Shy or Social Phobic?

Shyness masks social phobia in many adolescents

(RxWiki News) Do you have trouble getting your teen to enjoy social gatherings? You might just think your teen is shy but they could have a more serious problem known as social phobia.

Social phobia is a constant and irrational fear of large groups of people. People who are social phobic are worried that others in the group are judging them so they will try to avoid gatherings all together. How likely is it that your teen is suffering from social phobia and not shyness? Researchers get to the bottom of this.

"Speak with a therapist if you're anxious in large groups."

Marcy Burstein, Ph.D., a researcher in the Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health in Besthesda, Maryland, and colleagues found that twelve percent of adolescents from her study reported being shy but also met criteria for being social phobic.

Those who were affected by social phobia were more likely to feel role impairment and experience a number of other psychiatric disorders like anxiety, mood, behavior and substance use.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, alcohol and drug dependence can develop in people who suffer with social phobia because they rely on substances to lighten the mood and feel more relaxed in social gatherings.

The researchers used a nationally representative, face-to-face survey called the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement. The study included 10,123 teens between the ages of 13 and 18. Social phobia was measured by using the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Parents also reported on their teens personalities.

So if you're worried that your teen is overly shy, speak with a health professional because social phobia can lead to serious psychiatric disorders.

The research is published in Pediatrics, a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Review Date: 
October 19, 2011