It’s probably safe to say that most of us have experienced some form of social anxiety at some point in our lives. This could take the form of a worry about giving a public presentation, a concern about answering a certain question or problem, or a nagging suspicion that someone might not like us.
All of these are pretty universal experiences of social anxiety. For most people, they never become a huge problem. However, for some people, these experiences are intense and ongoing. They fall into the more disordered realm of social anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder can greatly affect the way we live our day-to-day lives. This is especially true for teens who are just learning how to navigate social situations. While a little social anxiety in our teens is to be expected, the more severe status of social anxiety disorder should be cause for concern.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders
A big takeaway from differentiating anxiety from anxiety disorders is whether or not the feelings of anxiety dissipate over time. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships.” Regarding teenagers, those last two elements – schoolwork and relationships – are important parts of their development.
It is also important to remember that anxiety disorders are not a monolith. There are many types of anxiety disorders, all of which have their own designations, symptoms, and long-term side effects. These include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobia-related disorders, and of course the subject here, social anxiety disorder.
What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?
When it comes to discussing any issue of mental health, a good starting point is to get a clinical description of the disorder. NIMH offers a perfectly concise description of social anxiety disorder. It describes social anxiety disorder as “an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others.” Additionally, “For people with social anxiety disorder, the fear of social situations may feel so intense that it seems beyond their control.”
This intensity is one of the factors that differentiate social anxiety disorder from more typically experienced social anxiety. Individuals with social anxiety may feel uncomfortable in a situation for a while, but they eventually find ways to relax, cope, and manage it. On the other hand, individuals with social anxiety disorder will often experience such great anxiety that they will either have to leave a situation or avoid it altogether. It is easy to see how this behavior could be particularly damaging to developing teens.
How Does Social Anxiety Disorder Affect Teens?
Not everyone is aware of the fact that our brains are not fully developed until our mid to late 20s. Because of this fact, disordered behaviors must be addressed before mental or emotional developmental delays become long-lasting.
When a teenager struggling with social anxiety disorder, this creates a pattern of avoidance behavior. That avoidance can become normalized in their developing minds. It is for this reason that getting professional mental health care sooner than later is crucial.
The following are just a few of the warning signs to look out for in a teen who may be struggling with social anxiety disorder:
- They begin to uncontrollably sweat or shake in social settings.
- A teen may feel as though they have “gone blank” when confronted with a question in a social setting.
- They make up excuses to avoid certain situations or places.
- A teen may express feeling unexplainably nauseated in social settings.
- They have trouble making eye contact or engaging with other people.
- A teen may regularly express the feeling that they are “being judged” or being looked down upon.
How Does Clearview Girls Academy Treat Anxiety Disorders?
All of our students who struggle with mental health and/or life-controlling issues are treated on a wholly individualized basis here at Clearview Girls Academy. That means that our students who struggle with anxiety disorders are not treated with one standard recovery plan.
Regarding students with social anxiety disorder, the first step is getting to the underlying issues that cause their disordered behaviors. At Clearview Girls Academy, we feel that this can best be achieved via our physiotherapeutic options like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). The next steps, however, involve supplementing those evidence-based treatments with experiential therapies like our exceptional equine therapy program which can greatly help students create life-long coping skills.
Most of us remember what it feels like to be socially awkward. However, most of us don’t know what it is like to feel that way all of the time. No one should have to feel that way. We make it our mission to ensure that our students no longer do.
Anxiety disorders are some of the more common mental health disorders currently affecting teenage populations. This includes social anxiety, which can be especially damaging to young people. The disorder can hinder healthy development as well as upward mobility. Social anxiety disorder can also hinder academic achievement and limit future academic opportunities. This is why being able to spot the warning signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder and getting help as soon as possible is crucial. If you feel like your daughter is suffering from social anxiety, please know that hope is out there. We can help. For more information on anxiety disorders and how to treat them, please reach out to Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484.