Social Anxiety: What to Look For

Children with social anxiety disorder are extremely self-conscious about how they appear to others.

There are two main types of social anxiety disorder. The first focuses on performance, with kids worrying about things like speaking in public or trying out for a team. The second type involves social situations in general — not just situations when a child is in the spotlight. Kids with this type of social anxiety may fear things like going to school, eating in public, using public restrooms, meeting new people and even having conversations. Most people with more general social anxiety also experience anxiety about performing.

Children with social anxiety may experience physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, flushing and shortness of breath. They may express their anxiety by asking, “What if I do something stupid?” or “What if I say the wrong thing?” Young children sometimes throw tantrums and cry when confronted with a situation that terrifies them. Children may experience anxiety symptoms well in advance of the situation they are worrying about.

Children with the disorder tend to start noticing symptoms between the ages of 8 and 15, but if they hide how they are feeling, parents might not realize anything is wrong for some time.