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Social Anxiety


All young people feel self-conscious, nervous, or shy at times. However, these experiences are part of growing up, and though they are uncomfortable, they help many children build resilient behaviors that will make them happier, more capable, adults.

But for some children, the anxiety that goes with these feelings is extreme. Children with social anxiety struggle with excessive self-consciousness and fear of judgment that exceeds common shyness or nerves. They may worry so much about how they appear to others that they stop doing things they need or want to do, such as speaking up in class, participating in sports, or attending social events.

When it goes undiagnosed and untreated, social anxiety can lead to isolation and depression. At Zackson Psychology Group, our experienced child clinicians can help your child learn to manage their social anxiety fears and develop healthy coping skills.

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What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety typically appears as children become more aware of what others think. This growing awareness can impact their daily life; what is a "right" thing to say, do or wear — and something they should not do because they might be embarrassing or cause them to lose social status. Children with social anxiety experience worry and self-consciousness that are out of proportion to the judgment they could encounter. The anxiety they experience becomes so severe that it interferes with their ability to function at school and social settings. Social anxiety is categorized into two types. The first centers on performance anxiety, which causes children to worry about giving a presentation in class or auditioning for a school play. The second type involves social situations generally, not just those that require the child to be in the spotlight. Children with this type of social anxiety may fear things like going to school, using public restrooms, eating in front of others, and meeting new people, in addition to experiencing anxiety about performing.

Treatments for Social Anxiety

Children with these symptoms will actively avoid anxiety-producing situations, which will exacerbate their symptoms, leading to your child growing increasingly withdrawn or depressed. For example, some children become so fearful of talking to others that they won’t speak to specific people or certain places. This form of social anxiety disorder is sometimes called selective mutism.

Zackson Psychology Group child clinicians will work with you to determine the best therapeutic approach for your child. We will help your child recognize negative thoughts and find ways to think more positively. Gradually, your child will be able to face the situations they have been afraid of in the past, and in that process discover that their fears usually do not come true. Specific, customized exercises, relaxation and breathing techniques, and homework are all ways in which our clinician can help your child fight and conquer social anxiety.

Symptoms and Challenges

Social anxiety produces a fearful reaction to something that isn’t dangerous. The child’s mind and body act as if the danger is real, which can manifest as physical sensations commonly associated with the fight-flight response, as well as emotional or behavioral symptoms. This reaction may begin well in advance of the situation the child is worried about.


  • People won’t like me
  • They can tell I’m anxious
  • I’m going to say the wrong thing
  • I’m going to look stupid
  • I’m an idiot

Physical Sensations

  • Irritability
  • Blushing
  • Stomachache or nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Racing heart
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Feeling detached from one’s body (derealization)


  • Anxiety, worry, and fear
  • Self-consciousness
  • Embarrassment
  • Shame
  • Loneliness
  • Helplessness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Disappointment over missed opportunities


  • Refusing to go to school
  • Not answering or asking questions in class
  • Mumbling or poor eye contact
  • Freezing up when asked to speak
  • Avoiding new activities or places
  • Declining invitations to social events
  • Asking a parent to be present or available
  • Clinging, crying, or having a tantrum
  • Withdrawing from friends and staying home on weekends
Have questions? Ask our experts.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT is a form of treatment that is highly effective in helping children deal with social anxiety. CBT is focused on negative thinking patterns and avoidance behaviors. Our expert clinicians teach children how to change anxious thought patterns and overcome their fears. Children learn to go beyond what’s comfortable, little by little, at their own pace. We also focus on building self-esteem and life-long coping skills they can rely on any time they feel anxious. Practicing social skills and building confidence is an essential part of the treatment goal.

At ZPG, we are sensitive to the courage it takes a child to face fears and try new things. Our sensitive clinicians combine expertise with compassion to let children know they are supported and safe. With the right tools, they can control their anxiety rather than avoid them. With proper treatment and care, your child can experience greater happiness, fun, and peace.

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