Most teens get a little nervous in social situations, like public speaking or working in groups. Teens with social phobia are highly anxious in situations
like these. Their anxiety may make them avoid everyday social activities and can make social interactions very uncomfortable. If you have these feelings of social phobia, it's important to know that there are treatments that can help you cope with social situations and enjoy your life again.
What Is Social Phobia?
Social phobia is an irrational, intense, and persistent fear of a specific object, activity, or social situation, which people avoid or endure with extreme
distress and anxiety. In some teens, the fear is limited to one or two particular situations, like speaking in public or initiating a conversation. Other teens are very anxious and afraid of any social situation. Social phobia affects about 5.3 million people in the United States. The average age of onset of social phobia is between age 11 and 19 - the teenage years.
What Are the Symptoms of Social Phobia?
The symptoms of social phobia include:
- Feeling very self-conscious in social situations, with symptoms like extreme shyness, stomachache, fast heart rate, dizziness, and crying.
- Having a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others.
- Feeling shy and uncomfortable when being watched (giving a presentation, talking in a group, performing at a piano or dance recital).
- Feeling hesitant to talk to classmates or teammates (avoiding eye contact, sitting alone at lunch, being reluctant to speak during group projects).
- Having physical sensations of anxiety (blushing, heart palpitations, nausea, and sweating, feelings of embarrassment or humiliation)
What Can I Do About Social Phobia?
If your social phobia keeps you from doing things you want to do, or from making or keeping friends, you may need treatment. Talk about your fears and worries with a doctor or therapist who has experience treating social phobia. He or she will be able to tell if you have normal social anxiety or if you need treatment.
How Is Social Phobia Treated?
There are two effective treatments for social phobia: prescription medication and behavioral therapy. Teens may receive both at the same time. Here
are some details on each:
- Medications. For some teens, taking a prescription medication can be an easy and effective treatment for social phobia. They work by reducing the uncomfortable and often embarrassing symptoms.
- Behavioral Therapy. Behavioral therapy with a trained therapist can help you identify and change the fearful thinking that makes you anxious in social situations
Other Therapies for Social Phobia - Other therapies have also been tried for treating social phobia.
Relaxation Therapy. With this therapeutic approach, you learn techniques for relaxing like doing breathing exercises and meditation. Although relaxation therapy may help with some specific social phobias, it is not considered effective treatment for general social phobia.
Beta-blockers. These medications are used to treat heart problems. Yet beta-blockers are also effective for treating some people with a specific type of social phobia called "performance social anxiety." This is when you are afraid of performing, like giving a public speech. Beta-blockers are not effective for treating general social phobia. But they may help if fear of a specific circumstance, occurring at a specific, predictable time - like giving a speech to a class - is your problem.