How to Tell If Your Child Has Social Anxiety

Are you wondering if your child has social anxiety?

It is really hard as a parent to know exactly what is going on with your child.

You know when something is a little “off,” but you can’t always tell what the problem is. Furthermore, it’s hard to know when something is just a phase that they’ll outgrow.

You may sense that your child is a little bit anxious around others. However, you know that some people are naturally shy.

How can you tell when it goes beyond regular shyness and becomes social anxiety?

Shyness vs. Social Anxiety

Many children fail to get diagnosed early on with social anxiety because it is first mistaken for shyness. Being shy is a personality trait. In contrast, social anxiety is a condition that limits a child’s life.

Often, shyness may not typically cause a person stress. You may be shy, but you may not feel bad about being shy. In contrast, someone with social anxiety may beat themselves up about their inability to act more social among peers.

Furthermore, a socially anxious child doesn’t always appear to be shy. Some socially anxious children will appear to be outgoing, but they experience significant worry about how they are coming across. The stress of social situations is so great that they begin avoiding them whenever possible. That’s a sign of social anxiety.

The takeaway is that excessive shyness may mean that your child has social anxiety. However, you need to look for additional clues. In particular, consider how much this impacts their ability to function in daily life.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Social Settings

If your child has anxiety, then they may be impaired in certain activities. For example, they may be unable to greet new people. They may speak very quietly to new people or refuse to speak at all.

Furthermore, a child with social anxiety may:

  • Get easily overwhelmed in large groups of people.
  • Play alone even in group settings.
  • Throw a tantrum before a gathering.
  • Insist on staying home instead of going out.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety at School

School-aged children begin to show additional signs of social anxiety. One warning sign is that your child’s teacher describes a withdrawn child that is very different from the one that you know at home.

Other symptoms of social anxiety that show up in school include:

  • Trouble making friends
  • Refusal to speak in class
  • Excessive fear that other kids will be mean
  • Worrying excessively about what to wear to school
  • Making excuses to stay home

Behavioral Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Many of the symptoms above are behavioral symptoms. After all, kids express themselves better through action than words, especially when they are young.

Here are some additional behaviors that indicate your child has social anxiety:

  • Won’t order own food at a restaurant
  • Difficulty talking on the phone
  • Refuses to eat in front of others
  • Refuses to go to the bathroom anywhere except home
  • Fear of performance (such as in sports or music)
  • Excessive whining
  • Separation anxiety

Fears that Indicate Your Child has Social Anxiety

Of course, some children will talk about their feelings. Common thoughts and fears that a child with social anxiety may have include:

  • Fear that nobody will like them
  • Worried about appearance, especially changes such as haircuts
  • Excessive thoughts about what others think of them
  • Replays situations over and over in their mind
  • Fear of being embarrassed

Of course, some of these things are a normal part of growing up.

Many kids experience fear of giving a presentation in class, for example. Nevertheless, most kids are able to get up and do it, and they forget about it shortly thereafter.

When a child has social anxiety, they obsess and stress about it. They may be unable to do it, even if it costs them a grade in the class.

If your child has social anxiety, therapy can help. Learn more about my approach to child counseling here.