Treating Teens with Social Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychological illness. According to Moretza and Karen Khaleghi, authors of the book Anatomy of Addiction, 19.1 million adults suffer from anxiety, which translates to about 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, or about one in every seven adults. Also, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports that one in eight children and teens are affected by anxiety disorders. Social Anxiety, specifically, is the most common anxiety disorder in teens and can cause significant levels of impairment in their school, home, and work life. If untreated, anxiety can further lead to major depressive disorder and addiction. Sadly, many teens don’t do anything about the way they feel. They believe that their inner discomfort and low self worth are normal and don’t do anything about it.


To make matters worse, one interesting psychological trait of teens is the belief in being the center of attention, even when they are not. For instance, an adolescent might be grossly concerned about how he or she looks because “everybody’s noticing”. And at the same time, a teen’s anxiety about the way they look or who they are can be exacerbated by this sense of having an imaginary audience. In general, this is not necessarily a negative trait of adolescence. For some teens, it can lead to feeling invincible, invulnerable, and the heroes of their own personal fantasy. Feeling as though you are the center of attention is one of the classic inner experiences of being an adolescent.


However, for some teens, feeling like everyone is watching can begin to feel and look like anxiety. If blown out of proportion that feeling can go awry. The thought and feeling that everyone is watching can turn into an invasive experience. And in fact, for some, the stress of the psychological, emotional, and physical changes of adolescence coupled with the weight of the world’s eyes on them can lead to the development of certain mental illnesses. It can facilitate the development of depression and/or social anxiety.


Social Anxiety Disorder is an illness in which the fear of social situations, specifically fearing judgment and embarrassment in those situations, is excessive. A teen might be excessively worried about how he or she looks or will behave and might even avoid those situations to escape the anxiety, rather than enjoying that experience. Social phobia tends to also come within an extreme feeling of self-consciousness and a fear of humiliating oneself.


If you’re a teen feeling this way, you can take measures to prevent psychological illness. The best way to prevent the symptoms of anxiety, such as fear, excessive worry, stress, panic attacks, etc, is to have a regular practice of relaxation. You can do this in a variety of ways. You can meditate, practice yoga, go on daily walks, listen to calming music, exercise, participate in guided imagery exercises, or simply have some quiet time to let go of thoughts in the mind.


If you already have concerns about social anxiety and perhaps you already notice adverse symptoms, it’s perhaps necessary to participate in treatment. Typical forms of treatment for anxiety include medication and participating in psychotherapy. In fact, one of the most effective forms of therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It’s a type of therapy that helps you find and change the thoughts and beliefs that lead to stress. CBT can also provide effective coping mechanisms to manage anxiety and respond to life in new ways.


Furthermore, parents and educators can support their teens by escorting them to a mental health professional if they see symptoms of anxiety or mental illness. Although it’s often neglected, the psychological health of a teen will affect every aspect of his or her life.




Khaleghi, M. & Khaleghi, K. (2011). The anatomy of addiction. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan