Teens and Social Anxiety: What It Is And How To Deal With It

Social Anxiety — the unseen battle that most teens deal with but look like something else.

Adolescence is one of the most turbulent times in any person’s life. From fitting in and finding your group to trying to meet the goal of being a fully-fledged adult. It’s definitely a bit confusing — which can cause any teen undue Social Anxiety. While it can be passed off as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), there are a lot of things that make Social Anxiety different from other anxiety disorders.

Wait, there are multiple forms of anxiety?

Anxiety has multiple disorders under its umbrella. We’re well aware of PTSD and C-PTSD which are common stress disorders. But then, there are also anxiety disorders such as anxiety itself and phobia. When looking at Anxiety and its disorders, Psychology and studies from the APA define it as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure”. Most families find it easier to detect anxiety, unlike depression which may have less obvious warning flags.

Social Anxiety in Teens

Social Anxiety in Teens

Social Anxiety often rears its ugly head in teens when it involves “being unable to fit in with their peers”. It usually shows itself when they’re unable to make friends or they simply tense up when meeting new people. Social Anxiety frequently occurs in teens when they’re suddenly thrust into an environment where there is no longer any control. In many studies, teens who have social anxiety may have parents who are helicopter parents or overparenting.

Because of the lack of control, they start thinking about all sorts of things that don’t logically make sense but feel real. “What if my pants make my butt look too big?”, “Did I offend them or something?”, “Am I making them feel stupid by speaking English?” — a lot of these thoughts may seem silly to us but they’re quite real to teens. Especially when they go to college hoping to break the stereotype of their high schools.

How do we prevent social anxiety in teens?

There are several ways to go around this. Social anxiety means easing up a little bit as well. Here are some ways we can stop social anxiety.

1. Indulge their fashion questions.

Looks are everything for a teen. Even if they’re pulling out the same color of shirt, it still matters to them. Social anxiety makes them think that everyone’s judging them, down to the very fibers of their shirt. It may seem silly but indulge them if you can. Just pick a shirt. Besides, they’re probably changing the contents of their closet to find their proper identity.

2. If they try something “silly”, remember that you probably did the same thing.

With the whole nature vs. nurture argument, it’s no surprise that our teens may inherit some behaviors from us. It’ll be like fighting ourselves except younger and perhaps more equipped because of technology. Staying one step ahead of them may not necessarily mean preventing them from doing something but rather, being open about some topics like sex, drinking, etc.

3. Let them feel socially comfortable with family.

Social anxiety appears in teens because they can’t find a place where they feel “socially safe”. Sometimes, they’ll try to find it with friends. Others will try to be bullies to avoid getting picked on by bigger bullies who have bigger insecurities. And if relatives are bullying them, it is our moral obligation as parents to defend them and tell off that relative. Relative or not, nobody hurts our children.

4. When they make a mistake, don’t air your dirty laundry!

Teens will make a lot of mistakes and our tempers will flare. But berating them for every little thing down to the way they walk will make them so conscious that they’ll be anxious the whole time. Let them have a choice in choosing how they want to rectify their mistake.

5. If they’re getting bullied or harassed on social media, help them act on it.

Reporting it to the administrators of Facebook and whatever social media platform won’t just do anymore. There are laws against these things already. Besides the Anti-OSAEC Law, there are also a few about cyberbullying. A lot of times, our teens’ social anxiety comes from cyberbullies who think they can hide behind screens to pick on people. Here’s a list of commandments that each netizen should follow.

Social Anxiety is a real battle in our teens’ minds even if it seems imaginary.

There’s a difference between minimizing their anxiety and helping them let it go. Helping our teens let go of their social anxiety means validating their feelings and then slowly helping them deal with these feelings. A lot of times, their anxiety comes from the fear of the unknown. In their attempt to predict and read another person’s move, they get anxious — which is where a lot of this builds up.

More about teens and their behavior:

When Kids and Teens Touch Themselves: Is It Normal?
Why Your Kids and Teens May Not Be Open To Face-To-Face Classes
10 Commandments for Every Kid and Teen Netizen

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