It is a persistent fear that has increased considerably in recent years between 14 and 16 years of age. It is not a disorder as such, but a manifestation or consequence of non-integrated traumatic experiences. We have finally been able to socialize again without fear, as the vast majority of us did before the pandemic. However, for many young people, the fear of abandoning the mask has arrived. The removal of masks, above all, has led to a certain phobia of physical judgment. Hence, there are many of them who, at first, did not want to take it away. In fact, it has also been a benefit to certain people who suffered bullying. A social anxiety disorder known as social phobia is understood “as fear or intense anxiety in one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible examination by other people”, explains Patricia Valseca Marqués, child and adolescent psychologist and director of Aware Psicología Noroestein Boadilla del Monte (Madrid).
When we talk about social phobia, we cannot talk about a disorder as such. “After many years accompanying many adolescents in their process of assimilating what they have experienced in each of their stories, I have been able to verify that social anxiety is not a disorder as such, but a manifestation and/or consequence of non-integrated traumatic experiences” warns the expert. It develops in many ages of adolescence, but when it shoots the most it is between 14 and 16 years old.
The figures for its incidence are quite high, but they tend to go unnoticed and, therefore, it is not given the importance it requires. The expert explains that when we name the word trauma, some people tend to say that they do not remember having experienced such a serious event, but I always tell them the same thing, we tend to think of a traumatic experience as something very serious and, really, traumatic situations respond more to a lack of resources than to the seriousness of the events that trigger them.
The psychologist qualifies that any experience is susceptible to becoming traumatic. “What is traumatic is seeing oneself silenced, without a voice to shout and share what happened, without legitimacy over what was felt, alone, unprotected”. She explains we have to differentiate this situation, for example, with shyness, since when people feel very self-conscious and anxious, to such an extent that they cannot speak or socialize most of the time, it is likely that the cause goes further.
Anxiety plays a big role there, that indicator that serves as a starting point to understand, if we manage to look under all these symptoms, we will get to the root of why the opinion and/or judgment of another person or persons matters so much to me and ask ourselves, why do I need to protect myself and not expose myself?” The psychologist questions.
Symptoms of social phobia in adolescents
The psychologist tells us the main symptoms of social phobia in adolescents;
- Flushing, sweating, shaking, or feeling like your heart is beating very fast or your mind goes blank.
- Nausea or an upset stomach.
- Showing a rigid body posture, making little eye contact, or speaking in an extremely low voice.
- Feeling scared or having a hard time being with other people, especially if they don’t know them yet, and having trouble talking to them even if they wanted to.
- Being very self-conscious in front of other people and feeling embarrassed and awkward.
- Being very afraid of being judged by other people.
- Avoid places where there are other people.