To say that most teens revolve around their social life is a vast understatement. According to psychologist Erik Erikson’s stages of development, the most important “event” of adolescence (ages 12-18) is social relationships.
But for some teens, social situations and interpersonal interactions strike fear in their hearts. Social phobia is a diagnosable disorder effecting around 7% of teens around the world, and it usually starts around 13 years old.
The main symptoms are as follows:
1) a noticeable and persistent fear of social situations where the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others (can we say high school?)
2) exposure to the situation provokes anxiety, which could lead to a panic attack
3) the person recognizes that the fear is excessive or unreasonable
4) the person avoids the situation or endures it with intense distress
5) the avoidance, anxious anticipation or distress interferes with the person’s normal routine, including school functioning, social activities, and relationships
As you can see, this goes beyond being introverted or shy. When someone is shy, they might regret that they easily blush or prefer to be timid, but it doesn’t interfere with their functioning. They can and do get out in the world.
A teen with social phobia, however, knows they have a real problem. Think Alexandra Rover in Nim’s Island. She lived the life of a shut-in, essentially, and suffered severe social phobia. You’d notice your teen regularly bowing out of proms, football games, parties, and study groups, preferring to stay in their room or on the computer.
So how do you help these teens? Here’s three suggestions:
1. Encourage Baby Steps
Teens with social phobia might not be able to attend a party, but they might be able to eat lunch one day with just one other reserved classmate.… continue reading