Human connections play a vital role in both physical and mental health, making persistent anxiety relating to social interaction a barrier to well-being. Many people feel social anxiety occasionally, but for some those feelings of unease occur frequently enough to impact their daily interactions with the outside world.
Anxiety can take many forms. Generalized anxiety causes unrelenting, daily worry about multiple issues, and separation anxiety catapults your child into panic whenever you must leave him. Social anxiety is specific to interaction with people, and is characterized by a fear of being judged, negatively perceived or rejected in situations where your child feels scrutinized by others. It can be triggered anywhere he would interact with people outside of the immediate household, such as at school, sports, family gatherings and visits with family friends.
Symptoms of social anxiety go beyond simple displays of shyness and may include:
- Difficulty speaking
- Freezing up
- Quavering voice
Your child may also experience alterations in mood leading up to a planned social interaction. In addition, this type of anxiety can be overwhelming enough to cause physical symptoms such as rapid heartrate, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, muscle aches and even dizziness.
If a young person has social anxiety that is persistent in more than one social setting for longer than six months, they may meet the diagnostic criteria for social anxiety disorder. In very young children, the anxiety must be present among their peers as well as adults. The average age of onset is 13 years, and 75% of cases start between the ages of eight and fifteen.
Social anxiety at the disorder level can be problematic in more ways than simply causing trouble making new friends. Your child can even struggle in situations that don’t involve verbal contact, such as arriving late to class or eating in front of others. Symptoms can change as time progresses, but without treatment, the condition usually persists into adulthood and interferes with work life, dating and simple social encounters such as returning a purchase to a store or ordering food at a restaurant.
In addition to resulting in social isolation, social anxiety disorder can affect your child at school by causing challenges such as:
- Inability to ask for help or self-advocate
- Refusal to go to school when running late
- Difficulty working when others can look and watch
- Verbal language assessment setbacks
- Unwillingness to participate in PE class
- Inhibition with written output
- Paralysis when faced with public speaking assignments
If you have any reason to believe your child might have an anxiety disorder, seek professional help for diagnosis and treatment options. For more severe cases of anxiety, there are medications available, but they only work while being administered and offer no long-term benefits.
Talk to your socially anxious child, and give their fears a name so they understand what is going on, rather than feeling out of control. Teach them relaxation strategies, such as breathing exercises and guided imagery. Enlighten them to the power of restructuring their thoughts by changing them from anxiety-provoking fixed mindset to growth mindset. Teach them social skills and problem solving, and offer empathy and encouragement.
If your child struggles to connect socially, contact Brain Balance Achievement Centers. While our program is non-medical, in cases of mild to moderate social anxiety, it may help get them back on track so they can succeed at school and at home.
For over a decade, we’ve helped over 30,000 children improve the critical skills needed to create a brighter path for their future. Contact us online to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help. You can also view the research and results of the program on the website.