Most teens get a little nervous in social situations, like public speaking or working in groups. Teens with social phobia are highly anxious in situations like these. Their anxiety may make them avoid everyday social activities and can make social interactions very uncomfortable.
If you have these feelings of social phobia, it's important to know that there are treatments that can help you cope with social situations and enjoy your life again.
Erin Oliveri started to realize she was a lesbian when she was about 13. “We’d be playing kissing games at parties and I didn’t want to kiss any of the guys,” she says.
For the next few years, she struggled with figuring out her sexual identity. Growing up on Staten Island -- a short ferry ride away from Manhattan but light years apart in terms of attitudes toward homosexuality -- she went to a small, Catholic, all-girls’ high school where everyone knew everyone. “It wasn’t the most welcoming environment...
Social phobia is an irrational, intense, and persistent fear of a specific object, activity, or social situation, which people avoid or endure with extreme distress and anxiety.
In some teens, the fear is limited to one or two particular situations, like speaking in public or initiating a conversation. Other teens are very anxious and afraid of any social situation.
Social phobia affects about 5.3 million people in the United States. The average age of onset of social phobia is between age 11 and 19 -- the teenage years.
What Are the Symptoms of Social Phobia?
The symptoms of social phobia include:
Feeling very self-conscious in social situations, with symptoms like extreme shyness, stomachache, fast heart rate, dizziness, and crying.
Having a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others.
Feeling shy and uncomfortable when being watched (giving a presentation, talking in a group, performing at a piano or dance recital).
Feeling hesitant to talk to classmates or teammates (avoiding eye contact, sitting alone at lunch, being reluctant to speak during group projects).
Having physical sensations of anxiety (blushing, heart palpitations, nausea, and sweating, feelings of embarrassment or humiliation)
What Can I Do About Social Phobia?
If your social phobia keeps you from doing things you want to do, or from making or keeping friends, you may need treatment.
Talk about your fears and worries with a doctor or therapist who has experience treating social phobia. He or she will be able to tell if you have normal social anxiety or if you need treatment.
How Is Social Phobia Treated?
There are two effective treatments for social phobia: prescription medication and behavioral therapy. Teens may receive both at the same time. Here are some details on each:
1. Medications. For some teens, taking a prescription medication can be an easy and effective treatment for social phobia. They work by reducing the uncomfortable and often embarrassing symptoms.
In some cases, medication can dramatically reduce social phobia or even eliminate it. Other teens do not react to a particular medication, and aren't helped at all. There is no way to predict if a medication will be helpful or not. Sometimes, you must try several before finding one that works.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four medicines for social phobia: Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, and Effexor. Although these are the only medications approved specifically for social phobia, other medications may be used successfully as well.