Social anxiety disorder is a severe fear of being watched and judged by other people. Many children feel shy or nervous in social situations, but social anxiety disorder is a much more intense fear. If your child has this disorder, he fears that if he does things when other people are around, he will look foolish and be embarrassed. The fear stops your child from doing things such as making friends, playing, and even going to school. A child with social anxiety is always tense and on edge around other people. Social anxiety disorder is also called social phobia.
Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can last a lifetime. However, treatment is very successful.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known.
Social anxiety usually starts in the teen years, but may begin in childhood.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include trembling voice, fast or irregular heartbeat, hot and flushed skin, sweaty palms, nausea, headaches, or stomachaches. Your child may cry, cling to you, or have tantrums. Feelings your child may have with social anxiety include:
If your child has this disorder, he or she may panic when thinking about a social situation, and worry about what people think of them for hours afterward. Social anxiety can lead to lack of self-confidence, lack of self-esteem, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.
Your child's healthcare provider or a mental health therapist will ask about the child's symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines the child is taking. He or she will make sure that your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms.
You may want to contact a mental health therapist who specializes in working with children and teens. The therapist will ask questions, watch your child, and may give some special tests.
There are several ways to treat social anxiety disorder. The first step is usually to help you and your child learn about the disorder.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps children learn what causes them to feel anxious and how to control it. CBT might also include social skills training, role-playing, and learning relaxation skills.
Exposure and response prevention therapy (ERPT) helps children to face their fears. Children learn ways to control their body's response to anxiety, like breathing exercises.
Group therapy that focuses on social skills may also be helpful.
Sometimes medicine may be used as well as therapy. Your child’s healthcare provider will work with you and your child to select the best medicine. Your child may need to take more than one type of medicine.
Learning ways to relax may help. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises may also be helpful. You may want to talk with your healthcare provider about using these methods along with medicines and psychotherapy to treat your child.
Stay in touch with teachers, babysitters, and other people who care for your child to share information about symptoms your child may be having.
Get emergency care if your child or teenager has ideas of suicide, harming himself, or harming others.
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