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What Is Social Anxiety?
What Is Social Anxiety?
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What Is Social Anxiety?

Youth

Lots of people feel butterflies in their stomach, have a racing heart or get sweaty palms when they meet someone new, try something for the first time, answer a question in class or even talk to someone they like. It is totally normal to feel nervous, anxious or shy in a new social situation. But what if those feelings of shyness or self-consciousness turn into a very strong fear? If a person’s fear keeps them from trying new things or participating in everyday social situations, then this could be something called social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder. Having a social phobia or social anxiety disorder means that a person’s thoughts and fears are often exaggerated in their minds, and these thoughts and fears can be paralyzing.

 

There is no way to control how a person reacts to stressful situations, but there are things individuals can learn to help manage those feelings. Talking with a trained counselor—like a school counselor, social worker or psychologist—can help a person dealing with social phobia learn more about what brings on their feelings and how best to manage them so they can enjoy life to the fullest.

Parents

At different points in life, it is completely normal for people to feel nervous or shy in social situations. Parents and caregivers can support young people in navigating new social situations and managing feelings of shyness, anxiety or self-consciousness. But if you notice that large groups or new situations trigger overwhelming feelings of anxiety that paralyze your child or leave them unwilling to participate in activities, your child may need extra help. In these cases, you can reassure your child that extreme feelings of self-consciousness or anxiety don’t mean anything is wrong with them or that they have done anything wrong. Let them know that you realize that they can’t just turn off their feelings or “get over it.” Let your child know that you will work with them to get the support they need to feel better and manage those feelings.

Speak with your child’s health care provider to find a therapist you and your child trust or visit PsychologyToday.com to find a therapist near you.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

You can use the following conversation starters to speak with your child about the emotions they are experiencing:
  • It seems like you have been really sad for a while. Can we talk about it and figure out what we can do together to make it better?
  • I noticed that you’ve been worried about X lately. I’d like to help you feel less worried.
  • I’m here for you when you’re sad, anxious or scared and want to do what I can to help. Let’s talk about ways I can do that.
  • It looks like you’ve been feeling bad lately. I feel sad and worried too, sometimes. There are ways to feel better.

Educators

At different points in life, it is completely normal for people to feel nervous or shy in social situations. But if you notice a student is struggling to participate in activities or engage socially because of extreme shyness or anxiety, this child may need extra help. Referring a child to your school’s counselor, social worker or psychologist can help them begin to deal with anxiety or social phobia.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

After watching the video with your class, process it using the following discussion questions:
  • In the video, what were some of the normal feelings a person might experience in a new situation?
  • Why is it important to talk to a trusted adult if you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety and self-consciousness in large groups or new situations?
  • Who are some trusted adults that a person can talk with if they are experiencing these feelings?
  • What are some things a person could say to start this conversation with a trusted adult?