We‘ve all been there and know all too well—the teenage years can be rough. Adolescence brings with it all sorts of physical and psychological changes, not to mention the toll of cliques, social media, and the other teenage musts that assault their mental health at this stage. So is it any wonder that so many grown-ups don’t look back on our ”glory days” very fondly?
This strain, of course, is made all the worse when your teen is struggling with an anxiety disorder or other mental health disorders. Social anxiety disorder, in particular, can be incredibly taxing. After all, between school days, extracurricular activities, and planning for the future, a teenager must balance an array of different social situations.
If you suspect your teen to be struggling with social anxiety rather than a simple distaste for social interactions, you’ll almost certainly want to help. Unfortunately, many parents and guardians turn to tough love, forcing the adolescent in question to flex their social skills despite the discomfort. In a controlled environment, this may have value—exposure therapy is often used as a tool in formal treatment. However, in the malleable minds of teenagers, in particular, it’s crucial to combat this kind of social phobia with empathy.
Learn to recognize the signs.
Any teenager can approach adulthood with bad behavior and an even worse temperament. Those who’ve exhibited shyness or apprehension throughout life, though, are more prone to developing social anxiety in teenager, alongside other risk factors. Symptoms of social anxiety disorder include embarrassment or fear of embarrassment around others, avoidance of public places and new situations, nausea and other physical symptoms, and self-judgment after or during a social event. As a caretaker, recognizing these signs as more than just shyness or teenage angst can make a marked difference in getting your teen the help they need.
Encourage them to take breaks.
When you’re dealing with negative thoughts as persistent as those that come with social anxiety, it can be challenging to quiet your mind and truly relax. For your teen, this could mean their social anxiety symptoms are affecting them physically and emotionally all the time—not just in social situations. Whether it’s working with gel nail designs, spending time with trusted loved ones, exercising, or even napping, work with your teenager to find ways they can ease the ever-present symptoms of social anxiety and begin reclaiming their life.
Introduce small steps.
If you’re trying a bit of DIY social skills training in the hopes of easing your teen’s phobia, be sure to let them dip a toe in the water before throwing them into the deep end. With or without a formal diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, find ways for them to practice being comfortable in a safe social setting before trying more intensive social activities. Even a tiny step can still be called progress!
Consult a professional.
When in doubt, or if your teen is exhibiting signs of they might hurt themself or others, you’ll want to ensure they’re getting the proper treatment. The first step toward making that happen is seeking a therapist or other mental health professional with experience and expertise in treating social anxiety disorder. Then, through their visits, your teen and their doctor will develop a treatment plan that works for this particular manifestation of social anxiety. Teletherapy options even make it possible to ease the pressure of a therapy appointment by doing it virtually!
Being a teenager can be challenging, and social anxiety disorder only makes it more so. As a parent or guardian, you play an important role in helping them through, whether that’s through professional help or something as simple as a healthy distraction. But, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that your teen is happy and healthy—even with social anxiety.