Everything You Need to Know About Social Anxiety in Teens
Social Anxiety In Teens
Although the teen years are an exciting time, they also come with their fair share of hurdles. Aside from navigating the often tricky world of dating and relationships, one of the most common difficulties teenagers face is social interactions.
Some teens suffer from social anxiety, a personality trait characterized by generalized fear in social situations. Others may have difficulty understanding non-verbal cues, leading to miscommunication or awkwardness with peers and other adults.
The Negatives Of Teen Social Anxiety
Social anxiety disorder can lead to social and emotional difficulties for teenagers, including sadness, loneliness, and excessive worrying about social performance.
In other words, social anxiety leads to quite the opposite of what one would expect to experience during a period in life one would hope to associate with high self-esteem.
In addition to the negative impact on personality and emotions, social anxiety disorder can also affect physical health. For example, research has shown a higher prevalence of upper respiratory diseases in teens who suffer from social anxiety.
So, how do we understand social anxiety in teenagers?
Below we will explore ten ways teenager interactions can lead them to teen social anxiety.
How Do Teenagers Experience Social Interactions?
Like most emotions, social anxiety has a long history of being studied by psychologists. While there are many strategies and techniques for identifying how it manifests in different individuals, researchers have yet to reach an absolute consensus on its causes and implications for teens. However, research can provide insight into the characteristics of social interactions that teens may face, which helps explain the how’s and whys behind their difficulties.
- Social anxiety begins early in life
Although symptoms of social anxiety may begin to manifest themselves in middle childhood, most affected teens will become acutely aware of their symptoms during puberty. This is because these years present a new set of social challenges: dating, relationships, and peer pressure. These shifts in the teen social environment can place increased stress on those who already suffer from social anxiety.
- The environment
The social world a teen finds themselves in can significantly impact their social anxiety, even more than their own personality. Not only do environments impact how we behave, but they also affect our thoughts and feelings. For example, when teens find themselves in an environment that is too rigid or too restrictive, their experience of social interactions may suffer as a result.
- Peer pressure
Many teenagers feel pressured by their peers to act in certain ways, especially during the teenage years. However, when this pressure comes from within the peer group, this can lead to feelings of insecurity and a worsening of social anxiety.
Being surrounded by people can make other seem people more socially desirable than oneself – but as stress levels rise during adolescence, so does loneliness and social isolation. Adolescents are constantly looking for ways to enhance their popularity, so as they mature, they may start taking on a more demanding role in their peer groups or cliques. This can lead to feelings of guilt when these groups push their members to engage in more risky behaviors.
- Relationship issues
Just as some teens may feel under stress due to peer pressure, others might find it hard to face relationship problems or potential relationship problems in the future. This is because they feel ill-equipped to handle the possibility of rejection, especially given their past experience with rejection and other social difficulties.
- Lack of social skills
Socially anxious teenagers may feel that they don’t have the necessary abilities or knowledge to interact with others in simple and appropriate ways. To cope, they may resort to avoidance or other socially disruptive behaviors.
- Mind over body concerns
The physical health of people tends to affect their social interactions very profoundly – it’s no secret that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to become less engaged in social situations. However, the opposite can also be true: people who experience stress or anxiety in social situations tend to show physical symptoms like elevated blood pressure and increased perspiration.
- Brain chemistry
Although the exact role of brain chemistry in the development of social anxiety is still poorly understood, it is generally accepted that some amount of genetic factors are involved. Research has also indicated that there may be a link between fear responses in certain parts of the brain and social anxiety – which means that a teen’s environment could influence their level of susceptibility to these responses.
- Body language
Teens who suffer from social anxiety may be very aware of their difficulties in communicating nonverbally and therefore find themselves struggling to interpret the body language of the people around them. This can lead to confusion and an inability to read other people’s emotions, which in turn can make interacting with others more stressful.
- Physical symptoms
Teens with social anxiety may experience various physical symptoms when they are anxious in social situations – from facial tics to gastrointestinal issues. Physical symptoms are often part of the emotional stress response, so it is not surprising that some of these responses can be present even when the person feels entirely calm and relaxed.
How To Help Your Socially Anxious Teen
“It’s better to talk about it.”
All teenagers go through difficult periods in their lives – this is natural, and it’s also normal for us all to experience some level of social anxiety during this time. However, there is a difference between struggling with our feelings and indulging in social behavior that involves being completely aware of the emotions we are trying to express.
Teenagers who suffer from social anxiety are at risk for damaging various aspects of their health and functioning – including their relationships, mental health, academic performance, and physical well-being.
In addition, adolescents who struggle with social anxiety often hurt other people, especially by acting in socially disruptive ways. For example, one teen may start fighting with his family or another teen or even a teacher. This can lead to real-life problems, and we must make sure these adolescents receive help before their symptoms become cause for concern.
Adolescents who are struggling with low self-esteem could find they cannot communicate effectively with others – which can be detrimental to their relationships and possible future relationships as well. Furthermore, if these symptoms persist and are not addressed, the teenager could find it increasingly difficult to function in the world at all.
One of the best things that teenagers who suffer from social anxiety can do is seek professional help. This can be a big step for them, and it may even seem scary at first. However, with time and effort, the teenager will begin to notice positive changes in their life – including improvements in their grades at school and fewer conflicts at home.
Therapy For Teen Social Anxiety
At Washington Psychological Wellness, our team of clinicians is specially trained to treat social anxiety concerns, especially in teens.
Therapy can help teens with social anxiety in many ways. It can help them during difficult social situations, teach them to interact better with people, and improve their self-esteem. Therapists will teach teens how to use healthy coping mechanisms so they can handle this difficult time in their lives with more confidence. Therapy can also help teens develop positive relationships, increasing their chances to have friends and be happy.
Ready to seek therapy for teen social anxiety?
Contact us today for a complimentary 15-minute initial consultation!