Social Anxiety Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by persistent worry about being embarrassed in situations with other people. Children and adolescents with Social Anxiety Disorder frequently become fearful of entering situations where they may be embarrassed. It may feel as though small mistakes are extremely obvious to those around and that these mistakes will result in some form of social humiliation. For some, their fear motivates them to avoid situations with people whom they do not know well. For others, their fear is limited to specific social situations such as giving a speech, starting a conversation, or dating.

Symptoms

  • Persistent fear of one or more situations in which a child or teen is exposed to unfamiliar people or scrutiny (possible judgment) by others
  • Avoidance or fear of school related events
  • Significant interference in most social activities
  • Fear of appearing foolish or doing something that other people would make fun of or judge you for.
  • The dread of a given social event or situation can begin weeks in advance and may make it difficult to enjoy other activities

Although this Social Anxiety is often thought of as shyness, the two are not the same! Shy people can be very uneasy around others, but they don’t experience extreme anxiety in anticipation of a social situation and they don’t necessarily avoid circumstances that make them feel self-conscious. In contrast, children and adolescents with Social Anxiety Disorder aren’t necessarily shy at all. They can be completely at ease with people some of the time, but particular situations, such as giving a presentation for older children or going on a play date alone for younger children, are associated with intense anxiety.