Social Anxiety in High School—What Is Social Anxiety and How To Deal With It?
The symptoms of social anxiety start to show in adolescence, and an estimated 9.1% of teens are diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. If you are a teen, the chances are you experience social anxiety in high school, at home, and at social events quite a lot.
Social anxiety in teens is highly common because adolescents go through a period of massive physiological and psychological growth. High school students also have a natural urge to fit in and be liked by their peers. This leaves them overly self-conscious and uneasy around people. The fear that someone will deem them uncool and will avoid being friends with them causes severe levels of anxiety in students.
If you can relate to anything that’s mentioned here, you may want to do a social anxiety test for teenagers and check how severe or frequent your anxiety symptoms are. Regardless of whether your anxiety symptoms are mild or severe, you need to learn how to manage them.
Read on to get the full understanding of the issue and receive actionable tips on how to deal with your social anxiety in school and beyond.
What Is Social Anxiety, Why Is It Dangerous, and How Does It Manifest?
Credit: Timon Studler
Social anxiety is a mental health disorder that is characterized by the intense fear of what other people might think of you. Social anxiety can prevent you from:
- Developing self-confidence
- Being comfortable in your own skin
- Making new friends
- Forming romantic relationships
- Getting out of your comfort zone and exploring your interests
- Expressing yourself through the activities you enjoy
Teens who have social anxiety disorder are:
- Overly self-conscious
- Uncomfortable around people
- Afraid of getting embarrassed
- Terrified of being rejected
Everyone can experience mild symptoms of social anxiety from time to time. For example, if you are going out with someone you like a lot, you may feel nervous or self-conscious. This is nothing to be afraid of. If you experience fear and nervousness in nine out of ten cases when you are around people, you are more likely to have SAD.
Here’s a table to help you understand the differences between occasional social anxiety and a social anxiety disorder:
|Occasional Social Anxiety
|Social Anxiety Disorder
Let’s take a closer look at the:
- Reasons why social anxiety is dangerous
- Many symptoms of social anxiety
- Disorders that may develop along with social anxiety
Social Anxiety and School—How SAD Prevents You From Achieving Success
Social anxiety can have a detrimental effect on education and the ability to form new friendships.
Some teens who have SAD also tend to skip classes and drop out of school. The disorder causes negative emotions that result in the loss of interests, ambition, and motivation. When this happens, it’s easy for a high school student to give up on applying to college.
If you have social anxiety, you find it easier not to go to events where there may be people you don’t know. You stick to a small circle of friends and family you’re comfortable with, which minimizes your opportunity to meet new people and develop social skills.
Since social anxiety is harmful to your mental health, it can also cause depression.
Social anxiety is treatable, and you can gain control over your symptoms when you seek treatment. The problem is that a great number of people—36% of them, to be exact—live with the symptoms of SAD for over ten years before they seek help.
The Varied Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety manifests in many ways. You can track the symptoms of SAD in your thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns. There are also physical symptoms that develop as a consequence of severe negative emotions.
Check out which social anxiety signs and symptoms you can relate to:
|Signs and Symptoms
There are more behavioral patterns that characterize teens with social anxiety.
If you are socially anxious, you may:
- Be quiet in front of others
- Keep to yourself
- Be reluctant to raise your hand in class
- Experience extreme nervousness when you are late for class or any events
- Have few friends
- Keep your head down when outside
- Avoid asking teachers for help when you need it
Besides dreading rejection or negative evaluation, socially anxious people are also afraid of or extremely uncomfortable with:
- Eating in front of others
- Returning items to stores
- Starting a conversation
- Being the center of attention
- Calling people on the phone
- Placing orders in bars or restaurants
- Receiving visitors
The Influence of Social Anxiety on Other Mental Health Disorders
If you have social anxiety and don’t treat it, you may be in danger of also developing:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—Children and teens who have ADHD are socially distant, struggle with maintaining focus, and exhibit hyperactive tendencies. Since SAD and ADHD share many symptoms, teens who have social anxiety can easily develop ADHD too
- Other anxiety disorders—Some symptoms of SAD, like overthinking, worrying about different situations, and experiencing panic attacks, put people in danger of developing other anxiety disorders. Socially anxious people can also fall victims to panic disorder, performance anxiety, and generalized anxiety disorder
- Substance abuse disorders—Drinking alcohol or taking drugs are coping mechanisms for many of those who suffer from social anxiety. Some socially anxious people may find it easier to go out and socialize when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Over time, the tendency to consume these substances can result in becoming addicted and developing a substance abuse disorder along with SAD
- Depression—Since social anxiety prevents people from making friends and results in intense feelings of sadness and loneliness, it puts people in danger of developing depression. Losing control, feeling isolated from others, and being susceptible to suicidal thoughts are the symptoms of both depression and SAD
Why Do You Have Social Anxiety at School?
You need to understand where your social anxiety stems from and why the symptoms occur when they do. Let’s see:
- Why you may be experiencing social anxiety at school more than in other places
- What factors influence the development of SAD
What Are the Factors That Contribute to the Development of Social Anxiety?
Some teens are at a higher risk of having SAD than others. The factors that influence the development of social anxiety disorder are:
- Gender—research finds that teenage girls are 4.2% more likely to develop SAD than teenage boys
- Genetics—even though people who have SAD don’t share the same genetic makeup, it’s believed that you can inherit an anxiety disorder from a family member
- Upbringing—also called learned behavior, a person’s upbringing can cause anxiety disorders. Certain behavioral patterns that children learn from their parents, like being quiet or leaving it to others to start a conversation, cause extreme shyness in adolescence and can contribute to SAD. Children who aren’t allowed to develop social skills or whose parents are overly critical are also at the risk of developing SAD
- Brain structure—the amygdala is a part of the brain that’s responsible for the emotions of fear, stress, and anxiety. An overactive amygdala may cause severe feelings of stress and anxiety and influence certain anxiety disorders
Understanding what factors contribute to the development of social anxiety can help you realize where your anxiety stems from and how to deal with it.
Why Is Social Anxiety So Common in High School?
Social anxiety most frequently develops in adolescence. In other words, you may start to experience the symptoms of social anxiety when you go to high school.
The reason why social anxiety is so common in high school is that high school represents transition on more than one level.
Going to high school gives you more opportunities for socializing and performing in front of others. Participating in sports events, teamwork activities, and speech competitions are all parts of a common high school experience. You are expected to showcase your effort, skills, and self-confidence. That isn’t easy for you because there is always the fear of getting embarrassed in front of your peers and teachers. You would rather avoid going through with these activities than face negative evaluation.
During adolescence, you also change physically. You grow from a child into a young adult. As you grow, you develop new interests and become increasingly curious about the world and want to be accepted by it. It may seem to you that your looks, hobbies, or wardrobe aren’t cool enough for your peers to accept you.
How To Deal With Social Anxiety at School?
In school, you are surrounded by people, and you are expected to participate in classes during activities. This is why your social anxiety is more likely to act up while you are in school than at home or with the friends you are comfortable with.
You can deal with social anxiety at school by:
- Opening up to your teachers
- Preparing for assignments thoroughly
- Forming the habit of arriving early
- Putting yourself in the perspective of others
- Developing strong coping strategies for your anxiety
Reach Out to Your Teachers
Credit: Adomas Aleno
Your teachers are always willing to hear you out. Even though it may seem to you that your teachers wouldn’t understand your issues, they are actually looking for ways they can help you with anxiety in school.
Schedule an office hour meeting with a teacher you feel most comfortable talking to and inform them of the struggles you have. Together, you can come up with ideas on how you can cope with the symptoms of anxiety while you are at school. Your teacher can set up a place for you to go to if you feel like you are in danger of having a panic attack. They can also make sure not to put you in situations that you find especially frightening and suggest many resources for you to learn more about social anxiety and how to deal with it.
Prepare for Any Activity or Assignment in Advance
If you have social anxiety, there is no doubt that certain activities or assignments are a nightmare for you. For example, you may need to do a presentation, and you would rather not have to address your peers and be the center of attention.
Even though it may seem easier to find an excuse out of a performative activity, you need to find healthy strategies to overcome your fear and do the assignment. The experience will teach you that you can develop your skills and deal with your anxiety symptoms when you try.
You can prepare for an activity you dread well in advance so that your anxiety isn’t as strong at the event itself. For instance, a week or two before you need to do a presentation, make sure to raise your hand in class often. Even if it’s to ask your teacher to repeat something, the act will help you ease your fear of speaking up as you do it often.
You should also prepare for the assignment itself. The more you polish it up, the less you will be intimidated by doing it in class. Find something that makes you excited about performing in front of the class and practice your speech multiple times. If you need to do a presentation, prepare flashcards you can look at when you lose track of what you wanted to say.
You will also find it easier to deal with your nervousness when you remember that everyone experiences performance anxiety. For example, if you start blushing as you do your speech, it’s nothing that your peers haven’t had to go through themselves, and they will not judge you for it.
Develop the Habit of Arriving at Classes Early
Social anxiety causes you to feel overly embarrassed when you show up late to events.
You can avoid this fear by making sure you arrive at classes several minutes early. Even if you have to come to school an entire hour before your classes start, it’s still better than risking that feeling of embarrassment you have when you are late. You can bring some reading material to kill time.
When you arrive early to classes, you make sure to avoid your stressors as much as you can.
Put Yourself in the Perspective of Others
The biggest favor you can do yourself if you have social anxiety is to put yourself in the perspective of your peers, teachers, and anyone you come into contact with. When you do, you’ll see that they don’t judge you in the way you believe they do.
What you do need to realize is that no one has the time or energy to think about someone other than themselves for a long time. It may seem odd or harsh to hear, but when you know that others don’t care about you as much as you believe they do, you can ease your fear of their judgment and start being happy in your own skin.
Form the Coping Strategies That Work for You
No anxiety disorder is easy to live with, which means that any situation you’re part of can take a turn for the worse. Social anxiety has many symptoms, and you should have a planned strategy for how you’ll deal with them when they occur.
You can talk to your teachers, parents, or your best friend to help you come up with a strategy. For example, if you feel like you will be sick or experience a panic attack, text your parents so they can come to pick you up.
When you have a strategy for dealing with extreme SAD symptoms, you don’t have to live in fear and anticipate worst-case scenarios all the time. You know what to do to avoid stressors.
More Actionable Tips for Dealing With Social Anxiety
Credit: Yoav Hornung
If you make sure to form healthy habits that help ease your SAD symptoms daily, then you will feel less and less anxious at school and in other social situations.
The first course of action is taking an anxiety test for teens. You can find teen stress tests and complete them too. These tests help you reflect on the frequency and severity of your anxiety symptoms and give you ideas on what to do.
If you find that your anxiety levels are bordering on dangerous, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a mental health expert. They can talk to you, analyze your results, and offer an official diagnosis. Remember that social anxiety is treatable, and you can do much to manage your symptoms and gain control over your life.
Exercising often and forming regular sleep habits do much to lift your mood. The more healthy habits you have, the happier and more confident you will be.
If you need ideas on how to develop habits that ease social anxiety, invest in a good anxiety workbook for teens. These workbooks contain detailed instructions for plenty of activities you can do regularly to manage your social anxiety symptoms. You will also find many ideas for stress management activities for teenagers for when you are going through a rough patch.
Working on yourself consistently helps you develop a positive outlook on life and handle your stressors in the way that is most beneficial to you.
Do You Have Any Advice for Coping With Social Anxiety?
High school stress statistics show that many of your peers experience regular stress, anxiety, and depression.
One of the most common anxiety disorders is social anxiety. Find the strength in the fact that you are not alone in dealing with social phobia. You may also be inspired to share your experience with being afraid of social situations, performative actions, and other people’s judgments.
Tell us about how you deal with your social anxiety in school. If you have any actionable tips to add to our list, we would like to publish them on our blog. You can help teens with anxiety across the country. By sharing your experience, you uplift your peers and inspire them to manage their stressors so they can lead rich lives despite having social anxiety.