Teen Social Anxiety
Life as a teenager isn't always easy. The pressure to excel in school, impress at home, make a good impression on college applications, and build successful romantic relationships can be crushing, especially for teens who don't naturally excel in all aspects of life.
For some teens, the stressors that come from daily life are inconvenient but manageable. For others, however, the stress can be so much more. Teens with social anxiety disorder are affected by more than normal anxiety; instead, even the idea of speaking in public can be devastating.
Social anxiety refers to stress during social interactions, ranging from simple discussions with friends and family to professional meetings like job interviews or teacher conferences. Instead of being able to hold a normal conversation on superficial topics, teens shut down, gripped by the fear of judgment, saying the wrong thing, or making a poor impression.
In time, many adults learn how to manage social anxiety, but for teens, it's often hard to distinguish true anxiety from the everyday perils of young adulthood. As such, many teens withdraw from school functions and social organizations, retreating into themselves instead of taking part in favorite hobbies, athletic events, or relationships. To cope, some teens turn to alcohol or drugs, using illegal substances as a way to break through the pain.
If you see signs of anxiety in your teen, the problem may go beyond adolescent moodiness. When this anxiety goes hand in hand with symptoms of drug use, getting help is critically important. Teen Treatment Center can provide the support you and your family deserve, offering care for drug addiction as well as anxiety disorders that may be driving substance abuse. Contact us today at (844) 319-5239.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a form of anxiety disorder that is characterized by extreme stress, nervousness, or fear as related to interpersonal interactions. Although the reason for these feelings can vary, most patients are self-conscious about the possibility of judgment or negative perceptions. This anxiety can lead to an avoidance of social situations, withdrawal from groups, and reclusive behavior.
For teens, finding fear in everyday interactions can be extremely overwhelming. This is especially true for students who spend significant time interacting with their peers on a daily basis. For these individuals, formerly comfortable friendships may fade away, leaving teens feeling isolated and alone, as if no one understands. They may quit sports teams, musical groups, and clubs, putting both social development and college preparation at risk.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
As there are no medical tests for most psychological disorders, diagnosis of social anxiety relies on particular signs and symptoms related to the demonstration of fear and nervousness.
In general, people with social anxiety display serious emotional distress in a wide variety of social situations, including:
- Introductions to new people
- Being criticized, including constructive criticism
- Being the center of attention
- Being watched or focused on
- Meeting important individuals or authority figures
- Normal social encounters
- Speaking in class or lecture situations
- Friendships and romantic relationships
Numerous physical symptoms may accompany these negative feelings, including increased heart rate, flushed skin, excessive sweating, and trembling. In these situations, those suffering with social anxiety can also have trouble talking, showing signs like stuttering and trouble thinking of appropriate phrases.
How Common Is Social Anxiety?
Millions of Americans suffer from what used to be known as social phobia, with onset often occurring in puberty or young adulthood, typically around age 13.
Despite earlier estimates, it is now believed that social anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety disorder, affecting approximately 15 million or 7% of individuals in the U.S. The condition manifests equally in both men and women, and according to a 2007 ADAA study, over one third of sufferers wait at least 10 years before seeking treatment.
Treating Social Anxiety
Social anxiety can be crippling, especially for teens who are struggling with changing bodies, raging hormones, and the adjustment to independence while still living with another adult's rules. Without proper socialization, it can be exceptionally hard to get ahead, paving the way for numerous career and interpersonal issues later in life.
In order to address social anxiety in the beginning states, early treatment is considered essential. Therapy is the most effective option, helping teens to work through their problems, admit their frustrations, and face the challenges that can accompany a fear of social interaction.
Most therapists favor cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, to address the importance of identifying problems to facilitate positive changes, but approach can vary from patient to patient. The most common options for treating an anxiety disorder include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Stress management
- Talk therapy
As a teen, admitting problems to a third party adult is not necessarily intuitive. Thus, it can often take time for a socially insecure teen to speak out and open up. Instead of writing your teen's treatment off as ineffective, continue to promote therapy as a positive opportunity to learn and grow.
Ties to Drugs and Alcohol
For teens suffering from anxiety, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, coping can be an uphill battle. Many teens do not feel as though they have support, friends, or anyone to turn to when times get tough. Some feel misunderstood, or as if they do not fit in with mainstream society.
In order to find an outlet, whether to rebel against parental suggestions or to feel more comfortable in social situations, some teens resort to drugs and alcohol to cope with feelings of loneliness and isolation. This can be casual, like a beer or two on occasion, or regular and aggressive, like hard drug use on a daily basis.
The use of substances to cope with social anxiety is unfortunately fairly common. As studies indicate, roughly 20% of those with social anxiety self medicate, turning an emotional disorder into a chemical addiction. In fact, children with anxiety disorders often turn to substances like alcohol and marijuana at an earlier age than their peers, with use frequently starting in the preteen years. This can create substantial long-term issues, including developmental delays, struggles in school, and an increased chance of lifelong addiction issues.
Why Treatment Matters
For teens who are suffering with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, other issues can often be the root cause. Social anxiety disorder is regularly linked to drug use, putting teens at harm when no appropriate coping mechanism exists.
Teen Treatment Center is dedicated to offering thorough treatment for those suffering from addiction, and that means a comprehensive approach to counseling. While treating anxiety disorders is not our primary focus, our counselors are devoted to providing individualized care to our patients in inpatient treatment, including counseling for any co-occurring mental disorders.
Instead of focusing solely on addiction, we go beyond the surface to inspire true healing. Our counselors will meet with your teen one-on-one and in group settings, working to identify underlying medical conditions and providing appropriate therapy. With the ability to take the focus off addiction and put it on overall well-being, we are able to set your teen up with the tools and resources necessary for success.
The road to recovery is never easy, but Teen Treatment Center is here to facilitate growth and development in the best possible ways. From teaching life skills to implementing coping methods, we are able to provide a safe environment while your teen commits to a healthier, happier way of life without drugs or alcohol.
Is your teen struggling with withdrawn behavior, an alienation of friends, or a distinct change in behavior? If drug use has taken over, Teen Treatment Center can provide the resources you need to make a difference. Contact us today at (844) 319-5239 to speak to a member of our trained intake team.
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