Some tips to spot when social anxiety disorders in a child are serious.
Shyness can make childhood difficult, but most grow up and out of it. However, for children with social anxiety disorder waiting to outgrow it will only make things worse. But what is the difference between being an introvert and having this disorder? What can parents do to help their child if they suspect social anxiety disorder.
When is social anxiety in a child serious?
Does your child have few friends? While children with social anxiety are usually pleasant children, their extreme timidity and lack of pursuing social interaction often leaves the anxious child on the sidelines.
Does your child avoid eye contact? This is a sign that the social interaction is very uncomfortable for the child.
Does your child worry excessively about situations involving other people, like going to a party, talking in class, going to the chalkboard, calling friends? A shy child may be reluctant to do these things, but an anxious child will be overcome with dread just thinking about these types of activities.
Has your child dropped out of or refused to join groups, such as scouts, dance lessons, sports teams and such? While not everyone is an athlete or dancer, there are groups for people with every conceivable interest. While your child may say they aren’t interested in the activity, a child with anxiety disorder is more likely avoiding situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
Does your child tremble, fidget, mumble in social situations? If the setting is a three hour play, or something boring, fidgeting is to be expected. However if you see a pattern to nervous behavior occurring in any social situation, you should take note.
Does your child often have headaches, stomach aches, feel dizzy or nauseated? Children with social anxiety disorder often have physical symptoms, sometimes they may be invented to avoid frightening scenarios, or they may be actual physical manifestations of the stress the child is feeling. A child with anxiety problems frequently knows the school nurse quite well.
Did your child suffer from severe separation anxiety? Does your child have school avoidance problems? Missing lots of school is an early tip-off to a social anxiety disorder. The more school is missed the more difficulty the child may have returning, and the stress and dread become a cycle for the child.
Besides answering these questions, rate the level of fear your child exhibits. Many children hate giving oral reports. They might get butterflies the morning of the speech, or have clammy hands, maybe even worry the night before. A child suffering with anxiety will stay awake many nights worrying, refuse to do the report, become physically ill with stress, or go to elaborate lengths to avoid speaking to the class.
Many children can be shy about making friends. A child with social anxiety will have oodles of reasons why they shouldn’t introduce themselves to the new neighbor. A typically shy child might be quiet in groups until someone familiar draws them out of their shell. A socially anxious child will make themselves miserable worrying that they will mess up the most mundane things, embarrass themselves, or in being so nervous realize they have made people notice their trembling, sweating or whatever. A party can be nothing but sheer terror for a socially anxious child.
It’s normal for a kid to get nervous before a big game, but if the child vomits before every game or nearly quits the team every week, that signals a problem. A child that can list fifty reasons why he or she shouldn’t go to camp, and gives well thought out answers, may be suffering from more than average shyness.
Treating social anxiety disorder can involve one of two methods, and probably a combination of the two. One is with therapy, most likely cognitive/behavioral therapy. Your child will learn what triggers the anxiety, learn to replace negative irrational thoughts with normal positive ones, and develop skills to handle stressors and negotiate social situations.
The other treatment option is medicine, usually an SSRI, or an atypical antidepressant such as budeprion or something similar. Combining the two approaches seems to garner the best results.
It’s important to seek help for a child struggling with social anxiety. Untreated, the condition becomes chronic and frequently leads to other problems like depression, or substance abuse. (How many people like to drink because it helps them relax or feel more friendly?) Social anxiety traps people into a life without much interaction with the world. The illness often runs in families, so if your child has a close relative with such anxiety problems, pay attention to any warning signs. Left untreated, social anxiety disorder will not disappear, but will follow the child into adulthood.
The information contained in or made available through This Site cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in the medical field. We do not recommend any treatment, drug, food or supplement. You should regularly consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.