Peer Relationships: How to Overcome Social Anxiety Disorder

: How to Overcome Social Anxiety DisorderSocial anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, can make a child feel like an outcast. This condition is not only debilitating and embarrassing; it can significantly affect a child’s quality of life. Millions of children are diagnosed with social anxiety disorder each year. These children are deathly afraid of large crowds, social events, parties and cliques. Some children with social anxiety are even afraid of speaking in class, performing in front of an audience or even paying for merchandise at a store.

According to the Mayo Clinic (2014), symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include: an overwhelming fear of interacting with strangers, facial flushing, nausea, tantrums, shrinking away, vomiting, upset stomach, stomach cramps, muscle tension, shakiness, trembling voice, crying, shortness of breath, excessive perspiration, diarrhea, accelerated heartbeat, muscle cramps, clammy hands, mental confusion, difficulty talking in front of others, avoidance of social events and attention,  anxiety that interferes with daily functioning, inability to make eye contact with others, fear of being judged or feelings of “dread and doom.”

The cause of social anxiety disorder varies (depending on the child), but brain chemistry, brain structure, unpleasant or traumatic experiences and genetics appear to play a significant role in its development and progression (Mayo Clinic, 2014). Although this disorder is usually treated with medications or psychotherapy (counseling), there are a variety of ways that you can help children conquer their social anxiety disorder. If you are wondering how to overcome social anxiety disorder in children –  This article will provide you with some valuable tips on how to help  children overcome their social phobia.

Listed below are some helpful ways to banish child-related social anxiety disorder:

  • Research the Condition

If you suspect that children suffer from social anxiety disorder, the first thing you will need to do is research the condition. You can find an abundance of information online about children and social anxiety disorder. You can also find helpful information about this disorder at your local bookstore. It’s important that you learn as much as you can about social anxiety disorder symptoms so that you can better help the children manage and overcome their fears of social interactions.

  • Offer Support

 So you are wondering how to overcome social anxiety in children? Well, one of the best ways to help children get past their social phobia is to offer support to them. It is important for children to understand that there are people who love them unconditionally. It is also important that these children understand that they have a medical condition that is beyond their control. In other words, they are not “bad,” “negative” or “anti-social” people. These children need to know that they have someone to talk to when they feel overwhelmed or frighten. Most importantly, they need to know that they have a strong support system to fall back on when they are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety. Offering your love and support can make a world of difference in the life of a child suffering from social anxiety disorder.

  • Praise Accomplishments

Another way to help children overcome social anxiety disorder is to praise them when they accomplish their goals. In other words, when you see  children taking steps to prevail over their social anxiety, it is important that you recognize their efforts with admiration and praise. One of the most effective ways to improve healthy behaviors and eradicate unhealthy behaviors is to practice positive reinforcement.

It is also important to make sure that these children understand that it is alright to take chances when it comes to relationships (peer and romantic). Most of the time, getting to know other people will enhance and enrich the child’s life. Children with social anxiety disorder need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and have limitations; the key is to focus on the positive and keep going when they “fall off of the horse.”

  • Encourage Baby Steps 

Knowing how to overcome social anxiety is an important step in a child’s recovery. A highly effective way to help children suffering from social anxiety disorder persevere past their fears is to encourage them to take baby steps. In other words, you do not want to push these children too far, too quickly. Although you may think that this will help them push past their fears, in reality it could have the reverse effect, worsening the condition or causing an anxiety attack. The best thing you can do is allow these children to work through their fears at their own pace.

Your main function during this time is to offer unconditional support, encouragement and understanding. For example, if you are a teacher and you know children are deathly afraid of reciting a poem or presenting information in front of the class, allow them to recite the poem in private with you or allow them to do another part of the project (i.e. collecting the information, writing the paper, preparing the notes for the other presenters, etc.) instead of presenting in front of the class. These little steps can go a long way in helping children get beyond their social phobia.

  • Act Normal

This may sound odd, but it is imperative that you act “normal” around children who suffer from social anxiety disorder. These children already feel like a pariah (outcast) around other people because they have such difficulty communicating and interacting with them, therefore the last thing they need is for you, their support system (i.e. family, friends, etc.), to treat them “differently.” Refrain from making harmless jokes about their inability to interact with others and be cognizant of how lonely, embarrassing and emotionally painful it is to always be afraid of other people. Remember, children with social anxiety disorder do not want to be that way. In fact, these children tend to have poor perceptions of their self-worth. It is not uncommon for them to feel hopeless and helpless.

In addition, these children often place a lot of value on how others perceive them so if you start to act “differently” around them, they may use your behavior as evidence that they are less of a person because of their condition. So if you want to know how to overcome social anxiety in children, the best thing you can do is to treat them the same way you would treat children without social anxiety disorder. The key is to make these children feel safe and secure around others.

  • Provide Assistance 

Children with social anxiety disorder tend to get overwhelmed easily. These children have a hard time communicating and interacting with others. When they are confronted with uncomfortable, stressful, challenging or difficult situations they tend to have an anxiety attack. One of the best ways that you can help children with social anxiety disorder is to provide assistance to them. In other words, help them out when you see them struggling.

For instance, if you see children start crying, turn red in the face, huddle in the corner or appear to be generally uncomfortable during a social event or party, go over to the children and let them know that they are not alone. The worst thing you can do is ignore a child who is experiencing emotional distress. Sometimes all it takes for children with social anxiety to calm down and relax, in a stressful situation, is having someone near that cares for them. Being there for the scared children can make a big difference on how they see themselves and the world around them.

 References:

Child Mind Institute. (2014). Social anxiety disorder. Mental Health Guide. Retrieved from             http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-         disorder/basics/symptoms/CON-20032524

Tracy, N. (2014). Social anxiety in children: Helping children with social phobia. Healthy Place. Retrieved from http://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/anxiety-and-     children/social-anxiety-in-children-helping-children-with-social-phobia/

Mayo Clinic. (2014). Social anxiety disorder (Social phobia). Retrieved from             http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-         disorder/basics/symptoms/CON-20032524

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