In my practice I have had the pleasure of treating some incredible teenagers who have suffered from Social Anxiety Disorder. Unfortunately, by the time these youngsters and their families get to my office, they are at risk of failing school due to chronic truancy, are reported to have behavioral problems, and the adults in their lives are frustrated and emotionally drained. By the time it gets this bad these teenagers have lost a part of themselves, feel completely misunderstood and labeled, and their parents are just simply fed up.
The truth is, most of the youngsters suffering from social anxiety disorder are embarrassed that they secretly feel as horrible as they do. Worse, they sometimes have no idea how to explain to the adults in their lives why they feel okay at home but not so okay everywhere else—they are honestly just as confused as the adults around them!
For those that suffer from this, they live with an intense fear of situations that could possibly open themselves to being scrutinized by others. Examples include social interactions such as having a conversation or meeting new people; being observed (eating or drinking), and performing in front of others (fear of getting called on in class). Inside their mind, they tell themselves they will be negatively judged by others (unlikable, boring, etc.); that others will know they are anxious (blushing, sweating, etc.), or they unintentionally fear they will offend others. Usually with teenagers, they realize fairly quickly that the only way to feel relief is to avoid social situations altogether, which usually gets them into trouble.
If you or someone you know is in this situation, take an understanding approach, and immediately get them to a professional. If it is determined that social anxiety disorder is the cause, then you can be rest assured that there are specific evidence-based treatments (other than medications) that are extremely effective. Once a professional is involved, it is equally important that professional consult with the school regularly to ensure the best outcomes for your teen. I consider myself grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of several success stories of teenagers and their families who have been through this. Know that yours too, can have a successful outcome.