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What Is Social Anxiety?

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

When fear of how you appear gets in the way of functioning

Writer: Rachel Ehmke

Clinical Experts: Jerry Bubrick, PhD , Grace Berman, LCSW

When you’re a teen you start being more aware of what other people think. There seems to be a “right” thing to wear, or say, or do. There also seem to be things that you shouldn’t do—things that could be embarrassing, or lose you points with friends. This can lead to social anxiety.

The idea that people might be paying particular attention to what you do makes a lot of kids anxious. Some kids feel so anxious that they develop something called social anxiety disorder, which is diagnosed when you worry so much about how you appear to others that you stop doing things you need to (and want to) do for fear of embarrassing yourself.

Most people with the disorder start noticing this anxiety when they’re between the ages of 8 and 15. For a while, children are usually able to hide social anxiety disorder. Their parents and teachers may not notice that anything is wrong, especially since kids are often ashamed to admit how anxious they are about things that other people don’t seem to get upset about.

At the Child Mind Institute we’ve heard from a lot of young people who are wondering if they might have social anxiety disorder, and how to tell their parents about it. This is an explanation of what it looks like, and what to do if you think you (or your child) might have it...


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