Anxiety is a common problem.  

Did you know that anxiety disorders affect 1 in 8 children?  Social Anxiety is just one type of anxiety disorder. There are others: panic disorder, selective mutism, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, specific phobias, and separation anxiety. You can learn more about all of these here.

Anxiety is treatable, but most kids are not getting treatment, according to this report.

What are the symptoms of social anxiety?

  • Shyness
  • Nervousness
  • Fear (of going out, of new situations, of appearing foolish, etc)
  • Avoidance of certain (social) situations and activities

While all of us, especially adolescents, experience these symptoms from time to time, they are fleeting and do not affect our quality of life or the activities we choose. Someone with social anxiety feels one or more of these symptoms frequently and routinely avoids certain activities because of them.

What are the consequences of untreated (social) anxiety?

  • Poor quality of life
  • Missed social experiences
  • (Likely) poor performance at school (and work)

Unfortunately, anxiety often occurs alongside other disorders, including but not limited to: depression, ADHD, abdominal pain, drug or alcohol use and abuse, and eating disorders.

How is (Social) Anxiety Treated?

Since anxiety disorders may show up before other problems such as school refusal, drug use and eating disorders, it’s vital that parents recognize the disorder early, and pursue effective treatment.

(Social) anxiety will likely never go away completely, but using a combination of these methods can make it a well-managed annoyance rather than a debilitating illness.

Therapy – no matter the specific method, this is all about learning to recognize emotions, name them, feel them coming on, and handle them in a constructive way.

  • CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – talk therapy aimed at changing thought patterns in order to change feelings, or harnessing the power of cognitive control over emotions
  • Other talk therapies – there are several other types of talk therapy; they all share the idea that talking enables you to arrive at a solution
  • Biofeedback – shows you your breathing and heart rate, as well as other metabolic measures and teaches you to use the brain to control them
  • Group – similar to talk therapy, but with the idea that sharing in a group of peers will: invoke a sense of camaraderie, provide perspective, and provide diverse insights
  • Visualization – learning to mentally put yourself in a calm place to control acute anxiety; learn more here and here
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Yoga, meditation

Exercise – whether it’s anxiety, depression, or stress, regular sustained exercise that gets the heart going can work wonders.

Homeopathy – controversial as it is, I’ve seen marked improvement in mental health with the right homeopathic prescription (learn lots more about homeopathy and its controversies here)

Herbal Medicine – many herbs are well known for their ability to calm the mind and nervous system.

Nutrition – whether through diet or supplements, certain nutrients calm the nervous system.  Some nutrients and substances are stimulating and must be avoided.  For some, improving blood sugar control may help.

Get outside – I would also argue that most people would benefit from a lot more time in nature

And more! Finally, check out this fantastic, thorough article 8 Naturopathic Approaches to Addressing Your Child’s Anxiety.

 

When all else fails, consider pharmaceuticals – there are medications available; they are often prescribed by an adolescent psychiatrist, though some family physicians, pediatricians, and other practitioners will also prescribe.

Learn about natural alternatives to Tylenol and Ibuprofen.

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Teresa Neff
Teresa Neff
Dr. Teresa specializes in pediatric and adolescent medicine and women’s health. After earning her doctorate from Bastyr University, she spent over two years at The Kids Clinic, in north Seattle, first as a medical resident, and then as a staff physician. At The Kids Clinic, she became comfortable managing urgent acute matters as well as chronic health concerns. Dr. Teresa loves combining her life long love of teaching children with her passion for natural medicine. As a primary care provider, she offers well child exams, well woman exams, sports physicals, lab studies, vaccines and vaccine education. In addition, she uses the various tools of naturopathic medicine, including Craniosacral Therapy, Visceral Manipulation, and Classical Homeopathy, among others, to build healthy foundations and to promote health and empower her patients. Dr. Teresa also studied breastfeeding and lactation with the Simkin Center and holds a certificate as a Certified Lactation Educator (CLE). Having experienced the struggles and the joys of breastfeeding herself, she is happy to help moms establish or continue breastfeeding. Dr. Teresa sees patients at Seattle Nature Cure Clinic in Seattle, Washington. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Neff in Seattle, Washington

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