Social anxiety (also known as social phobia) is the fear of being watched or evaluated by others. Basically, children and teenagers with Social Anxiety Disorder are extremely afraid that they say or do something to embarrass themselves or expose themselves to criticism. Unlike shyness, which many children and teenagers outgrow, social anxiety disorder does not tend to go away on its own. Children and adolescents with social anxiety may feel that they don’t fit in, that they will be criticized, that they will look stupid, or that no one will like them. They may also experience physical symptoms such as dizziness, “butterflies” in stomach, shaky hands, blushing, and muscle tension. Recent national surveys found that approximately 5% of children and adolescents in the United States have Social Anxiety Disorder. As a result of their symptoms, most of those affected experience some type of impairment in school, at home, and in their relationships. Some children may exhibit a very severe form of social anxiety called Selective Mutism. These children may be able to socialize with family members but when it comes to peers and adults who are not family members, they become very uncomfortable and refuse to speak. Common signs may include refusing to answer questions in class or refusing to talk to children who are not family members. To date, very little research has been conducted on selective mutism and many professionals are not familiar with the disorder. UCSD, in collaboration with The Selective Mutism Organization/Child Anxiety Network, are conducting a family and genetic study to determine if selective mutism, and a closely related condition, social anxiety disorder, run in families and if certain genes are associated with selective mutism. Is your child or teenager experiencing Social Anxiety?

  • Does your child fear answering questions in class?
  • Get nervous around people?
  • Worry a lot about giving speeches?
  • Refuse to attend group activities?
  • Worry a lot about embarrassing himself/herself in front of others?

Is Social Anxiety causing problems for your child or teenager?

  • Has social anxiety affected your child’s ability to make friends?
  • Has social anxiety resulted in poorer academic performance or do teachers comment on your child’s lack of participation in class?
  • Does social anxiety prevent your child from doing things he/she would like to do?

If you answered “yes” to some of these questions, your child may have Social Anxiety Disorder.