When most people think of the younger generation, they think of health, energy, and a future full of unlimited possibilities. Unfortunately, life isn’t smooth sailing for every teenager. In fact, as many as 20 percent of youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18 suffer from at least one mental health disorder.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll turn our attention to social anxiety disorder (SAD), which affects 9.1 percent of those between the ages of 13 and 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), with 1.3 percent of them developing severe conditions.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes social anxiety in teens, some of the symptoms that might indicate the teen in your life is dealing with SAD, and how online therapy can help teens overcome social anxiety and live happier and healthier lives.
What Causes Social Anxiety in Teens?
Teenagers might develop social anxiety for any number of reasons. In this section, we’ll examine five of the more common ones.
Mental health conditions are often influenced by hereditary factors. If you’re a teen whose parents or relatives have suffered from social anxiety at one point or another, there’s a higher chance that you will develop SAD. Similarly, if you’re a parent who’s dealt with social anxiety or has family members who have, your teenager might be more susceptible to SAD.
Most of us grew up in a world where social media platforms didn’t even exist. On the flip side, teens today essentially have grown up in a world where social media is pervasive. While social media can connect us with people from all over the world, it can also be quite divisive. In fact, research suggests that teens getting fewer “likes” on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat can cause anxiety.
Embarrassing or bad experiences
Teenagers who are bullied, rejected by someone they ask out, or experience an embarrassing situation — like not being able to do pull-ups in gym class or doing poorly on an exam and getting made fun of — might develop social anxiety.
When teenagers aren’t comfortable with themselves, they are more likely to develop social anxiety. For example, an individual might not be fully confident in their appearance; maybe they think they should lose weight, maybe they aren’t comfortable with their own looks, or maybe they have a physical condition that gives them anxiety (e.g., a birthmark on their face or a teenager who’s already going bald).
Teenagers might be more prone to developing social anxiety due to innate personality traits. For example, introverted individuals who are shy might be anxious about the prospect of giving a public speech, going to a social event, or even ringing up a customer as a cashier at a part-time job.
Now that you have a better idea of the reasons teens might develop social anxiety disorder, let’s turn our attention to some telltale signs that could indicate the teenager in your life is indeed suffering from the condition.
How to Recognize Teens with Social Anxiety
Recognizing that a teenager in your life is dealing with social anxiety requires that you pay attention and know what to look for. In this section, we’ll examine some of the signs that might indicate a teen is experiencing SAD across three distinct categories.
Since it makes them feel hopeless, teens experiencing social anxiety tend to be withdrawn. They’re quiet, they keep to themselves, and they’re generally isolated from everyone else. At the same time, they lack confidence, which comes across as a lack of eye contact, the inability to speak loudly, and the displaying of nervous habits.
School and work
If your teen’s school grades have taken a turn for the worse, they don’t actively participate in class, and they don’t get involved with any extra-curricular activities, they might be experiencing social anxiety. Similarly, if a teen has held a steady job where they have to deal with people often (e.g., a barista at a coffee shop) and all of a sudden quits for no discernible reason, they might be experiencing SAD.
Does the teenager have few friends? Is he or she eager to go to parties and social events or do they try to avoid such festivities at all costs? Does the teen speak confidently, make eye contact, and share information about themselves (e.g., their hobbies and what makes them tick?). The less social a teen is, the more likely it is that they’re experiencing social anxiety disorder.
The good news is that — while social anxiety can seem crippling in the moment — all hope is not lost. By engaging the services of a professional therapist in an online setting, teens can begin the healing process, improve their social skills, and ultimately lead more fulfilling lives.
Helping Teens with Social Anxiety with Online Therapy
Since people who experience social anxiety don’t like social situations, it follows that 36 percent of Americans who suffer from SAD wait at least 10 years before seeking help. While that might be understandable, it’s certainly not the healthiest approach to dealing with SAD.
Luckily, in recent years, technology has evolved considerably, and online therapy sessions are easier to facilitate than ever before. Thanks to the pandemic, the practice of engaging with therapists in online sessions has become increasingly mainstream — which means more and more therapists are comfortable working with clients remotely.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common treatments for social anxiety. And according to a recent study, moving CBT therapy sessions online for teens suffering from social anxiety proved effective at reducing anxiety, stress, and depression.
Teens who participated in the study were found to have less brain activity in their amygdala, a part of our brain associated with memory, emotional regulation, and decision-making. They were also found to have reduced symptoms of social anxiety.
If you’re a teenager who’s dealing with social anxiety — or you’re the parent or guardian of a teen who you suspect might be — booking an online session with a qualified therapist can be a game-changing decision. With a talented therapist and a teen who’s committed to overcoming social anxiety working together, anything is possible.
When you’re ready to begin the healing process, start searching for a mental health professional who specializes in working with teenagers today. Once you search your area, filter your results by therapists who work with Teens or Children. You can even add the Common Specialties>All other issues>Social Anxiety/Phobia filter to further focus your search for a therapist.
Here’s to overcoming social anxiety and living your best life — or helping your teen live theirs!
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