There are a myriad of unavoidable challenges and difficult lessons that teens must endure. Further, every person, regardless of age has fears and experiences bouts of anxiety. Most young people develop various coping mechanisms to effectively manage their anxiety and fears. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) explains that, “anxiety refers to anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.” It is highly common for young people to want to avoid facing reality at some point during their adolescence. For many these feelings are fleeting. When a young person struggles with debilitating symptoms of social anxiety to the point that they interfere with his or her ability to function in daily life, it may be indicative of social anxiety disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social phobia, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic mental health condition. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), social anxiety disorder “is characterized by persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.” Social anxiety disorder is more complicated than a teenager trying to get out of something they do not want to do. A teenager with social phobia will experience a stronger and more intense sense of anxiety surrounding uncomfortable social situations. They will go to great lengths to avoid social situations due to a fear of being negatively evaluated (e.g., embarrassed, judged, or rejected) by others.
It is highly common for young people with SAD try to make themselves invisible to others (e.g., they do not speak so they will not draw attention to themselves, they keep their gaze cast downward so they will not make eye contact, they avoid situations so they will not have to face people, etc.). The National Social Anxiety Center provide the following examples that could indicate a teen is struggling with social phobia:
- Extremely vulnerable to any kind of criticism from others
- Goes to excessive lengths to avoid interacting with others
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Does not express opinions, thoughts, beliefs in front of others
- Emotional instability (e.g., agitation, irritability, sadness, anger, crying spells, depression, etc.)
- Physical symptoms (e.g., muscle tension, excessive sweating, shaking, etc.)
- Persistent fears of being socially inferior
In addition to the above, a teen with social anxiety disorder may have frequent self-deprecating thoughts and thoughts of inadequacy. Social anxiety that goes unaddressed can lead to isolation and reduced confidence.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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