Signs Of Social Anxiety In Teens: How To Get Help

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated April 28, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It's estimated that 9.1% of teens aged 13-18 experience social phobia, and according to the National Institute Of Mental Health, 7.1% of adults have it as well. You might be wondering what the symptoms of social phobia are or if you have social anxiety disorder. Below, we’ll talk about social phobia in-depth and go over some of the ways of treating a social anxiety disorder, including online therapy for teens.


What is social phobia?

Social phobia is also known as social anxiety disorder. It is a mental health condition characterized by extreme or overwhelming anxiety that occurs in one or more social situations. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines social anxiety as the “marked fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others.” Some of these situations may include social interactions, such as meeting unfamiliar people, being observed, eating in front of others, and performing or speaking in front of others.

This phobia is not just shyness or the occasional nervousness everyone experiences at times. Instead, social phobia can impede someone’s ability to engage in daily activities. This form of anxiety in teens is common. The average time of onset is one's teenage years; many people first experience symptoms during their childhood or teenage years. However, symptoms may begin at any time, and one can receive a diagnosis at any age or during any stage of life.

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder or social phobia include the following:

  • A sense of overwhelm, fear, extreme nervousness, or anxiety during social situations
  • Intense fear and anxiety in anticipation of social events (anxiety prior to social events)
  • Fear of embarrassment, humiliation, or judgment from others when or before socializing
  • Self-consciousness and persistent negative thoughts
  • Undeveloped social skills, such as misreading body language or not maintaining eye contact
  • Concern about what other people thought of you after an interaction or event
  • A tendency to analyze your actions after an interaction or event and to ruminate over potential flaws in what you said or did
  • Avoidance of social events, interactions, and situations where you may be embarrassed, humiliated, or judged
  • A tendency to cancel or say "no" to social events or interactions due to symptoms
  • Trouble talking to new people or people you don't know well
  • Physical symptoms, such as blushing, sweating, shaking, trembling, or experiencing gastrointestinal distress, muscle tension, and a rapid heartbeat

Those who live with social anxiety disorder may have an increased likelihood of meeting the criteria for other mental health conditions, including major depressive disorder (MDD), or other anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

How does social phobia impact your life?

Getty/MoMo Productions
Someone with social phobia or social anxiety may experience difficulty in a number of different social situations. Examples of situations in which someone with social anxiety may experience symptoms include the following:
  • Attending work, school, or similar obligations
  • Ordering food at a restaurant
  • Answering the phone
  • Interacting with employees at stores, shops, and similar locations
  • Dating
  • Making new friends
  • Joining new groups or trying new activities where others are present
  • Eating in public or in front of others
  • Attending social events or parties

There are a variety of causes of this anxiety disorder, and it can affect different people in different ways. Difficulty with the different types of complex interactions listed above may lead to trouble attending or performing at work or school, which may impact your education or employment or cause fatigue and stress in these contexts. Some people may experience loneliness due to isolation or trouble getting to know new people. Others may miss or put off important phone calls or have difficulty getting what they need at stores and shops. 

Personality traits such as hypersensitivity to criticism or rejection (whether real or perceived) and trouble being assertive when needed may also be present in those living with social anxiety or social phobia. However, social anxiety disorder is considered a highly treatable condition. Social anxiety disorder is common, and professional help for this disorder is available.

How do I know if I have social anxiety?

If you recognize the symptoms of social anxiety in yourself or from talking with family and find that it's impacting your life, you may have social anxiety disorder. To receive a formal diagnosis of social anxiety disorder or social phobia, you can see a mental health professional who is qualified to diagnose mental health conditions. To provide a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, a provider may ask you to answer some written or verbal questions that assess your symptoms and how they affect you.

However, you may also want to get a physical exam from a medical doctor to ensure your physical symptoms are not linked to another health condition. If your physical exam indicates a medical condition, your doctor may prescribe medication (such as beta blockers) to help improve your physical health.

How to ease social anxiety

Although social anxiety disorder is a psychiatric disorder that should be treated by a mental health professional, there are still some coping skills you can use to reduce anxiety and your fear response:
  • Practice mindfulness.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • Journal your thoughts.
  • Push yourself to experience more social gatherings.
  • Take care of your physical health.
  • Discuss your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or family.
Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Other ways to find help

Whether you're experiencing significant anxiety, depression, difficulty with personal relationships, or stress related to school or work, a counselor or therapist may be able to help. People with social anxiety disorder often find help by trying behavioral therapy or exposure therapy with a trained mental health professional or by finding support through a support group. 

There are a number of different ways to find a therapist or counselor who meets your needs. You can search the web, browse a therapist directory, see what your health insurance plan covers, or sign up for a reputable online platform like BetterHelp (18+) or TeenCounseling (13-19). All of the providers on the BetterHelp and TeenCounseling platforms are licensed, and you can talk to a counselor completely online, which may be helpful if social anxiety makes it difficult to leave home. Studies show that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for anxiety. Also, online therapy also tends to be more affordable than traditional in-person services without insurance.


If you're not sure whether you have social anxiety disorder, you can be matched with a counselor with experience helping teens in this area. With TeenCounseling and BetterHelp, you can talk to a counselor completely online and try cognitive behavioral therapy. You can also contact your counselor via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they’re able. Regardless of how you find a provider, you deserve to get the support you need. Don't hesitate to take the first step and reach out today.
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