Social Anxiety: Diagnosis

Some amount of shyness is common to many people, and no one likes to be judged negatively. However, children with social anxiety disorder experience anxiety that is out of proportion to any potential judgment they could experience, and the anxiety that they experience is severe enough that it interferes with their ability to function socially. Children with social anxiety disorder will either actively avoid anxiety-inducing situations or suffer through them with intense distress. When their anxiety is triggered, they may experience panic reaction (shaking, sweating, shortness of breath) or, among young children, tantrums and crying.

To meet diagnostic criteria, the anxiety must occur in settings with peers and not just with adults, and must last for six months or more.

Some kids downplay their symptoms or even refuse to acknowledge them in an effort to avoid embarrassing scrutiny; as a result, the diagnosing clinician will often interview parents, teachers and other caregivers to more accurately understand symptoms.

Related:
Why Childhood Anxiety Often Goes Undetected (and the Consequences)