Social Anxiety is a massive problem. Living in a technological age, there are plenty of teens and young people who spend more time alone than with others. And while many are connecting online and have virtual friends, out in the physical world they often struggle and feel out of their element.
This is when social anxiety can take hold, and for many teens and young adults this feeling becomes completely overwhelming. This is also when social isolation leads to major mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which if untreated can sometimes result in thoughts and attempts of suicide.
Sadly, some of these young people do want an active social life in the physical world but are very self conscious. Therefore, hiding behind their screen where they fit in is much more within their comfortable zone.
I’ve known young people who’ve experienced this and who have felt trapped inside their online existence. Over time they withdrew more and more from their physical world, until their online persona became their entire lives. Eventually, they were no longer able to attend school, university or work because they feared the world outside of their homes or bedrooms.
When this occurs someone needs to step in and help. Supporting young people in this situation is the only way they will overcome the problem. If it’s not treated as soon as possible, the condition only worsens. To offer assistance, begin by taking them to a knowledgeable GP who understands mental health issues, or seek a referral to a psychologist, counselor or behaviour therapist.
Please be aware that not all GP’s or mental health specialists offer effective assistance, so finding a good one is essential. Having first contact with an uninterested health care professional is often why people don’t seek help, so please don’t let this deter you. There are good ones out there, so keep trying until you find one.
Ideally, they might offer Cognitive Behaviour Therapy combined with Exposure Therapy to tackle the problem. I’ve used this technique in the past and have been able to effectively assist young people with chronic social and generalised anxiety. With a little bit of hard work and plenty of support from loved ones, a young person can begin to change their life in a matter of weeks.
This illness is a growing problem and young people who are suffering with it, or look like they are at risk, need help before it takes over. It doesn’t go away on it’s own. Therefore, offering support is a great place to start and often taking an interest is the first step to healing.
If anyone would like to share details of a good GP or therapist who understands social anxiety, please share in the comments below.