Social Anxiety in Kids: Common Symptoms & Helpful Tips

Last Updated: September 21, 2022

Every kid is unique, and it is essential to make them aware of the importance of acknowledging one’s individuality and celebrating it. Growing up, kids become aware of societal judgment standards and compare themselves to others. Hence, every parent should apprise their kids of the importance of embracing every aspect of one’s self. 

Upon getting introduced to an unfamiliar environment, kids start developing a thought process of their own that might be different from what they have learned from their parents. It results in the generation of differences between learning and thinking; what they think could be entirely different from what they have learned. As a result of this difference, they create a standard in their minds. This ‘standard’ is equivalent to an imaginary guidelines document that kids refer to perform tasks the ‘right’ way. When they fail to meet their expectations, that marks the onset of Social Anxiety. Thus, parents need to notice how their kid responds to certain situations. 

What is Social Anxiety in kids? 

Social Anxiety is characterized by major self-conscious issues, dipping self-esteem levels, fear of embarrassment or judgment, and intense difficulty while opening up to people. More often than not, Social Anxiety is mistaken for Shyness. Parents often conclude that what their kids are experiencing is just a little instance of nervousness which will get better with time. However, that is far from reality. Shyness never affects the quality of kids’ lives, but Social Anxiety does. In the latter case, kids often suffer from distressing symptoms that lead to an isolated lifestyle and occasions of avoidance. Social Anxiety generally takes over children over time. What starts as an incident of minimal discomfort in unfamiliar situations; often becomes a worrisome lifelong affair. 

What does Social Anxiety look like? 

Many instances might help parents identify if their kid is suffering from Social Anxiety. Mentioned below are a few of many examples.

  1. Kids make excuses to prevent themselves from visiting places with large crowds like school, birthday parties, after-school programs, etc. 
  2. Worry about how they will look in front of others.
  3. Avoid getting in situations that include engaging in conversations.
  4. Experience intense fear while thinking about trying something new.
  5. They feel embarrassed and disappointed in themselves when they make silly mistakes in front of others.
  6. Display extreme sensitivity to rejections.
  7. Seldom make eye contact with people.
  8. Avoid places and activities which put them in the spotlight.
  9. Display turbulent emotions like crying and getting upset frequently.
  10. Do not speak their mind to ‘save’ themselves from getting evaluated or criticized by people.
  11. Depend too much on their parents and do not ask for help from others.

Physical signs and symptoms of Social Anxiety 

  1. Rapid Heartbeat
  2. Nausea
  3. Sweating
  4. Crying & irritation
  5. Random outbursts
  6. Upset stomach
  7. Trembling voice/ Stuttering
  8. Jitters
  9. Muscle tension & Pain
  10. Light-headedness
  11. Mind-blanking etc.

Potential Causes of Social Anxiety 

Social Anxiety in kids develops due to a confluence of factors and flares up when children face stressful and challenging situations. If not treated timely, it can become pervasive and affect kids’ academic grades, goals, school activities, relationships, and even daily routines. Thus, it is significant to understand what causes Social Anxiety and what are the potential triggers. 

Following is a few of the numerous causes of Social Anxiety in kids. 

  1. Bullying, Physical or Emotional Abuse
  2. Family Conflicts
  3. Parenting style
  4. Lack of warmth or affection
  5. Families with a collectivistic orientation
  6. Genetics
  7. Memories of past humiliation
  8. Unfair expectations

Factors that trigger Social Anxiety in Kids

It is vital to understand that not every social situation has the same kind of effect on every kid. Social Anxiety triggers can be different for every kid. Social Triggers are nothing but a combination of external and internal factors that lead your brain to perceive certain situations as dangerous. As a result, the body responds in multiple ways, and symptoms like trembling, shortness of breath, muscle tension, stuttering, etc., are seen in children. Recognizing these triggers help in avoiding debilitating symptoms and coping with the after-effects. 

Following is a list of few of the numerous events that trigger Social Anxiety in kids. 

  1. Public Speaking
  2. Meeting new people
  3. Taking exams
  4. Traveling alone
  5. Eating in public 
  6. Being teased 
  7. Asking for help with ‘self-explanatory’ tasks
  8. Public performances like athletics or dramatics
  9. Speaking on the phone with strangers
  10. Initiating small conversations
  11. Stating opinions

Related: Helpful guide to identifying Social Anxiety Triggers and their Causes.

Helpful tips to ease Social Anxiety in kids 

The intensity of Social Anxiety is subjective and varies from person to person. Some kids might cope better, but it could be grueling for other kids to endure. Parents should look out for any symptom or behavioral pattern they feel is problematic and seek help from a medical professional. A timely diagnosis of Social Anxiety is critical for effective treatment to prevent adverse effects on kids’ daily lives. The lives of children with Social Anxiety are challenging because they do not understand the reason behind their condition, and even if they do, they fear asking for help. While professional help is the best recommendation, there are several ways in which parents can help their children deal with Social Anxiety. 

Following is a list of helpful tips for parents to help their kids deal with Social Anxiety. 

  1. Educate them about Social Anxiety
  2. Teach Breathing Exercises
  3. Spend time with them
  4. Notice and Respond timely
  5. Understand them
  6. Encourage & Give Validation
  7. Give Rewards for Progress
  8. Express Confidence in them
  9. Help them Embrace Emotions
  10. Teach Self-expression tricks
  11. Help them Accept their Individuality

Takeaway 

While Social Anxiety can be daunting and debilitating, its effective treatment is possible with professional help and parental support. Parents should make efforts to understand all kinds of social concerns of their children and carefully take active steps to help them get rid of these. Timely diagnosis and treatment can prevent children from lifelong suffering and enhance the quality of their lives. 

References 

  1. healthline.com/health/anxiety/social-phobia
  2. cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/anxiety-depression-children.html
  3. cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/su/su7102a1.htm
  4. verywellmind.com/social-anxiety-disorder-causes-3024749
  5. verywellmind.com/difference-between-shyness-and-social-anxiety-disorder-3024431
  6. nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-anxiety-disorder-more-than-just-shyness
  7. understood.org/en/articles/social-anxiety-and-learning-and-thinking-differences-what-you-need-to-know
  8. org/article/what-is-social-anxiety/

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