Teen Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Teen Social Anxiety Disorder can be an extremely challenging mental health condition for sufferers. This disorder causes teens to have an extreme fear, or intense anxiety, about the prospect of socializing with other people. This fear may extend only to specific situations, such as speaking in front of the class, or to every facet of socialization they face on a day-to-day basis. What may seem like a simple conversation in passing might produce intense dread, panic attacks, and even emotional meltdowns in a teen with Social Anxiety.
Teens who suffer from this disorder frequently have extremely low levels of self-worth, self-assurance, and self-confidence. They may feel they are awkward, unlovable, unlikeable, or even worthy of hate due to some kind of perceived flaw (physical or intellectual). Often, fears become so severe that teens start refusing to go school or leaving the house, developing a phobia of social situations that can be extremely debilitating.
What Does a Teen Social Anxiety Disorder Look Like?
- Teen Social Anxiety Disorder often starts manifesting as avoidance of socialization or social events, like parties, club meetings, or even school. Their avoidance often causes challenges, both at home and in the school environment, for others.
- Behavior may escalate if they are pressed to socialize or forced to attend events. They may act irrational or overly dramatic – more so than the situation warrants.
- Anxiety may be tied to special situations (like speaking in front of the class) or it may occur before any form of socialization – including basic introductions or “saying hi.” Over time, they grow to dread these scenarios, stopping at nothing to avoid them even if there isn’t any easily perceived harm. This issue severely limits their ability to forge new friendships, compounding the problem.
Signs of a Teen Social Anxiety Disorder
Fear of social judgement
Fear of interacting with strangers
Extreme avoidance of socialization
Persistent negative view of the future
Anxiety, nervousness, or panic
Shaking, trembling, or high heart rates
What Causes a Social Anxiety Disorder?
It isn't clear what causes Teen Social Anxiety Disorder. However, ongoing research has revealed that certain factors may increase a teen’s risk for developing the condition. These include genetics, structural brain differences, and early environmental influences.
Inherited Causes – Teens who have a parent or loved one (someone in their immediate family) with a history of anxiety, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or some other mental health condition are much more likely to develop anxiety themselves. Researchers continue to investigate just how high this risk is; exact numbers are not known.
Unique brain structure – Recent research illustrates that there may be a link between anxiety and structural differences in the brain. Specifically, an overactive amygdala. This is the area of the brain responsible for fight or flight and fear response.
Environmental causes – Teens who experience childhood abuse, intense bullying. or highly embarrassing situations early on in life may develop Social Anxiety Disorder in an attempt to cope. Like someone who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they develop a learned fear of triggers in an attempt to prevent further harm. Because they associate social situations with fear, panic, and embarrassment, or even physical and emotional harm, they go out of their way to avoid even risking it in the future. This defensive mechanism makes sense at first, but quickly becomes maladaptive.
of all American adults have Social Anxiety Disorder.
of all patients suffer in silence for at least 10 years before seeking help.
of all teens have Social Anxiety. Another 1.3 percent are severely disabled by it.
How Can I Help with a Teen Social Anxiety Disorder?
Encourage Teens to Be Open – Social Anxiety Disorder is a condition that encourages teens to hide how they feel out of a fear of embarrassment. As a parent, the best thing you can do for your teen is to encourage them to be open about how they feel. Even the process of starting to talk to a parent about social anxiety can be enough to relieve symptoms for a time. If your team does open up to you, be sure to help them connect with treatment as soon as possible.
Help Teens Find the Right Resources – It is extremely important to help your team find the right resources to treat their Social Anxiety Disorder. Work with them to find a therapist they can trust or a facility where they can go to start the healing process. Residential programs like Paradigm San Francisco are extremely valuable to teens and early treatment because they can kick start the healing process.
Coordinate With Your Teen’s Care Team – As the parent of a teen with Social Anxiety, you may feel like you have to know everything and do the right thing all the time. You aren’t expected to know it all and you shouldn’t have to shoulder the load alone. Coordinate with your teen’s care team as closely as possible, and consider seeing a therapist or booking sessions with a family therapist. Your teen’s providers can give you critical guidance on when to push or nudge your teen in the right direction and when you should hold back or give them space. It will take time to develop the right guidelines and boundaries, but you and your teen are NOT alone in this journey.
What Types of Teen Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment Are Available?
Treating social anxiety disorder is not as simple as just taking the pill or learning how to relax. Finding the right teen social anxiety disorder treatment can take time, and the right treatment isn't the same for every patient. Early treatment stages often focus on teaching teens how to recognize irrational thoughts, how to feel more confident, and how to better express themselves, especially in social situations.
Psychotherapy is the number one, most evidence-based treatment for teen Social Anxiety Disorder. Repeated studies have illustrated that both short-term and long-term therapy can significantly change the course of the disorder for sufferers, with a marked improvement after longer treatment cycles. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are a common component of individual therapy sessions. Group therapy, exposure therapy, family therapy, social roleplaying, music therapy, and art therapy are considered alternatives, yet can be very helpful for teens.
Medication isn’t a cure for Social Anxiety Disorder, but it may reduce your teen’s symptoms until they make some traction in treatment. The most commonly-prescribed medication is Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) which balance the level of feel-good hormones in the brain. Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are the second most common option, and balance brain chemicals related to anxiety and stress. Some teens may also benefit from off-label medications, like beta blockers or anxiolytics.
Lifestyle is one of the biggest contributors to anxiety disorders, yet it is also one of the most overlooked. Teens who don't eat well, get enough sleep, or take care of themselves will have a higher risk for becoming both physically and mentally unwell. We often see situations where teens are ingesting incredibly high amounts of caffeine, or even drugs. Or, teens may stay up late playing video games and be chronically exhausted, sapping them of the resources they need to properly cope with their emotions. At Paradigm San Francisco, teens learn to get back to the basics of self-care, exploring simple strategies, safe herbal supplements, and relaxation techniques for better overall self-care.
Teen Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco
Teen Social Anxiety Treatment as an extremely high rate of success, especially if it is initiated early before symptoms become severe. One of the tasks we specialize in here at Paradigm San Francisco is intensive, thorough diagnostic processes. We look at every aspect of a teen's life to discover how various factors play a role in their anxiety, allowing for more accurate and precise treatment recommendations.
Helping Teens Tackle Fears
Paradigm’s staff also know that it’s important to help teens identify their triggers and stressors. This process starts as soon as your teen reaches our facility and gets settled in. Bit-by-bit, we work with the individual to help them get specific and hone in on the situations they find most challenging. Over time, this breaks the association down to a very specific instance (such as speaking in front of people) rather than a broader experience (such as being in public), which makes symptoms more manageable.
The initial healing process can be rocky; this is why staying at Paradigm is so helpful. Often, it becomes obvious that teen’s Social Anxiety is caused by co-occurring conditions (like Bipolar Disorder) or past life experience (such as abuse). By helping teens work back through those triggers, we can help them eventually overcome the social fears, too.
The Right Environment
Teen Social Anxiety Disorder treatment takes time, patience, and dedication, and it isn’t always easy to stick with it when fears start to flare up. At Paradigm San Francisco, teens remain in a safe environment where they have support regardless of when issues occur. This may help your teen stay committed to treatment if the path becomes rocky, but it also prevents your teen from overwhelming themselves trying to fix everything at once. Teens have the ability to re-learn how to socialize confidently with their peers while also re-focusing on their own personal wellness.
“ The staff is amazing and all work together with you for mind, body and soul healing. They are very into natural means of healing and treating food disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. Highly recommend! “
– Daniela S.
Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Social Anxiety Disorder
I’m afraid of going to treatment with other teens. I don’t want to socialize?
We understand your fears – Social Anxiety can make the idea of going away to a new location, and being faced with teens you don’t know, very scary. Paradigm keeps groups manageable with low numbers at all times for this exact reason. You’ll have one-on-one care whenever you need it, and only a few other teens will be staying at the center at the same time. Our staff can also help you re-learn how to interact without feeling all of those yucky, no-fun negative feelings you usually feel. Trust us enough to give it a shot and we promise to always respect your feelings and listen to how you feel.
It might be reassuring to know that we never force teens to interact or force them into scary situations they aren’t ready for. We encourage, but we do not force – you are always in control of your treatment path. Small group interaction can do wonders for how you feel about yourself and your ability to socialize; won’t you give it a shot?
Is introversion a symptom of social anxiety disorder?
Not specifically. In fact, being introverted is pretty common; somewhere around a quarter of the entire population of the United States is introverted. However, early signs of Social Anxiety can manifest in ways that make you seem introverted when really, you’re feeling anxiety or fear about the situation instead. The main difference is that introverts just plain prefer to have just a few close friends, and maybe avoid crowds or loud, obnoxious parties, while people with Social Anxiety actively fear those situations. If your feelings are troublesome or debilitating, you are likely experiencing something other than introversion alone.