• Fauzia Haque

Inside Your Mind

Mental illness has continuously plagued teenagers with added amounts of stress and tension; one of the most prominent disorders amongst adolescents today happens to be Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), or social phobia. According to the Child Mind Institute, one in every three teenagers (31.9%) will face the symptoms of an anxiety disorder just before becoming an adult, with 9.1% developing social anxiety over their teenage years.

What is it?

SAD is a persistent psychiatric condition indicated by the chronic and long-lasting fear of embarrassment and negative judgment by an individual’s peers and their social environment. It is also the third most common mental health disorder. Sufferers of social anxiety often face an intensified and irrational apprehension that typically involves severe impairments that bleed into the ability for these individuals to live a normal life. Social anxiety typically stems anywhere from early to late adolescence and intensifies into adulthood as the teenage period tends to be the most sensitive moment for the development and surfacing of this disorder.


Adolescents suffering from SAD usually endure a severe form of trepidation and fear in situations involving social interactions, which can be from the smallest interactions to a kind of performance anxiety that brings considerable dread when giving a speech or talking to a small group. Individuals often fear conversations with strangers, getting involved in groups, and even communicating over the phone. The fear typically stems from the mental ideology that they are prone to messing up and humiliating themselves in front of others that will negatively impact the way they are viewed within their society. Most of the common physical symptoms, which include sweating, trembling, blushing, stumbling over words, and having shortness of breath, are also fears occupied inside one’s mind when their social phobia may be triggered. These panicked reactions can escalate and cause unhappiness and dissatisfaction within one’s way of life, which can ultimately impair a young adolescent’s sense of self-efficacy in their social, academic, and personal capabilities.


Vulnerability to becoming increasingly socially anxious emerges from a decreased dependency on parents and more of a heightened need for validation from friends and peers as a teenager. Adolescents that report being more socially anxious and vulnerable in a social setting are more emotionally sensitive to influence from their friend groups. They are also more likely to report a higher level of self-consciousness and a lower sense of self-esteem in mostly all areas of their lives. More specifically within adolescents, individuals find themselves distressed over potential peer rejection and being placed amongst the “rejected group” of students. A study conducted by Melita Puklek Levpuscek, a psychology professor at the University of Ljubljana, focuses on the psychosocial development of Slovenian adolescents. She found that students that are more socially anxious tend to be perceived by their classmates as unsociable within the scale of social acceptance. The study also reinforced the idea that socially anxious students tend to feel misplaced and uncomfortable within their classrooms and have a low sense of confidence within their abilities. The persistent dread emphasizes the reduced quality of life that socially anxious teenagers and adults face and can lead to other conflicts and issues regarding social atmospheres like friends, careers, and academics.


Doctors and psychiatrists typically diagnose SAD based on conducting a thorough evaluation of mental health and the consideration that the symptoms have lasted for at least six months and are not an underlying physical complication. If someone nearby seems to have any symptoms of social anxiety, it is important to ask them or help them to seek medical guidance and assistance. Social anxiety is not something that should be self-diagnosed off of social media or the internet, but by a medical professional that can spot the difference between acceptable worrying and an intensified case of panic within social situations. Once diagnosed, treatment often consists of forms of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and peer groups that help with positive psychological and behavioral progression, or a prescription of medications. It is important to note that there are studies that have found a lack of efficacy within treatment for teenagers, but nonetheless, treatment can help adolescents come to reach their full potential in life at a much more fluid and easier pace.


Anxiety and Depression in Adolescence. (2017, September 27). Child Mind Institute. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/report/2017-childrens-mental-health-report/anxiety-depression-adolescence/

Leigh, E., & Clark, D. M. (2018). Understanding Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescents and Improving Treatment Outcomes: Applying the Cognitive Model of Clark and Wells (1995). Clinical child and family psychology review, 21(3), 388–414. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-018-0258-5

Quick Facts on Social Anxiety. (2020, July 14). Child Mind Institute. Retrieved from https://https://childmind.org/article/quick-facts-on-social-anxiety/

Carlton, C. N., Sullivan-Toole, H., Strege, M. V., Ollendick, T. H., & Richey, J. A. (2020, July 22). Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Adolescent Social Anxiety: A Unique Convergence of Factors. Frontiers in Psychology, NA. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A630228868/AONE u=west64589&sid=AONE&xid=aeea5c98

Levpuscek, M. P. (2012). Social anxiety, social acceptance and academic self-perceptions in high-school students. Drustvena Istrazivanja, 21(2), 405-419. Retrieved from https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A357968722/AONE?u=west64589&sid=AONE&xid=badc7cf1

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). (2020, March 4). TeenMentalHealth. Retrieved from http://teenmentalhealth.org/mental-disorders/social-anxiety-disorder/

Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-anxiety-disorder-more-than-just-shyness/index.shtml

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