Take Time: How to Recognize Social Anxiety in You and Your Children

social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a chronic, debilitating and prevalent disease worldwide anxiety disorder affecting young people at some point in their lives. With comorbidities including major depression, substance abusea low level of education and work and an increased risk of suicide, it represents a significant public health burden.

the pandemic had, at some point, created a physical distance between people. Most meetings and communications were done online only. Now that things are almost back to before, most people are facing difficulties due to this transition. Many dislike physical meetings and feel anxious about them.

There are common manifestation areas of social anxiety. Some of them are:

Social situations

More teens dislike attending social functions, especially those involving parents and close family members. They find it difficult to hold conversations and feel uncomfortable when they are forced to attend.

WFH Culture

Some people said they were more satisfied with the Work at home (WFH) and have given up jobs that require in-person attendance.

School/college attendance

Many young people have developed insecurities about their grades and appearance, and feel like staying home and attending online conferences has made them feel safer. For them, going to college involves being judged and therefore some students preferred to either attend a bunk college or attend only during the exams.

performance oriented

Performance-based social anxiety the disorder is when you experience intense fear and anxiety when speaking or performing in public, but not in other types of more general social situations.

past history

Social anxiety disorder usually appears around the age of 13. It may be linked to a history of abuse, bullying, or teasing. Shy children are also more likely to become socially anxious adults, as are children whose parents are authoritarian or controlling. If a person develops a health condition that draws attention to their appearance or voice, it could trigger social anxiety.

Online socializing

Most young adults have made friends on social media platforms. These friends often only talked online and never met in person. A person here has the freedom to choose who they want to talk to, based on their likes and dislikes. These online friends validate each other and therefore a person does not feel the emptiness of not meeting people in person.

Trust issues

Most individuals have, at some point, been betrayed by a peer, friend, or in a relationship. This leads them to lose confidence in any new Friendship or association. They prefer to be alone and do not wish to try to get to know anyone for fear of being betrayed again. A bad experience also causes them to classify all individuals as the same.


The fear of Comparison, of not being as good as another person, can cause a person to avoid a social situation altogether. Often in a social situation where two individuals of the same age group meet, the tendency to compare who is doing what is high. Some may not like this and therefore choose not to be part of a social situation.


Physical symptoms

The physical symptoms that one may experience can range from profuse sweating, tightness in the chest, shaky voice, dry mouth, ringing in the ear, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, headache and shortness of breath.

Emotional symptoms

Intense fear of being judged negatively, based on inadequate social performance, constant worry, embarrassment or severe inferiority to authority figures, extreme reluctance to express opinions, feelings of shame and inferiority.

Symptoms in children

For kids, anxiety on interaction with adults or peers may manifest as crying, tantrums, clinging to parents, or refusing to speak in social situations.


Various treatment options can help people manage their symptoms, gain confidence, and overcome anxiety. Without treatment, however, social anxiety disorder can persist throughout life, although it may get better or worse at times. Health care professionals usually recommend treatment with psychotherapy, medication, or both.


Social anxiety disorder is not uncommon. About 5-10% of people worldwide suffer from social anxiety disorder. It is the third most common mental health problem, behind substance use disorders and depression.

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder can change over time. They can flare up if a person is facing a lot of changes, stresses or demands in life. Although avoiding situations that produce anxiety may help a person feel better in the short term, anxiety is likely to continue in the long term if left untreated.

Alisha Lalljee is a psychologist, special education teacher and psychotherapist practicing in Bandra, Bombay

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