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Some facts about social anxiety
The need for early intervention
Social anxiety is usually chronic, and causes the most disruption during during the first three decades of life. Most clinicians and researchers believe strongly that if there is early intervention to treat social anxiety, subsequent depressive episodes may be prevented or the severity of them lessened. There is a very strong correlation with social anxiety in early adolescence, in particular, and later depressive episodes.
Unfortunately as is the case with most mental health illness, early intervention is not a priority in our country or within our health care system.
A child or teen with social anxiety may also have an early onset of depression. If you think about being a child with terrible anxiety about social situations, and no one around you who understands and can help, it is easy to see why social anxiety and depression would be so highly correlated.
Lack of support and understanding
Parents often become frustrated with socially anxious children and teens. Instead of understanding and being able to offer assistance parents can appear disapproving. Additionally, parents with socially anxious children often struggle with anxiety themselves, which further compounds the child’s anxiety.
Social anxiety increases the likelihood that a person will attempt to solve their problems alone, without consulting others or seeking help. Without understanding the source of the difficulty they are having, they may be more likely to conclude that they are defective, and become hopeless and withdrawn thus contributing to the likelihood that they will get depressed.
Social anxiety ensures that a person will avoid when they feel overwhelmed. Therefore, it is likely to lead to not only the emotional isolation described above, but also to a physical isolation. This often hinders any opportunity they might have at having successful social interactions that could lead to a corrective experience. When you are isolated, your depression is more likely to be exacerbated.
Social anxiety and depression, when they occur together, complicate the course of depression. People who have social anxiety and depression are more likely to have a longer course of depressive illness, and also to exhibit more serious symptom logy including suicidality.
Serious impact on development
Social anxiety affects people as they are developing their unique personality and sense of place in the world.
In adolescence and early adulthood we are developing our social network, career, and friendships. Social anxiety also impairs the development of a strong self esteem, the belief that you can successfully set and reach goals, and the sense that you are important and loved by others.
Social anxiety and depression can feed off of one another. When a person is depressed, they are less able to effectively problem-solve. Their ability to seek social support and assistance is impaired and because they are frequently isolated and others may not fully notice.
When a person with social anxiety and depression is seeking therapy the therapist and client should carefully examine all the symptoms before determining what to treat first and how to treat it. If you think that you may be experiencing social anxiety and depression consult the checklist below.
Other pages on social anxiety
Social anxiety fact sheet