How To Deal With Social Anxiety in High School 

social anxiety high school

Anxiety can be a nerve-wracking and debilitating issue with adults, so it is no surprise that teenagers with anxiety can feel overwhelmed. When it comes to social anxiety in high school, these feelings can completely interfere with their lives.

If you’re a parent who has a child with social anxiety, or if you’re a teen looking for answers, our guide should arm you with enough knowledge to help you become more aware of the situation at hand.

Overview

There is plenty to learn about social anxiety, but if you’re in a rush, there are some common questions and answers that can help you understand things about more.

How do high schoolers deal with social anxiety?

Dealing with social anxiety high school deals a lot with both the students, the parents or guardians, and the teachers. It’s a unified effort of finding support through a trusted teacher or close friend, sharing your feelings and concerns with them, and even working on deep breathing exercises to get through some of the symptoms.

How common is social anxiety in high school?

There’s an estimate of 9.1% of adolescents between ages 13-18 suffer from social anxiety at some point. Of course, this is based on those who received a diagnosis and not the number of high schoolers that may actually experience the disorder and the symptoms.

It is common enough, however, that it may seem like many students suffer at some level from it due to the environment overall paired with their age range and growing hormonal changes. Paired together, these can quickly lead to insecurities and anxiety.

Can a 16-year-old have anxiety?

Yes, a 16-year-old can definitely have anxiety. As stated above, many are diagnosed with a specific disorder within that age range.

On the notion of anxiety alone without a disorder being present, everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives. Teenagers can certainly go through the symptoms pertaining to going to school, meeting new people, giving a presentation, and more.

What can schools do to help students with social anxiety?

Schools can start by taking a more open approach to students so that teenagers feel more comfortable approaching a teacher or a counselor about their problems and concerns. There can be a firmer approach to dealing with bullying and harassment as well to lessen the anxiety some teens feel.

Additionally, teachers can be more encouraging to students, offering positive feedback and incentives for participating. This may help teens feel a bit more involved and appreciated for their work.

How do I tell my parents I have social anxiety?

Speaking about your anxiety can make you feel even more anxious, so the first step is slowing down and taking deep breaths before broaching the subject with your parents. This can help you center your thoughts so that you don’t back out or go off-topic.

Your parents may even suspect something is going on if they’ve noticed your behavior, and in this case, breaking the ice is easier as they already expect something and are willing for you to open up to them about it.

Remember to focus on first telling someone you trust the most. This can be your mom, dad, or even another family member from aunts and uncles, to grandparents and siblings. If you have to start with another relative, it can help to have their support at your side when talking to your parents.

Social Anxiety in High School – A Thorough Look

Social Anxiety Disorder

It is easy for teenagers to feel suffocated by their social anxiety considering they are forced to go into a social setting for school purposes.

From mild anxiety symptoms to full-blown panic attacks, there are a host of concerns that teens with social anxiety face in a high school setting.

Understanding more about the issue at hand can lead to better coping and treatment methods at the end of the day. This includes teenagers learning about their condition as well as parents and teachers.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

It is easy to write off social anxiety as simple shyness or being introverted, but it is more than that.

An introverted teenager is not the same as one with anxiety as those who are introverted tend to want to be alone and enjoy it. In fact, it can energize them while too much stimulation or interaction socially can drain them.

As for shyness, this is close to social anxiety. A shy person can often feel self-conscious and fear judgment from people, but they do wish to seek out social interactions. It’s the apprehension of not being liked that keeps shy people from interacting.

However, if these feelings seem never-ending and start to interfere with daily life for months, then it is more than just shyness. Instead, it may be social anxiety disorder.

Those with social anxiety disorder feel dread or fear in approaching social situations. With teenagers, this can quickly become an everyday issue seeing as they must attend school whether in-person or remotely.

Common interactions such as walking down the hallway between classes, going to lunch, or even being called on by the teacher can lead to feeling uneasy, terror, and stress.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety

There are some signs to watch out for in yourself if you think you have social anxiety. Also, parents and teachers alike can learn to recognize these signs if they want to truly understand how to help a child with social anxiety.

Some of the behavioral and emotional signs to look out for include:

  • Intense fear of social situations
  • Worry or stress over upcoming events or situations
  • Fear that others will notice anxiety
  • Avoiding social interactions or situations
  • Intense fear of upcoming interactions
  • Difficulties talking to others including strangers and friends
  • Trouble concentrating in class

There are also some physical signs to look out for when it comes to social anxiety:

  • Blushing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling
  • Muscle tension
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Rigid posture
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness, lightheaded
  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Panic attacks

Something to be aware of is that just because a symptom is on the list that you haven’t experienced, that doesn’t negate what you’re going through. There may be other symptoms not seen here that you experience too.

Signs can change over time as well. They can be more intense or less severe. You may even feel as though if you avoid the social situation that you’ll feel better, but there’s a chance that the symptoms can always return or worsen without any sort of management or treatment applied.

Diagnosing Social Anxiety

Diagnosing social anxiety disorder in teens is much the same as in adults with some additional options thrown in.

To start, teens will undergo an evaluation by a doctor. This will include discussing symptoms, the severity of them, and how long they have been going on.

From there is when things change with how teens are diagnosed to how adults are.

With teenagers, doctors may want to speak with parents, teachers, and others that are prominently in their lives. This can help give them a better perspective of the student in question. Addressing their school records helps as well since this can indicate if there has been a sudden drop in performance.

Additionally, looking to adults in their lives can assist teens in becoming aware of some concerns that they may not have recognized. Teens aren’t always adept at completely understanding themselves or recognizing their behavior as a need for concern in the first place, so having another opinion is useful in reaching a diagnosis.

Looking for a Cause

With social anxiety, finding an exact cause isn’t always clear.

In some cases, a teen’s home environment can foster neglect or abuse, and this can lead to anxiety disorders. However, this can be difficult to learn if the parent in question accompanies the child to the doctor’s appointment and they fear reaching out.

In other cases, the home environment may not be so overwhelming, but the teen might just simply feel as though they aren’t heard or looked at. This will lead to more thorough involvement of the parents or guardians in question.

Of course, high school itself can be the cause of social anxiety. This comes in the form of bullying. It can lead any teen to feel fear attending school as they encounter their bully. This is a case that must immediately involve the school and parents to find a solution.

Social Anxiety High School Impact

Students with social anxiety in high school can see their daily lives impacted tremendously.

Some kids may feel anywhere from a mild or intense amount of dread when approaching school. This may lead some to try to refuse going to school by doing things like feigning an illness.

For those that do attend class, they may feel a need to hurry through the halls through fear of being late and showing up after everyone else. Some may not make eye contact with anyone while walking, instead opting to keep their heads down.

Another way social anxiety can impact high schoolers is their work. They may stress over certain assignments, but this has a risk of leading to neglect in other areas of schoolwork.

Other times, they may not do well in group projects as they, more often than not, avoid voicing their opinion or concerns.

Social anxiety in high school can have an effect on a teen’s social life too. They can feel as though they’re unable to make friends or don’t know how to approach their peers.

Some may find themselves sitting off alone during lunchtime or simply not conversing with their fellow students if they are seated at a crowded table.

Lastly, as mentioned in the previous section, bullying can cause or severely impact social anxiety in high school. In fact, kids don’t even need to witness their bully at school all the time as this can occur outside of school via the internet.

If this is the case, it can cause a teen to feel more stress and anxious about everyday things.

What Teachers Should Know

Teachers should know that teens with social anxiety shouldn’t be written off as merely shy or uninterested in school. Instead, these teens are feeling immense pressure, stress, and anxiety over common social interactions.

This may lead to them being unwilling to participate in a class or any performance that puts them at the center of attention.

It is important that teachers pay close attention to all their students. This can make it easier to recognize any changes in behavior or mood that aren’t just associated with typical teenager actions.

Also, becoming more aware means recognizing the symptoms in the first place like the ones we laid out earlier.

Treating Social Anxiety in Teenagers

Treating Social Anxiety in Teenagers

When trying to learn how to help a child with social anxiety, it’s important to focus on the individual case rather than throw a blanket treatment solution over the child.

What this means is that what works for one teenager may cause more harm than good in another.

Some respond well to therapy, for instance.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one such route to go down. This talk therapy may help teens focus more on how they feel and recognizing their negative thinking patterns. From there, a therapist can lead the teen to discover ways to push down those negative thoughts, replacing them instead with more beneficial ones.

At the same time, CBT can help teens learn to rid themselves of their own distorted self-perception. It’s normal for this age group to view themselves as something they’re not in a harmful way. Therapy can assist in correcting such viewpoints so teens focus on the positive aspects of themselves instead.

Family therapy is another good approach to treating social anxiety in teenagers. It can involve the immediate members of the family so that the teen is armed with better support at home. This support can translate well to their high school life as making them feel less alone in their struggles.

If teens are feeling reluctant to speak in person about their symptoms and feelings, then they can always choose from the several online therapy options designed with teenagers in mind.

This can help them share their thoughts in a comfortable space, freeing them to open up more than they usually would if speaking to someone face-to-face.

Some online platforms even allow for anonymity too, which is more useful for the teens that aren’t quite ready to fully share. This is a good way to ease them into the process.

Of course, there is always a medication route that parents or guardians can explore for teens. This may be a more last resort type of issue though as it tends to come up if symptoms are severe enough to completely disrupt a child’s life.

Medications can include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication.

Managing at School

Managing social anxiety at school can be a new obstacle for teens to face. However, with support, teens can see some beneficial results.

For one thing, schools can establish some clear boundaries about bullying and harassment to lower the risk of the teen experiencing it and exasperating their anxiety.

Another thing is that teachers can help teens by either assigning groups to reduce the anxiety of picking, or for allowing those who need a bit more control the freedom to choose their partner for group assignments.

Teens can cope by discovering a quiet place they can reach to gather their thoughts. This can be the bathroom, a trusted teacher’s room, or even the nurse’s office. Knowing that there is somewhere you can go when you feel overwhelmed can help you control your symptoms.

Tips for Parents and Teens About Social Anxiety

Tips for Parents and Teens About Social Anxiety

There are some useful tips that both parents and teens can keep in mind concerning social anxiety.

Tips for Parents

1. Encourage children to share their thoughts and feelings.

Fostering an environment at home where teens feel comfortable and safe approaching you with their concerns is key. Without that, they can continue to bottle things up until they reach a breaking point.

2. Don’t judge. Just listen.

When your teen does approach you about their concerns, it’s important not to judge them. It took a lot for them to come to terms with opening up, and the last thing they need is for you to dismiss them. Simply listen at first and chime in when they’re ready for your advice and help.

3. Don’t speak over your teen or go behind their backs.

It’s normal for parents to feel overprotective, but with social anxiety, teens already feel overwhelmed. If you talk over them, then they’ll feel as though their opinion doesn’t matter.

Likewise, try not to just jump and address the teacher or school yourself without consulting with the teen first. You may think you’re helping, but it is important to give get their approval first as to not allow the school to blindside the child later on about the issue.

Only insert yourself with the school either when the teen asks or when the situation is too severe to wait such as the case with bullying.

4. Set realistic goals.

Setting realistic goals for teens can help them feel more comfortable with themselves and social situations. This includes recognizing how far your child can go with certain activities or clubs and encouraging their participation in them.

Tips for Teens

1. Don’t bottle up your emotions.

You may feel extremely anxious and worried that no one will listen or care when you speak, but keeping everything bottled up will only lead to worsening your symptoms. Recognize when it’s time to share how you feel whether that be with parents, other relatives, or close friends.

2. Practice deep breathing techniques.

Deep breathing exercises are always useful in calming things down in the moment. This can help if you’re about to give a presentation or simply about to speak to new people for the first time.

3. Embracing and facing the discomfort.

Another useful management technique is simply facing your fears. Consider joining in a lunch table with some people you know. You may not talk much at first, but it’s a good step toward lowering your anxiety.

So you have to speak aloud in class? There’s nothing you can do to avoid it, so it helps to prepare beforehand and dive head-first. If anything, at least it will be over before you know it.

4. Seeking friend support.

If you have just one close friend, that is more than enough to get the right support. This friend can become an emotional support person while you’re at school, helping you feel more relaxed or even being there as a shoulder to lean on if symptoms get too bad.

Takeaway

Although anxiety is common, social anxiety in high school can leave teenagers unable to cope with their daily lives. That is why it is important that teens and the adults in their lives recognize the signs and seek help.

Without management or treatment, these feelings can quickly become too overwhelming to handle. They can lead to kids avoiding social interactions such as just making friends, and there is a chance for it to follow them into adulthood.

Handling the situation now before it spirals out of control is vital to ensuring your teen lives a more productive and happier life.

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