Social anxiety disorder in children.

There is nothing abnormal about a child being shy, but children with social anxiety disorder experience severe distress in everyday situations such as playing with other children, reading in the classroom, talking to adults, or taking tests. Often times, children with social phobia do not want to go to school.

Children and teens with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may live with symptoms into adulthood without ever being diagnosed. Although social anxiety disorder is the third most common mental health disorder, many parents and teachers are not aware of the signs and symptoms in children and teens.

Social anxiety disorder can cause significant distress for children and have a negative impact on academic performance, social relationships, self-confidence, and other areas of performance. Children with social anxiety disorder are more likely to avoid engaging in things like sports or other group activities with their peers for fear of negative scrutiny or embarrassment.

Parents can help children with social anxiety disorder by understanding the nature of the disease and teaching them how to deal with their symptoms.

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder in children.

The average age at onset of social anxiety disorder is 13 years old, and 75% of them are between the ages of 8 and 15. The disorder can arise from a childhood history of social inhibition or shyness but it can also result from a traumatic experience, including bullying.

The hallmark of social anxiety disorder includes perceived fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the child may be exposed to potential scrutiny by others.

Other symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

1. The child feels that he will behave in a way or show symptoms of anxiety that will be assessed negatively.

2. Social situations always cause fear or anxiety.(In children, this can appear as tantrums, clinging, crying, freezing, or failure to speak.)

3. Social situations are avoided or tolerated with intense feelings of fear and anxiety.

4. It causes clinically significant distress in social, professional (school) or other areas of performance.

Physical symptoms:

1. Redness.

2. Accelerated heartbeat.

3. The voice trembles.

4. Shivering.

5. Nausea.

6. Difficulty speaking.

How to help your child cope with social anxiety disorder.

1. The best first step to helping your child deal with it is to name it.

Children with social anxiety disorder know that they feel fear and anxiety in social situations, but they don’t always know why.Helping them connect the dots between emotional responses, physical symptoms and stimuli is an important first step toward learning to cope.Educating your child about the ways in which anxiety affects thinking and behavior is a powerful lesson in learning to work through negative emotions.

2. Teaching relaxation strategies.

Children need to learn a variety of tools to use when anxious and confused. It is almost impossible to use adaptive coping strategies when you are dealing with severe physical symptoms of anxiety, so the first step is to work on learning how to calm the anxiety response.

A. Deep breathing is the best way to calm down a fast heart rate, shallow breathing and feel dizzy.

B. Progressive muscle relaxation.

Anxious children tend to tighten their muscles when they are under stress. Teach your child to relax his muscles and de-stress, beginning with his hands and arms.

Fist and hold your hand firmly for five seconds, then slowly release it. Move to the arms, neck, shoulders, feet, and legs.

3.Cognitive paraphrasing.

Children with social anxiety disorder are often overwhelmed with negative beliefs that reinforce their anxious thoughts.

Their beliefs tend to fall into the following categories:

_ Assuming the worst case scenario.

_Belief that others view them negatively.



Teach your child to recognize negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

_ If your child tends to say things like, “My teacher thinks I’m stupid because I’m bad at reading,” help him identify negative thoughts and base them on the ground (the teacher’s job is to help children learn and not judge them based on what they already know) , And replace it with a positive thought (“I find it difficult to read, but my teacher will help me improve.”)

4. Teaching problem-solving skills.

Children with social anxiety disorders tend to become masters of avoidance. They do what they can to avoid getting caught up in the situations that cause the most anxiety.While this may seem like the path of least resistance, it can actually make social anxiety worse over time.

Teach your child to deal with feelings of fear and anxiety by developing problem-solving skills.

If a child is afraid of public speaking, for example, he can learn to practice multiple times at home in front of the mirror, have someone photograph and watch it again, make eye contact, and use deep breathing to calm feelings of anxiety.

5. Work on developing friendship skills.

While you cannot make friends with your child, you can help your child to practice friendship skills. Practice these skills using role-playing and modeling to help your child feel comfortable with his peers.

_ Seek professional help.

If social anxiety disorder negatively affects your child’s ability to attend school, socialize with peers inside or outside school, or affect other areas of performance, it is time to seek evaluation from a licensed mental health professional.

The good news is that social anxiety disorder is highly treatable and children can learn to manage their symptoms and implement strategies that work across a variety of settings.

References :

Social Anxiety Disorder in Children /

Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, “Social Anxiety Disorder”،

How to Help Kids with Social Anxiety /

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