Teenagers are a very resilient bunch, but every generalization has exceptions. Everyone has their limits, and young people can be among the most vulnerable to the stresses surrounding them. For some teens, the holidays create circumstances where social anxiety can surge. The holidays bring the academic semester to a conclusion. Exams, grades, and friends are stressful enough. But with family parties and other obligations to attend, teens can often find themselves in uncomfortable, stress-filled, socially anxious environments. Make sure your young person doesn’t spiral during the holidays. Pay special attention to them and be aware of the impact of teen social anxiety.
Social Anxiety, Defined
Social anxiety fits into the larger category of anxiety disorders. Millions around the country experience it. Some mistake social anxiety for “shyness.” But it’s more than that. Social anxiety is a serious condition that produces what experts describe as “an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. You can imagine how this might come into play during the holidays – a big family gathering, a pageant at church, or a school performance. The little things add up. Simply answering a question in class can be overwhelming. Social anxiety can feel like you’re losing control. Some of its symptoms include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat increased blood pressure
- Trembling, sweating
- Avoiding engaging with others
- Muscle tension
Social anxiety can have intense effects. But there are also ways to learn to cope.
How the Holidays Fuel Social Anxiety in Teens
The holiday season is meant to be a special time. But it doesn’t happen that way for everyone, especially for teenagers who feel the impacts of social anxiety. The holidays can force teens into uncomfortable social situations, such as seeing relatives they haven’t seen all year or attending other special events that might put them in the spotlight. Competition with peers can also increase social anxiety. Teens who may not have the latest phone or gadget may feel embarrassed to be with friends, for example. Irregular schedules, poor diets, a lack of exercise, and more can also increase social anxiety. Keep watch for the signs of social anxiety from teens.
Anxiety and Substance Abuse – the Link
There is a hidden risk to social anxiety — indeed, to all forms of anxiety. When you are struggling with overwhelming feelings of stress, you look for relief. But some teens, in particular, may not have the support systems in place to find the appropriate types of relief. That can lead to experiences with self-medication using drugs or alcohol. The problem is that the effects of drugs or alcohol eventually wear off. Your teen might end up feeling worse than ever before. The temptation to return to drugs or alcohol for relief with teen social anxiety is very high. Then your teen runs the risk of falling into a cycle of dependence, potentially leading to a devastating experience with addiction. Be vigilant during the holidays to signs of teen social anxiety and the aftermath. You may be able to help them at the right time.
Help for the Holidays at Destinations for Teens
The holidays are a stressful time for everyone. They can be especially challenging for teens who are susceptible to feeling social anxiety. With an increase in teen social anxiety comes a greater risk of substance abuse and mental health problems. If this is happening with your teen, consider a consultation with Destinations for Teens. Our California-based facility provides treatment for substance abuse, mental health and co-occurring disorders, and a full suite of teen treatment programs. Our staff provides a residential treatment program, a partial hospitalization program, and an intensive outpatient program. Destinations for Teens focuses on the unique needs of the individual. We also understand the impact of substance abuse on families and structure our treatment accordingly. Give your teen the professional support they need. Call Destinations for Teens today at 877.466.0620 to learn more and schedule an initial appointment.