Being a teenager isn’t easy, as adolescence is a vulnerable time characterized by several, intense changes - both physically and mentally. There is pressure to fit in with peers, succeed in school and establish a personal identity.
If you struggle with adolescent social anxiety, your daily routine may feel downright debilitating. You may find it difficult to feel comfortable when with friends. You may struggle with adapting in a school setting. Likewise, you may find it impossible to harness your unique voice amongst a sea of endless, loud voices.
What Is Adolescent Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder refers to the significant fear of particular social situations (i.e., meeting new people, giving a public speech, attending a social event). The person fears judgment and rejection. It’s not just a normal set of jitters - the fear may seem paralyzing. As a result, they tend to avoid or isolate themselves from such situations.
Common symptoms of social anxiety include:
Pronounced fear of situations where you perceive you may be judged
Concern that others will notice that you appear anxious
Avoiding social settings or situations where attention may be called to you
Enduring social situations with intense anxiety
Anticipating the worst outcomes from certain social situations
Analyzing and obsessing over interactions/events as a result of social situations
Although this condition may develop at any point in one’s life, many symptoms begin manifesting in adolescence.
There isn’t a single cause for anxiety. Some research points to brain neurochemistry. People with overactive amygdalas may have intensified fear responses, which can intensify anxiety in certain situations. Likewise, social anxiety can be learned behavior. If a person had one or more traumatic, embarrassing social situations, there might be fear about repeating the same sense of humiliation.
What Helps Social Anxiety?
Although it may feel like you’re doomed, social anxiety is treatable. Many people live fulfilling lives despite their conditions. That said, it often doesn’t get better on its own. Moreover, never feeling anxious shouldn’t be the goal.
It’s all about finding a sense of balance. To achieve this, you will need to engage in a proactive effort to reduce the level of your anxiety. That’s why it’s essential to create reasonable and appropriate goals for your treatment.
Do you want to feel more comfortable giving group presentations in class? Do you want to make friends more easily? Do you want to sign up for a sport next season?
By identifying your goals, you can create a plan of action for mastering them. Conquering anxiety often entails a step-by-step approach. Each time you complete a step, you feel more empowered to continue moving forward.
In this process, it is important to be patient and kind to yourself. While taking calculated risks is critical, you will probably not transform into a social butterfly overnight (and that’s okay!). The more internal compassion you can practice, the more likely you are to stick with working towards your goals.
The opposite effect is also true. If you believe that you are socially inept, easily rejected, or incapable of making genuine connections, you will act in ways that reinforce those negative thoughts.
How Does Therapy Help?
Psychotherapy is one of the best approaches to treating adolescent social anxiety. Therapy can help you:
Learning appropriate mindfulness techniques to manage anxiety symptoms
Strengthen your confidence (which can, in turn, decrease the overall anxiety you experience)
Confront your fears safely and productively
Feel connected, supported, and understood by a trained professional
Many teenagers struggle with their mental illnesses in silence. Some of them don’t quite understand the symptoms they are experiencing. Others may be quick to dismiss or minimize how they feel- they may fear being perceived as overly dramatic.
Unfortunately, many times, when anxiety disorders manifest in adolescence, the symptoms progress and persist into adulthood. When left untreated, these symptoms can stunt one’s growth and impair one’s functioning and happiness.
If you never learn how to cope with such distress, even benign social interactions may feel terrifying. Furthermore, avoidance may prevent you from building meaningful relationships, accepting lucrative job opportunities, or growing as an individual. For these reasons, early management is critical.
If you or a loved one is struggling with adolescent social anxiety, you’re not alone. Millions of teenagers face anxiety every day. Tragically, most don’t receive the help they need.
Therapy can provide you with a safe place to receive practical tools for healing. Are you ready to start feeling better? I’m ready to help you.