Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is an excessive fear of being negatively evaluated - Bright Tots - Information on child development - Autism information.
Social Anxiety Disorder
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Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is an excessive fear of being negatively evaluated, rejected, humiliated or embarrassed in
front of others. Therefore children and adolescents with social phobia fear a wide range of situations such as giving oral
reports, participating in gym class, speaking to adults or peers, starting or joining in conversations, eating in public, and taking
tests. They may fear unfamiliar persons, and therefore have difficulty making friends or meeting new people. Children and
teenagers with social phobia typically respond to these feelings by avoiding the feared situation. They may stay home from
school or avoid parties. Social phobia can be limited to specific situations, so the adolescent may fear dating and recreational
events but be confident in academic and work situations. While studies have reported cases of social phobia in children as
young as 8 years, it is more frequently diagnosed in adolescents.

Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common of all mental disorders. Studies estimate rates of social phobia in youth at
approximately 1-9%, depending on the age and gender. Twice as many females as males have social anxiety disorder. Social
anxiety disorder usually begins in the early to mid-teens, although it can sometimes begin earlier in childhood or in adulthood.
Family history, negative life experiences, anxious temperament and new social demands are also risk factors.

Researchers believe that a combination of genetic and environmental influences results in the emergence and maintenance of
social phobia. Biological theories suggest that some children are born with a genetic predisposition for shyness or an inhibited
temperament, which is translated into social phobia when stressful life situations occur. Some research has found that parents
of socially phobic children and adolescents tend to be socially anxious themselves and overly concerned with the opinions of

Social Anxiety Symptoms

•        Intense fear of social and performance situations

•        Avoids social situations or endures them with intense distress

•        Fears situations such as unstructured interactions with peers, initiating conversations, performing in front of others,
inviting others to get together, talking on the telephone, and eating in front of others

•        Minimal interaction and conversation with peers

•        Appears isolated and on the fringes of the group

•        May sit alone in the library or cafeteria, hang back

•        Excessive shyness

•        Concern about negative evaluation, humiliation or embarrassment

•        Difficulty with public speaking, reading aloud, being called on in class, gym class

•        Anticipation of a social event may provoke a panic attack

•        Physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, muscle tenseness

Treatment Social Anxiety Disorder

The scientific literature supports the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT uses practical and reasonable strategies directed
at changing the issues that hold anxiety such as negative thoughts or expectations, physical symptoms, avoidance, and the
reactions and responses of adults to an anxious child. Children learn to think more realistically about fears and to confront the
feared social situations.
Group therapy which provides experiences in social skills, such as initiating conversations, inviting others to get together, and
being assertive is also helpful. When deemed necessary by a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a combination of CBT and
medication may be prescribed.