Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is characterized by an intense, persistent, and excessive fear of negative evaluation by others. Youth with social anxiety disorder greatly fear that others will judge them negatively and that they will embarrass or humiliate themselves in front of others. For some youth, social anxiety disorder can be selective, such that it occurs in a few specific settings, such as during oral presentations. For others, social anxiety disorder is more generalized, spanning across many social situations. Youth with social anxiety disorder exhibit anxiety in anticipation of the social situation. Often times, they may attempt to avoid social situations, which may interfere with academic performance or peer relations. For example, some youth may refuse to attend school or play-dates. When they endure a social situation, they often do so with extreme discomfort or distress. They may be observed crying, freezing, or becoming upset. They may experience intense physiological symptoms, such as blushing, sweating, a fast-beating heart, lightheadedness, or difficulty breathing.

Social anxiety disorder affects approximately 7% of youth. It is more common in adolescents than children and is more common in females than males. Typical onset occurs in early to mid-adolescences. Of note, unlike adults with social anxiety disorder, youth may not recognize that their social fear is excessive or unreasonable. Also, in order for a youth to meet criteria for social anxiety disorder, they must evidence the capacity for age-appropriate social relationships. Their social anxiety must occur in peer settings, not only during interactions with adults.



  • Chavira, D. A., Stein, M. B., Bailey, K., & Stein, M. T. (2004). Child anxiety in primary care: Prevalent but untreated. Depression and Anxiety, 20(4), 155-164.
  • Essau, C. A., Conradt, J., & Petermann, F. (1999). Frequency and comorbidity of social phobia and social fears in adolescents. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, 831-843.
  • Strauss, C. C., & Last, C. G. (1993). Social and simple phobias in children. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 16, 57-68.
  • Vasey, M. W. (1995). Social anxiety disorders. In A. R. Eisen, C. A. Kearney, & C. A. Schaefer (Eds.), Clinical handbook of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents (pp. 131-168). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.



Avoids social situations

  • Cafeteria/playground
  • Gym Class
  • Answering/asking questions in class
  • Bus

Extreme shyness/Isolation

  • Few friends
  • Minimal participation in activities
  • Extreme discomfort when the center of attention
  • Presentations
  • Walking in late
  • Asked to read aloud
  • Avoids schoolwork for fear of “looking stupid”

Coping Cat Parents was developed to serve as a comprehensive and evidence-based resource on child and adolescent anxiety. Here you will get only information backed by research and tips and strategies that have evidence to support their use. We have brought together relevant resources, tools, and tips from the experts in the field that will be informative, and help you feel confident as you move forward in helping your child. Click on any of the links below to learn more:

Symptom Checker

If you’re not sure where to start, take a moment to complete our “Symptom Checker”. Our symptom checker allows you to click on the symptoms that are consistent with what you’re seeing in your child and provides personalized feedback on your child’s symptom status and recommendations for next steps.

By answering a few short questions, you will get some feedback about which categories to learn more about next.

Use the Symptom Checker

Child Anxiety Tales

The Child Anxiety Tales program is an online parent-training program designed to equip parents with skills and strategies they’ll need to help their children better manage anxiety. The program is based on the latest evidence in the treatment of child anxiety and on cognitive-behavioral principals shown to be effective in helping anxious youth. Child Anxiety Tales is an interactive and engaging program that can be completed at your own pace from the privacy and convenience of your own computer. It is not a treatment but an online educational program for parents.
Click below to view a demo or to learn more: