Here are some of the typical signs, symptoms, and behaviors that can be observed in a child with social anxiety disorder:
Typical behaviors observed in socially phobic children
Children with social phobia may exhibit some of the following behaviors:
1. The child typically engages in a lot of parallel play; playing alongside other children rather than with them. Some children are simply more cautious than others, and so parallel play by itself does not mean something is wrong. But if it continues even after a child has had reasonable time to become more comfortable and acclimated to the situation, it may be a sign of social anxiety.
2. A child has difficulty making eye contact with others.
3. A child exhibits anxiety rather than excitement or enthusiasm upon running into someone they know.
4. He or she seems to plan ways to escape from a crowded room, glancing over at doors or other exits, which can often result in misunderstanding by others.
5. A child appears uncomfortable giving or receiving compliments.
6. A child seems afraid or reluctant to speak to authority figures.
7. He or she avoids public restrooms.
8. They make excuses to not attend parties their friends are attending.
Symptoms of Social Phobia
When presented with a feared social situation, those kids with social phobia may exhibit some of the following symptoms, including, but not limited to:
- Trembling or twitching
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Rapid heart rate or shallow breathing
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Stuttering or disordered speech
- Showing signs of a panic attack
Kids who are awkward around other kids yet social around adults
There’s another type of socially anxious child, and that’s the youngster who seems to prefer the company of grown-ups over other children. These kids may seem mature beyond their years and can be quite comfortable interacting with adults, even strangers. Yet they are shy, awkward, and reserved around kids their own age. So on one hand, their social skills in interacting with adults would suggest against a social anxiety disorder. On the other hand, their reluctance to interact with kids their own age can signal problems.
If this describes your child, you must ask yourself what causes this split personality. In some cases, it may simply be a child’s preference. Kids can be loud, obnoxious, immature, and unpredictable. Each child’s personality is different, and some kids are simply more mature by nature and thus more inclined to gravitate toward adult interests. It’s not that other kids make them anxious; it’s that they find their behavior more annoying and their activities less interesting.
In other cases, however, the more unpredictable nature of peer-to-peer interaction is precisely what makes them anxious. Adults are also more kind, accepting, and less judgmental (towards kids anyway) than are other children. So it could be that a child interacts so well with adults simply because they don’t present the same social challenges that peers do. In this situation, the disparity is created by social anxiety, and is likely to cause problems down the road.