People often mistake social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, as simply a fear of interacting with others. In actual fact, this type of anxiety disorder is characterised by an extreme dread of social situations wherein people might judge the sufferer. Another common misconception of this ailment is that children never experience it.
Adults and parents may deny or shun it, but the reality is social phobia can happen at any time to any age group. Children, especially, can experience these intense fears caused by a number of factors, such as speaking or reading aloud in front of the class, being embarrassed, interacting with other kids or adults they are not acquainted with, offending others, being left out, and being judged. Kids suffer the crippling anxiety in various settings as well, mostly in school, family reunions, sports or class teams, and even playdates.
When kids are immensely and continually distressed, their relationships with their family, friends, and other circles, performance at school, self-esteem and self-confidence, and all other aspects of their daily life will be greatly affected. Among of the most common behaviours that indicate a child has anxiety is when he or she stops engaging in his or her hobbies and interacting with peers for fear of judgment and starts keeping to him or herself, becoming irritable, and developing unhealthy habits.
Parents may see these signs as a normal phase that their kids go through and will eventually overcome, but in some circumstances, the behaviours get worse over time. Perhaps at the first indications of the behaviours, parents should already support their children in coping with it and seek professional help.
Other symptoms of a child’s social anxiety disorder are:
- Failing to perform well in school
- Refusing to interact with people, sometimes even friends
- Excessively clinging to familiar individuals
- Dreading social events even before they happen
- Having fits and tantrums
- Blaming others for their supposed failures
- Freezing up, crying, and not speaking
These symptoms could come out from a history of shyness or social inhibition, yet they can also be results of bullying, abuse, and other traumatic experiences.
Kids may recognise these intense feelings, but they do not always know why they do it and how they can get through it. That is why parents, while they are looking after their child’s daily needs, should also look into their behaviours if any have changed. Helping them figure out the causes and how to deal with them is the first step to productive recovery. Teaching them about anxiety gives them a better understanding of their situation and feelings.
If you notice your child behaving differently, ask if something is bothering them at school or with his or her friends. If they do not open up and their odd behaviour continues, there may be deeper and more serious issues that need to be managed. Should this happen, a visit to the therapist who specialises in child social anxiety disorders can make all the difference.