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Social Phobia in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is social phobia?

Social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, is a condition that causes a strong fear of and anxiety about social situations. Your child may have a social phobia of public speaking or performing in front of others.

What increases my child's risk for social phobia?

The cause of social phobia is not known. Your child's risk is higher if a family member has social phobia or his or her parents are overprotective, demanding, or judge harshly.

What are the signs and symptoms of social phobia?

  • Blushing, redness, sweating, or dry mouth
  • Shaky voice or being unable to speak
  • Crying, shaking, or trembling
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Stomachache, nausea, or diarrhea
  • Problem focusing on a task
  • Tantrums and being easily angered

How is social phobia diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask you and your child about his or her fears, worries, and behavior. The provider may ask if any family members have an anxiety disorder. He or she may ask if your child is involved at school and has friends.

How is social phobia treated?

  • Medicines help decrease anxiety and help your child feel calm and relaxed.
  • Behavior therapies help your child understand feelings, learn to control actions, and improve behavior. Your child may go to therapy alone, with family, or with a group of other children. Your child may learn how to change his or her behavior by looking at the results of certain actions. Behavior therapy may include any of the following:
    • Exposure, or desensitization, therapy helps your child face a feared object or situation in a controlled setting. During this therapy, your child is slowly placed in contact with the feared object or situation. The goal of this therapy is to help decrease anxiety until your child can control the fear.
    • Relaxation therapy includes exercises to calm your child's body and mind. The goal is to decrease your child's stress.
    • Social skills training teaches your child how to get along with other people. Training may include teaching your child to maintain eye contact and smile. He or she may also learn how to accept praise and ask questions.
  • Cognitive therapy helps your child learn which thoughts bring anxiety. It can help him or her change these thoughts to make them more positive. Cognitive therapy may also help your child deal with conflict in a healthy way. He or she may learn how to feel more in control.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I help my child with social phobia?

  • Learn more about social phobia. Ask your child's healthcare provider for books or other information about social phobia. Work with your child's teacher to help your child in school.
  • Encourage your child to socialize. Help your child develop social skills. Help him or her face fears and develop ways of coping.
  • Be a positive role model for your child. If you struggle with anxiety, learn ways to control it. Your child learns from watching your behavior. He or she may be more likely to face fears if he or she sees that you can.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child feels like hurting himself, herself, or others.
  • Your child has trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.
  • Your child has a seizure.

When should I call my child's doctor or therapist?

  • Your child is not eating well or eats more than usual.
  • Your child is not sleeping well or sleeps more than usual.
  • Your child's symptoms are getting worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.