Five Minute Guides to Social Anxiety

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Five Minute Guides

What is social anxiety?

Everyone experiences a little social anxiety when faced with new social situations; having to talk to groups of people or people in authority. At these times we may feel nervous; be more aware of our heartbeat and breathing; having a feeling that things will go wrong; that we’ll embarrass ourselves; blush or perspire. It is therefore normal to experience any or all of these symptoms from time to time in stressful social situations.

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What is social anxiety disorder?

For some individuals they experience the symptoms of social anxiety for everyday experiences. They fail to become comfortable with situations that most people will have relaxed to. Their symptoms may be more severe and significantly impact on their ability to function with everyday social life.

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How does social anxiety present in adults?

Adults may find it difficult going to work; chatting with colleagues; asking for help; complaining about faulty goods or services; seeing their doctor and dating.

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How does social anxiety present in children?

In children, they may find it difficult going to school or nursery often experiencing separation anxiety when parents leave. Some may be anxious talking and have selective mutism. They may be easily unsettled by changes of staff and struggle to form relationships with peers. Any form of test may upset and distress them. Younger children may throw tantrums or cry to avoid social situations. Any form of criticism is felt deeply and they may find it difficult to forget when they have got it wrong. Children may have high rates of absenteeism from school. They often avoid after-school clubs.

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How does social anxiety present in teenagers?

Adolescence is a difficult time for all teenagers and for those with social anxiety it is particularly challenging. Avoiding parties and other social gatherings they isolate themselves from peer groups. They tend to be oversensitive to the usual teasing of teenagers. Fearful of embarrassing themselves and feeling negative about themselves they may use alcohol to manage their anxiety. They dislike any attention brought on them and will dread any situation where they are expected to talk or perform in front of peers. School and college will be stressful and frequent absence can develop into school refusal. They will dread examinations. Some may also avoid eating or drinking in social situations.

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Who is at risk of developing Social Anxiety Disorder?

Anyone can develop Social Anxiety Disorder but it is more likely in children who have:

A parent with social anxiety

A parent with depression or other mental health needs

An authoritarian or critical parent

Experienced bullying by peers

Family conflict

Disability or other health needs

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What are the criteria for diagnosis?

The following symptoms have existed for over six months:

Intense anxiety & fear of embarrassment & humiliation

Avoidance of social situations that lead to anxiety

Levels of anxiety out of proportion to the context

Anxiety that interferes with everyday life

No other medical explanation for symptoms

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Who can make a diagnosis?

Diagnosis can only be made by a medical professional such as a specialist paediatrician or clinic psychologist. Referral will generally be via your own doctor.

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What are the benefits of diagnosis?

A diagnosis can be helpful in explaining why a child is experiencing difficulties. It can help professionals, who work with the child, adapt their practice to be better able to meet the child’s needs. Diagnosis can provide access to treatments and support.

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What treatments are there?

Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder can often be supported through counselling and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. There are also a range of medication options that that can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); anti-depressants; anti-anxiety drugs and beta-blockers.

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Social Anxiety

Five Minute Guide to Social Anxiety

A handy printable version of this five minute guide suitable for handing to parents, school staff and other professionals and carers. Use 2-sided printing (set printer to flip on short side) and fold in half to produce A5 leaflet.

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Got more than five minutes?

You may be interested to read more:

Anxiety Management

Anxious Breathing

Social Anxiety Disorder

Back to the Five Minute Guides Index

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