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Ways to Recognize Social Anxiety Disorder in a Family Member

Dr. Laura Tanzini

Social anxiety disorder, which is also referred to as social phobia or SAD, is identified by an intense fear of social situations or a strong aversion to performing in social situations. While most people don’t enjoy public speaking or engaging in social situations all the time, people who suffer from social anxiety disorder experience this fear and anxiety on a much higher level. Since these symptoms are sometimes considered common, especially amongst teenagers, social anxiety disorder will often go undetected. Social anxiety disorder affects approximately 15 million adults. It’s important for everyone to gain a better understanding of what social anxiety is and seek the best treatments for anxiety disorders. Below is a list of helpful tips to help you detect social anxiety symptoms in your family members.

Two Types of Social Anxiety

First, it can be helpful to know that there are two main types of social anxiety that one can experience. One is a more generalized social anxiety that occurs in many types of social situations. The other is considered a performance-only social anxiety disorder, which occurs during public speaking or other public performances. On average, social anxiety will begin around adolescence. While many teens avoid public speaking or may feel introverted in their high school years, this type of anxiety is much more intense than your typical social avoidance. If you believe your child or teenager is avoiding social situations more than their peers, it may be a good time to seek out help from a professional counselor to see if one or both of these types of social anxiety is affecting them.

More than Shyness

It’s also important to know that the signs and symptoms of SAD are more than just shyness. As children develop, they’ll start to explore social situations in different ways and test their own personal boundaries. It’s true that some children are naturally shy or quiet. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re suffering from social anxiety disorder. However, if your child or teen is experiencing symptoms such as fear of speaking with their peers, fear of speaking with adults, fear of going to school, extreme aversion to activities like birthday parties, they could possibly be struggling with a type of social anxiety disorder. They also might show signs in their temperament and nonverbal behavior as well. For instance, consistently choosing to sit in the back of the class, expressing intense negativity, folding their arms, avoiding eye contact, and adopting nervous habits are all signs of social anxiety.

Physical Symptoms

A lot of the signs and symptoms of SAD are intense fear, anxiety, or aversion to certain situations. But social anxiety can also have physical symptoms as well. Common physical signs of social anxiety disorder are increased heart rate, nausea, headaches, or even full-blown panic attacks. It’s important to be aware of these physical signs when you’re leading up to social situations. Notice if they show any of these symptoms when you drop them off at school or attend an event. If you see a rise in their heart rate or if they complain about feeling sick it could be much more than just shyness.

It’s vital to reach out to mental health professionals if you believe that your family member is struggling with social anxiety. Kinder in the Keys, Inc. can answer all of your questions and help you move forward. Give them a call today.