Children and adolescents with social anxiety disorder typically avoid social events and other situations that might expose them to humiliation or embarrassment.
Doctors diagnose social anxiety disorder based on symptoms.
Behavioral therapy may help, but a medication to reduce anxiety may be needed.
Sometimes social anxiety disorder develops after an embarrassing incident.
(See also Overview of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents Overview of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents Anxiety disorders are characterized by fear, worry, or dread that greatly impairs the ability to function and is out of proportion to the circumstances. There are many types of anxiety disorders... read more and Social Phobia Social Anxiety Disorder Social anxiety disorder is characterized by fear or anxiety about certain social or performance situations. These situations are often avoided or endured with much distress. Humans are social... read more in adults.)
Usually, social anxiety disorder is first noticed when
Children throw tantrums, cry, cling, freeze up, or withdraw or refuse to speak in social situations.
Adolescents worry excessively before going to a social event or prepare excessively before a class presentation.
They may then refuse to go to school or social events. The reason they give is often a physical symptom, such as stomachache or headache.
Children are terrified that they will humiliate themselves in front of their peers by giving the wrong answer, saying something inappropriate, becoming embarrassed, or even vomiting. When the fear is excessive, children may refuse to talk on the telephone or to leave the house.
A visit with a doctor or behavioral health specialist
Sometimes questionnaires about symptoms
The diagnosis of social anxiety disorder is based on symptoms, such as crying, tantrums, freezing, clinging, and refusing to speak in social situations. For the disorder to be diagnosed, symptoms must last 6 months or more. Also, children must feel anxious in all similar situations—for example, before all class presentations, not just for certain classes or teachers—and they must feel anxious when interacting with other children, not just adults.
Behavioral therapy Behavioral therapy Extraordinary advances have been made in the treatment of mental illness. As a result, many mental health disorders can now be treated nearly as successfully as physical disorders. Most treatment... read more is used most often. It involves not allowing children to miss school. Absence makes them even more reluctant to attend school.
If behavioral therapy is ineffective or children will not participate in it, a medication that can reduce anxiety, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) Several types of medications can be used to treat depression: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) Norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors, serotonin modulators, and serotonin-norepinephrine... read more (SSRI), may help. The medication may reduce anxiety enough to enable children to participate in behavioral therapy.