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Social Anxiety in Children and Youth

It’s the student who struggles at school because she’s too afraid to ask questions in class. It’s the teenager who suffers from loneliness from not having any friends because he’s too shy to talk to anyone in school. It’s shyness so severe that it gets in the way of life…

Shyness runs along a spectrum. It is normal for everyone to be shy at certain times. It is appropriate to be shyer in some situations than in others. Some cultures value shyness more than others, especially for children. Social anxiety disorder is more than just normal shyness – it is shyness so severe that it gets in the way of enjoying school and social life.

Social anxiety is a condition where individuals experience intense anxiety in some or all of the social interactions and situations of everyday life, especially when they encounter new or unfamiliar people or situations. It is also known as social phobia.

Individuals with social anxiety tend to have difficulties with performance situations, such as: public speaking; talking in classes or meetings; performing music or acting on stage; eating or drinking in front of others; using public restrooms when other people are nearby; making mistakes in front of others.

Individuals with social anxiety tend to avoid (or endure with distress) social situations such as: starting up conversation with others (who aren’t close friends); going to a party or dance; talking to strangers; talking on the phone; expressing personal opinions; talking to those in authority (e.g., teacher, employer). Bullies may notice children and adolescents with social anxiety, feel that they are helpless, and single them out as victims.

How common is it?

Social anxiety disorder is quite common, affecting about 1 adolescent in 20 (estimates vary).

If You Suspect Social Anxiety Disorder

If you are concerned that your child may have problems with social anxiety, then take your child to the doctor. It is important for the doctor to make sure that there are no medical conditions contributing to the anxiety. The doctor can then help with any referrals to more specialized mental health services or professionals in the community, such as a psychologist.

Expand the Reach is a web based resource for coaches, athletes of all levels, parents and community organizations to support Mental Wellness, and early intervention for better performance in sport & life. 

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