Approximately 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder, and more than 75 percent of them experienced their first symptoms during their childhood or early teenage years.1 As a parent, it can be excruciating watching your child struggle to connect with their peers, but there are several things you can do to help them manage their anxiety proactively so they can become more comfortable with themselves and with others.
Read on to find out how social anxiety is typically treated in teens, signs to look out for, and what you can do to help at home.
How Do You Treat Adolescent Social Anxiety?
It’s important to remember that there is no cure for anxiety. The best treatment plan is to help your child develop coping mechanisms that will allow them to manage their anxiety in triggering situations.
For many, therapy (specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT) is highly beneficial. CBT for social anxiety involves identifying and challenging specific negative thoughts (i.e. “Nobody likes me” or “Everybody thinks I’m weird”) and unhealthy behaviors (i.e. avoidance of others) that can negatively impact your child’s mood and self-esteem. CBT helps teens understand the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, while developing the confidence to face triggering situations and the anxiety these situations provoke.
Some parents choose to treat their child’s social anxiety with prescription medication like antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers. At Brillia, we recognize that these medications can be helpful, but we recommend them as a last resort, not the first course of action. In some cases, simple adjustments to your teen’s lifestyle can help reduce their anxiety successfully, from making tweaks to their diet, to ensuring they’re getting adequate sleep, to even controlling how much screen time they get each day.
If you feel your child or teen can benefit from medication, Brillia for Children is one non-prescription option to consider. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and harmful side effects, Brillia is an extremely targeted homeopathic medication that contains antibodies to the the brain-specific S100B protein, a key regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. Without masking your child’s personality, affecting their appetite, or making them drowsy, Brillia gently and impactfully reduces feelings of anxiety and stress without affecting any other systems in the body.
While antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can take some time to adjust to and may need to be increased over time to maintain efficacy, Brillia can be started or stopped at any time without any residual effects and will not need to be increased over time to be useful. Brillia also helps to regulate the mood by normalizing the level of monoamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) in different parts of the brain, which are the same brain chemicals targeted by prescription medications for anxiety.
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Signs & Symptoms to Look for in Your Teen
Social anxiety is defined as a marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to potential scrutiny by others. This anxiety occurs in the situation and may also occur in anticipation of the situation and afterward.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Fear of being judged
- Persistent worry about embarrassing themselves
- Fear of appearing anxious to others
- Fear of of interacting or talking to others
- Anxiety in anticipation of social situations
- Ruminating about their behavior after social situations
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Avoidance of social gatherings, school, dating, and public places
- Physical symptoms such as blushing, perspiring, trembling, getting dizzy, breathing fast, feeling like their mind has gone blank, and having an upset stomach
If you suspect your teen has social anxiety, here are some ways you can help them at home:
1. Encourage Relaxation Techniques
Studies show that relaxation techniques are just as effective as CBT for managing anxiety.2 From deep breathing to progressive muscle relaxation, there are a number of strategies your teen can use when they start to feel their worries bubble up. Deep breathing will help them slow down their breath and become more rooted in the moment. Progressive muscle relaxation, which is alternating between tensing and relaxing the muscles, will help them release tenseness built up in the body.
Meditation is another powerful technique that can actually change the structure of their brain to deal with social situations in a different way. According to one study on mindfulness meditation and social anxiety, regular practice helped to reduce rumination, anxiety, and depression in people with social anxiety, while also increasing their self-esteem.3
2. Discuss Self-Talk
“Nobody likes me.” “They’re all going to laugh at me.” “What if I embarrass myself?”
So much of social anxiety has to do with how your teen thinks. Teaching your child positive self-talk starts with helping them identify the thoughts swirling around in their head. Identification creates distance from thoughts so your teen has a chance to challenge them. Once they’ve identified their negative thoughts, they can start to replace them with positive ones. If they need help, try pointing out the strengths and skills you see in them and let them build from there.
3. Model Positive Social Behavior
As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher. And chances are, your teen still looks to you for guidance (even if they’d never admit it). Studies show that children learn to form worries and threats about their environment by observing parents' own expressions of anxious thoughts or behaviors.4 If you also struggle with social anxiety as a parent, it may be time to get help. By learning relaxation techniques, going to therapy, and considering medication, you’ll model how to deal with anxiety through your own actions, teaching your child that there’s nothing wrong with needing extra support.
Please note that Brillia for Adults can help anyone over the age of 18. There are also family discounts available.
4. Avoid Negative Labels
Too shy. Antisocial. Outcast. There are many negative labels for social anxiety. While you might think these kinds of labels will help your teen “snap out of it,” they’ll only add these labels to their growing list of negative thoughts they already think about themselves. In addition to modeling social anxiety, being overly critical as a parent has also been shown to contribute to a child’s development of social anxiety.5 Instead, try to point out your teen’s strengths and all the positive things they have to offer those around them.
5. Get Them a Journal
A 2018 study found that people who journaled had a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety because the process of writing helped to release pent-up feelings and negative thoughts, effectively quieting the mind.6 The next time they’re feeling anxious, encourage your teen to write down their thoughts and feelings to create distance from their anxiety. It will help them be more present while gaining clarity about triggering situations.
6. Reinforce That They are Not Alone
Social anxiety can be extremely lonely. It’s important that you remind your teen how much you enjoy their company, how common anxiety is for others, and that you’re willing to help when they’re ready. After all, research shows that people who suffer from social anxiety actually derive a lot of pleasure from spending time with others, even if it’s just their doting parent.7
When it comes to managing social anxiety, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But working with your teen to develop a strategy that works for them will help give them the skills they need to move forward at their own pace.
Find more resources on managing anxiety at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erica Garza Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erica Garza
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.