Social phobia (also known as “social anxiety disorder”) is a mental health condition that causes people to feel an undue amount of anxiety related to their social relationships.
The primary fear a person with social phobia tends to have is that other people will find him or her lacking in some way. For example, a social phobic at a party may worry that he or she will come across as “uncool,” be laughed at by others, or that no one at the party will want to dance with him or her. These worries are normal, especially for an adolescent, but someone who has social phobia worries about these things almost incessantly. He or she will probably start to worry about the party long before it actually begins, whereas a healthy person would only feel somewhat nervous for a brief period of time. A healthy person is also more likely to start to relax after being at a social gathering for a while; a person with social phobia tends to grow more anxious.
A study by Beidel et al. titled “Psychopathology of Adolescent Social Phobia” was published in 2006. The researchers in the study were interested in focusing specifically on teens who have social anxiety disorder. What traits do these young people have in common? How do they differ from their healthy peers? Beidel and the other researchers worked together to answer these questions and more.
Facts and Figures
The study cites that “prevalence rates for adolescent social phobia range from 5 to 16% of the general population.” To represent teens with social phobia, the researchers selected sixty-three social phobic teens. Forty-three teens who did not have any mental health conditions were chosen to represent the general teen population.
Some of the characteristics and behaviors that the researchers focused on in the teens are depression, social isolation, fear of being criticized or failing, and loneliness. The teenagers who had social phobia were found to be more likely to experience depression, isolation, and loneliness. They were also noted to be more likely to fear criticism and failure.
Teenagers with social phobia may be at an increased risk for having difficulty in school and for using drugs.
One of the concerns expressed by the researchers is the lack of study on teens who have social phobia. Many studies group teens with children or adults, and this may affect the data we have.
Advice for Parents
Future research may allow us to conclude that teens with social phobia are indeed at an increased risk for a number of factors which can have a negative impact on their happiness. For now, it can be beneficial for parents of a social phobic teen to talk seriously with their son or daughter about the disorder. Together they can consider whether some form of therapy may be helpful and what they can do to make the condition less stressful on both parties.