Maybe you’ve noticed that your child has trouble making friends, and large social gatherings make them uncomfortable. At first, you might have chalked it up to a shy phase that would pass in its own time. But your child is still having trouble making progress when it comes to socializing, and you’re starting to get worried.
Lots of people assume that children can’t really have debilitating social anxiety and that while some of them seem shy, the problem will solve itself as they get older. Yet this isn’t necessarily true. While some children do deal with temporary bouts of shyness, others live with social anxiety, which is a serious mental health condition that can affect people of any age.
How can you tell if your child is displaying symptoms of social anxiety? Here are a few telltale signs that parents should be aware of.
1. Your Child Actively Avoids Social Situations
Perhaps your child never seems to “warm up” to social situations. They might even go out of their way to avoid socializing altogether. They might feel calm when they’re at home with their immediate family members, but even if your extended family stops by for a visit, they suddenly clam up and try to run to their room. Your child may not try to make friends at school, and if another student does invite them over for a playdate or birthday party, they refuse to go.
At times, your child may even try to get out of going to school. Even if they’re not having trouble in their classes, they get so nervous about the social aspect that it’s hard to work up the courage to go each day.
2. Your Child’s Anxiety Makes Them Physically Ill
Anxiety isn’t just a mental health condition – it can also lead to physical health problems. Your child might be complaining about frequent headaches. They may suffer from stomachaches that affect their appetite. At times, they might have trouble eating because they’re so nervous about socializing.
Your child may also have trouble sleeping. They might have nightmares that wake them up several times each night, or they may toss and turn for hours before finally falling asleep. This can leave them feeling exhausted at school, and they might be cranky and irritable each morning. You might even end up getting up to check on them at night, which also causes you to feel tired and sluggish.
These physical anxiety symptoms might intensify the day before a big social event. Maybe your child doesn’t deal with these symptoms throughout the weekend, but on Sunday night before school, their symptoms flare up again. It can become a frustrating cycle.
3. Your Child Struggles to Focus
If your child has trouble paying attention, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that they might have ADHD. Yet anxiety could also be the culprit. Anxiety can be quite distracting. If your child is ruminating on worst-case scenarios for social situations, they might not be able to pay attention to other tasks at hand.
Overall, anxiety can drain kids of their energy. They may come across as forgetful when really, they’re just having trouble focusing because of their anxiety. At times, they might not be able to answer questions in class even if they know the subject well, simply because their anxiety makes it so hard to stay in the present. Inattentiveness and forgetfulness can be uncommon warning signs of social anxiety.
Are you concerned that your child is struggling with social anxiety? Talking to a therapist can help. Reach out to us to discuss your options for scheduling your child’s first session.