother. At first everything was fine. However, as a room full of 25 6-year-olds became more rambunctious and as more parents came into the room, she slowly started to lose control of her emotions. She got shaky, started breathing heavily and began to cry. She was completely embarrassed and had to leave the school and go sit in the car until the party was over. She missed out on the food and was really disappointed.
Signs & Symptoms of Social Anxiety:
* Excessive fear of public speaking
* Avoidance of social situations
* Extreme fear of being judged or embarrassed
* Blushing, sweating, shaking, pounding heart
* Extreme discomfort with dating
* Panic attack
* Heart palpitations
* Difficulty breathing
* Feeling disoriented
* Feeling loss of control
* Dizziness or feeling faint
* Compulsion to escape
Fortunately, there are very effective ways to treat social anxiety through a combination of various therapies, medications and support groups. My daughter is on medication, but still struggles as we try to find an effective combination of medication for her. She also sees a psychologist and a psychiatrist, but the struggle is real. She is doing better, but without having someone to talk to and without medication, the anxiety and depression would be overwhelming.
If you or someone you know has experienced the signs or symptoms of social anxiety listed above, it is very important to get help. Talk to someone who cares – your parents, school counselor, psychologist, or family physician.