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Social Anxiety Disorder in Children
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Social anxiety disorder causes your child to worry or be afraid in social situations. It is also called social phobia. Social anxiety disorder can cause your child to have problems with school or other daily activities.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:
- Your child has chest pain, tightness, or heaviness that may spread to his or her shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, or back.
- Your child says he or she feels like hurting himself or herself, or someone else.
Contact your child's doctor or therapist if:
- Your child's symptoms get worse or do not get better with treatment.
- Your child has new or worsening symptoms.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
- Medicines help your child feel more calm and relaxed, and decrease his or her symptoms. Medicines are usually used along with therapy or other treatments.
- Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Cognitive behavior therapy
can help your child find ways to feel less anxious in social situations. A therapist can help your child learn to control how his or her body responds to anxiety. The therapist may also teach your child ways to relax muscles and slow breathing when he or she feels anxious.
Help your child manage anxiety:
- Be supportive and patient. Younger children may cry or act out as a way of showing anxiety. Try to be patient and remember your child may have trouble controlling this behavior. Let your child tell you what makes him or her feel anxiety. Tell your child about your own anxiety and what helps you feel better. Do not force your child to do something he or she is too anxious to do. You can help your child feel more comfortable by starting with small steps and building up. For example, let your child practice a school presentation with a family member or friend. Then add more family members or friends when your child is comfortable. These small steps can help your child feel more comfortable with the presentation.
- Encourage your child to talk with someone about the anxiety. Help your child find someone to talk to if he or she does not want to talk to a parent. Your child can join a support group for children with social anxiety disorder. Your adolescents may feel more comfortable talking to a friend who is his or her age. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend counseling. Counseling may be used to help your child understand and change how he or she react to events that trigger symptoms.
- Help your child relax. Activities such as yoga, meditation, mindful activities, or listening to music can help your child relax. It may help your child to do these activities before a social event.
- Help your child practice deep breathing. Deep breathing can help your child relax when he or she is anxious. Your child should learn to take slow, deep breaths several times a day, or before a social event. Tell your child to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Help your child create a sleep routine. Regular sleep can help your child feel calmer during the day. Have your child go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. Do not let your child watch television or use the computer right before bed. His or her room should be comfortable, dark, and quiet.
- Talk to your adolescent about not smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can increase anxiety. Ask your adolescent's healthcare provider for information if he or she currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your adolescent's healthcare provider before he or she uses these products.
- Offer your child a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, whole-grain breads, and cooked beans. Healthy foods can help your child feel less anxious and have more energy.
- Encourage your child to be physically active. Physical activity, such as exercise, can increase your child's energy level. Exercise may also lift your child's mood and help him or her sleep better. Your child's healthcare provider can help you create an exercise plan for your child.
- Do not let your child have caffeine. Caffeine can make anxiety symptoms worse. Do not let your child have foods or drinks that are meant to increase energy. These can interfere with your child's sleep if taken in the afternoon or later.
Follow up with your child's doctor or therapist as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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