Social Anxiety: Diagnosis

For a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, a child’s fear of being humiliated during social encounters must be severe enough to interfere greatly with normal functioning. Children with the disorder will actively avoid anxiety-inducing situations or else suffer through them with intense distress. The anxiety experienced will be very acute and may result in a panic reaction (shaking, sweating, shortness of breath) or, among young children, tantrums and crying.

One of the things a child may be anxious about is whether she appears anxious, and will be judged negatively for it. To meet the criteria, the anxiety must occur in settings with peers and not just with adults, and must last for 6 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.