Butterflies. Not the beautiful ones that float effortlessly throughout the warm, summer air, but the ones that flutter in your stomach before something nerve wracking, such as a date or an award ceremony. That iggly-wiggly feeling in your stomach is a product of normal, mild anxiety known as nervousness.
Social anxiety disorder: not butterfly wings, but bee stings
Now imagine those butterflies multiplying, moving up your throat, into your head, until they are everywhere. And then, those butterflies turn to bees and you are surrounded by the buzzing and stinging, and you can’t see, hear or speak.
That panic and inability to escape is what it’s like to have a social anxiety disorder, a struggle that, according to
the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, affects around 15 million Americans.
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is an anxiety disorder characterized by the intense fear of social situations and interactions. It is chronic and invasive in all areas of life. It’s unable to be combated simply through rational thought.
“Although they recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder feel powerless against their anxiety.” – ADAA
Sometime this fear can be anticipatory of an event, lasting days to weeks in advance. This fear can be so intense that social situations are completely avoided. Social anxiety disorder can impact normal functioning and the ability to complete daily tasks such as attending school, completing work or maintaining relationships.
This anxiety disorder can present itself in the most seemingly simple situations such as: getting called on in class, public introductions, asking questions, making phone calls, standing in line at the grocery store or ordering coffee. Teens struggling might pretend they are sick to avoid school, come home hungry because they are afraid to eat in public or excessively cry in response to a social situation.
The typical age of onset is 13 years old and has currently risen to become third largest mental health care problem world-wide, as stated by the Social Anxiety Association.
Face the fear at Trails Carolina
If you have noticed these behaviors and fears in your 10 to 17-year-old son or daughter, it might be time to seek help. At Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program, we address the fears of social anxiety disorder head on. Working to create a controlled, positive environment where students feel safe and free from judgement. Your child will learn coping skills that will enable them to navigate life without fear. A life free from fear is a life free to grow and thrive.