Social Phobia:
Social phobia is an intense fear of becoming humiliated or embarrassed in social situations. It often begins around early adolescence, or even younger. Children who suffer from social phobia might appear to be excessively shy and may fear that they will do or say something in front of others that will promote embarrassment. Some children and adolescents believe that others are more competent than they are. Common fears of children/adolescents with social phobia are fears of going to social situations such as parties, fears of talking with authority figures such as teacher or a principal, or fears of speaking to others in public. Other less common fears may involve fears of using a public restroom, fears of eating out or talking on the phone, or fears of writing on the blackboard in front of other peers. Social phobia is different from shyness. People with shyness can be uneasy around others, but they don’t necessarily avoid situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Social phobia disrupts a child’s normal life, interfering with school or social relationships.

Primary Symptoms:
Persistent fear of one or more situations in which a child is exposed to unfamiliar people or scrutiny by others. The child begins to avoid and fear school related events, and significant interference in most social activities is indicated. A key complaint issued by many youngsters is a fear of appearing foolish or doing something that would invite ridicule from others.

Treatment components include teaching appropriate social skills to children who lack knowledge of social situations and appropriate social behaviors. Children and adolescents are also taught to identify and change anxious thoughts that serve to increase feelings of anxiety in social situations. By thinking more positive, rational thoughts, children are typically able to enter social situations more easily. Cognitive therapy techniques help children to reduce distortions in their thinking. Social performance is assumed to be disrupted by worrisome thoughts and negative self-evaluations that draw attention away from the cues that guide appropriate social behavior. Children and adolescents are also guided in developing a list of situations that are challenging for them, such as attending a party, talking on the phone, or talking to a friend. Children are taught to implement their coping skills while gradually facing each of these situations. Children’s successes are praised highly by the therapist and by parents. Therapists also use modeling techniques, where appropriate social interaction skills are first demonstrated by the therapist and then practiced with the child or adolescent. Recent research has supported the inclusion of parents in some treatment sessions, so that they can be educated about the nature of anxiety and the development, maintenance, and treatment of social phobia. They are also instructed regarding their role as “coaches” who facilitate their child’s or adolescent’s application of their new skills between sessions. Group treatment is often employed to treat social phobia, as it provides chances for interaction with peers.

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Last Updated
May 5, 2015