Social Anxiety In Children: When It Is Beyond Shyness
Do your kids have a hard time warming up to people? Are they slow to make friends? Are they silent at family gatherings? When does shyness turn into social anxiety in children? It can be a challenge to tell what the signs of social anxiety are and what is just shyness?
Here are 30 signs of social anxiety in children. Each sign individually is normal and many kids will have these thoughts and struggles. But if the whole list starts to sound very much like your kid, you might want to take a closer look at social anxiety.
To listen to the podcast episode on this topic .
This list is not meant to diagnose and is for informational purposes only. If you are worried about your child having signs of social anxiety, please consult a mental health professional.
What Are Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are common mental health conditions that generally cause feelings of fear, worry or distress in certain situations. They can affect the body, too causing changes in behavior, sleep habits and eating.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, an anxiety disorder can worsen over time, causing significant disruptions in a childs life, Dr. Lilly says.
Some anxiety disorders that commonly affect children are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
As with adults, anxiety disorders affect girls more often than boys, and each child may respond a little differently depending on their age, maturity level or coping skills.
Children dont often understand their anxiety or whats causing it, Dr. Lilly notes. Because of this, they can display a variety of behavioral or physical symptoms that can be hard for parents to pinpoint.
What Are The Signs My Child Has Anxiety
A big test at school. The first practice of a new sports team. Sleeping over at a friends house for the first time.
Many everyday situations can make your child feel nervous or afraid. And a little bit of anxiety is normal even helpful as it helps give your child the boost they might need to get through a tough situation.
At Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy in Charlotte, North Carolina, occupational therapists help your child learn strategies to manage anxiety and prevent it from interfering with their development. But telling the difference between normal nervousness and anxiety that requires more attention can be challenging.
Also Check: How To Get Rid Of Anxiety For Good
How To Recognize The Signs
Here are some helpful tips to determine whether your child is experiencing normal stress or coping with real anxiety issues.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
Help Your Child Describe Their Feelings
Acknowledge your childs feelings and help them describe what is happening inside of them. By identifying emotions, you help them learn that these emotions will change every day. They arent locked into their stress. One good book is Sitting Still Like A Frog by Eline Snel.
Use safe products for your child that empower them to be their best.
Read Also: How Do I Know I M Having An Anxiety Attack
Why Do Children Have Panic Attacks
Theres no single cause for panic attacks in children, and they can happen to anyone. However, some factorsincrease the likelihood of a child having a panic attack, including:
- Family history of mental disorders
- Personal history of panic, even if it does not meet the criteria for diagnosis
- Significant changes or stress in life
- Uncharacteristic aggression or anger
Some teens develop panic disorder as a result of the stress and hormones that come with being a teen. Other children may panic after experiencing trauma. However, these episodes may be related to PTSD rather than panic disorder.
Powerful Phrases Proven To Help An Anxious Child Calm Down
Its time for school. The bus will arrive any minute. Maybe today will be the day!
But then you hear it: Mom, I dont want to go to school.
Your heart sinks. Here we go again. Every day its the same conversation. The same conversation that usually ends up in tears, missing the bus and late for school again.
Youll be fine, honey! you say cheerfully. Theres nothing to worry about!
But your words fall on deaf ears. Your child is fully convinced that everything will NOT be ok and that there are PLENTY of things to worry about. Sighing, you sit down on the couch, wracking your brain for something more helpful to say.
If your child struggles with anxiety, you know the challenge of finding the right things to say when he or she is worried. Its not easy to connect without making the fears worse, while at the same time offering support and encouragement.
Are you curious how you can help calm an anxious child?
Today, my good friend and parent coach, Nicole from Imperfect Families, is here to give some amazing tips on how to respond to your anxious child.
Rather than telling your child Youll be fine, or Dont worry about it, try one of these phrases the next time your child is feeling worried:
Also Check: How To Cope With Severe Anxiety
Print This Free Phrases Cheat Sheet To Help Your Anxious Child In The Moment
This post comes with a free printable to help with you in a bind.
I have made a simple printable for you that has all of these phrases in a simple and easy to display format. Place it on the fridge, in a frame or even in your childs calm down spot so they remember them as well. Dont get caught struggling to remember your options!
This printable simplifies it!
Here is a sneak preview
Exam And Performance Pressure
Some parents forget that each child has a different mindset and learning habits. Therefore, they pressure the child to get high grades in the exams. Moreover, they compare them with other children. It hurts the childs self-respect. Also, they feel overwhelmed and struggle to perform well. At this point, parents have a huge responsibility to help a child with anxiety and boost confidence.
You May Like: How Can I Get Rid Of Anxiety
Anxiety In Adults Vs Anxiety In Children
Anxiety seems to be an adult problem. Even if each person deals those issues differently, most adults can empathize with an adult friend who talks about his or her anxiety.
Anxiety in children is quite different in one major aspect: children do not talk about their anxiety. This is not a word that belongs to their world and they generally do not know that they suffer from anxiety.
Is It Stress Or Anxiety
Integrated Learning Strategies is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
Your child seems to have many fears, is anxious and overwhelmed at home, in large crowds, in school, around other children, or in unfamiliar surroundings. Is it anxiety or is it every day stress? Anxiety and stress come in many different shapes and sizes. However, anxiety can be caused by a mental illness or an anxiety disorder. How do we know the difference and how can we recognize signs and symptoms? While the lines between stress and anxiety are often blurred and many times share the same physical symptoms, there are distinct differences all parents should be aware of.
Also Check: Who Do You Talk To About Anxiety
How To Help Kids With Anxiety
Parents have an important and essential role in helping children deal with anxiety disorders. One of the vital ways that parents can be instrumental in reducing a childs anxiety is by not inadvertently reinforcing it. Childrens natural response to anxiety is to rely on parents for help and that is a normal way that human beings respond to fear or anxiety when they are young, Lebowitz explains While an adult might respond to fear primarily with self-defense, the fight or flight response, children dont have that capacity. They are programmed to respond to fear by signaling their parent so that the parent can protect and soothe the child until the perceived danger has passed, says Lebowitz. Parents, in turn, are naturally hardwired to detect cues of fear in their children and to step in to provide that protection and emotional regulation, he says.
However, a child with an anxiety disorder experiences anxiety even when the situations or circumstances dont warrant that heightened response. And what that happens the parent responds to the childs distress through accommodation, explains Lebowitz. What that means is that to help the child, the parent responds differently to the situation than they normally would.
How Can I Prevent Anxiety Disorders
Seeking help for your child at the first sign of excessive worrying will help to keep worries from growing so big that they are likely to develop into an anxiety disorder. Some other tips include:
- Staying calm in front of your child, as h/she often looks to you for how to react in new and uncertain situations.
- Avoiding a lot of reassurance and instead teaching your child how to problem solve and reassure him/herself.
- Discouraging avoidance of feared situations/objects, as this may temporarily reduce distress, but will allow the anxiety to grow and make things more difficult for your child in the future.
Recommended Reading: Is Anxiety Considered A Mental Illness
Signs Of Social Anxiety In Children:
1. Has a hard time talking to other kids and/or adults.
2. Excessively worries about their appearance.
3. Worries they might say something or do something embarrassing.
4. Struggles with ordering their own food at restaurants.
5. Is consumed with what other people think of them.
6. Has a hard time eating in front of other people when they are not at home.
7. Prefers to stay at home most of the time.
8. Feels overwhelmed in large social gatherings.
9. Worries parents are going to embarrass them in front of their friends.
10. Doesnt like anyone to focus on them.
11. Is too anxious to raise their hand in class.
12. Overanalyzes social situations.
How Common Is Anxiety In Children
Anxiety and anxiety disorders are considered the most common mental health problem in childhood. Separation anxietyis common in younger children, whereas older children and teenagers tend to worry moreabout school or havesocial anxiety. While OCD can occur at any age, in children it usually appears between the ages of 6 and 12.
Read Also: How To Tell If Nausea Is From Anxiety
Eating Healthy And Sleep Well
A healthy diet plays a crucial and significant role in managing anxiety. Parents must ensure their children eat healthy food and get a sound sleep. So, a child will be able to handle different challenging situations when they get plenty of rest. The hectic tasks will no longer be overwhelming for them. Therefore, you must create a healthy diet plan and set a sleeping routine to help a child with anxiety.
What Is The Outlook For Children With Anxiety
Children are very resilient. With the right interventions, including treatment and support, they can learn to manage anxiety symptoms and live a full life.
For some kids, anxiety may be a lifelong condition, but for others, the symptoms and effects may be temporary and related to a particular situation. The good news is that treatment is very effective, and the outlook for children, adolescents, and teens is very promising.
Your childs doctor should ensure, however, that the anxiety symptoms arent the side effects of a particular medication. Medications that may cause anxiety symptoms include:
Also Check: How To Calm Your Mind From Anxiety
Symptoms Of An Anxious Child
So how do you even know if your child is struggling? Oftentimes anxiety comes out as negative behavior and its hard to know if the kid is just being naughty or if theres something darker at work.
Thankfully, doctors are getting better at identifying anxiety and depression in kids, says Dr. Bezpalko.
One of my children was acting out so strongly in preschool that the teacher thought he had oppositional defiant disorder. I brought this up with our pediatrician and he looked at me and said, no, this sounds more like anxiety.
Dr. Bezpalko is right docs are gaining more and more understanding of mental health issues in kids. I took that kid to a mental health professional and it looks like he has anxiety. Now that we are narrowing in on the root of the problem, we can start to address it.
Respect Their Feelings But Dont Empower Them
Its important to understand that validation doesnt always mean agreement. So if a child is terrified about going to the doctor because theyre due for a shot, you dont want to belittle those fears, but you also dont want to amplify them. You want to listen and be empathetic, help them understand what theyre anxious about, and encourage them to feel that they can face their fears. The message you want to send is, I know youre scared, and thats okay, and Im here, and Im going to help you get through this.
Recommended Reading: Is Xanax Good For Anxiety
Try To Keep The Anticipatory Period Short
When were afraid of something, the hardest time is really before we do it. So another rule of thumb for parents is to really try to eliminate or reduce the anticipatory period. If a child is nervous about going to a doctors appointment, you dont want to launch into a discussion about it two hours before you go thats likely to get your child more keyed up. So just try to shorten that period to a minimum.
When Parents Should Be Concerned About Anxiety
Experts note two red flags of clinical anxiety: avoidance and extreme distress. Texas mom Beth Teliho remembers when her son, Sawyer, now 10, started elementary school. He happily attended for the first couple of days. But then Sawyer started suffering meltdowns on the ride to school. “He was gasping for breath and crying, saying, ‘I can’t, I can’t,'” Beth says. “The look on his face was so desperate, like he physically couldn’t go into the school.”
Sara Farrell Bakers son August, 5, is on the autism spectrum and has sensory-processing issues. The boy dislikes loud noises, particularly flushing toilets and the hand dryers found in public restrooms. “He would become very distraught if we were going toward a restroom,” Sara says. “Just being in an environment where he expected loud noises would get him very anxious.”
Childhood anxiety disorders are divided into several types, including generalized, separation, social, and specific phobias, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Though different disorders may manifest in different ways, here are a few of the most common symptoms:
Fortunately, most children diagnosed with anxiety disorders will outgrow them, provided they live in supportive environments and get appropriate treatment. Learn more about the signs of emotional distress, developed by the Campaign to Change Direction, a mental-health awareness initiative co-founded by Aetna.
Don’t Miss: How To Support Someone With Depression And Anxiety