Many kids with severe social phobias are never identified because they masquerade as extroverts. They "have to" be surrounded by people, but do so to deflect attention, and suffer internally. Often with above average intelligence, they overcompensate by cleverly controlling situations to mask social anxiety. They are frequently the valedictorian, class president, homecoming queen, football captain, or “go-to” classmate for advice who "no one would ever know" suffers painfully with extreme feelings of embarrassment and isolation. They fall under the radar of teachers and parents who assume popularity and a smile equals confidence.
These are red flags: Is the child NEVER alone in public? Does she have many friends in school and many extracurricular activities, but never invites a friend home. Does NO ONE dislike him? Does he have so much to say that he can't tolerate a pause? Does she never get angry or sad? Does she do most of group projects and avoid delegating? Does he resist doing a solo task in class (hands out supplies, run in-school errands)? Can he tolerate being wrong? Is she the class clown? Is she never with unpopular classmates? Or, does she only help lower functioning, vulnerable, or at-risk peers? Does he interact mostly with significantly older and younger children rather than his own age group? Does she socialize mostly outside of her own cultural group?
The good news is social anxiety is very treatable and clients might not even need medication indefinitely, if even at all. Hundreds of studies support that the most effective treatment for social anxiety is gradual "exposure therapy", which is a special type of behavior therapy
designed specifically for social anxiety. Exposure therapy is the only treatment proven effective for social anxiety, although other techniques can help with self confidence, social skills, and distorted thoughts. Exposure therapy enables sufferers to very gradually overcome their fears and let go of their avoidant behaviors at a pace with which they feel comfortable, so they are never overwhelmed. Results are achieved in a matter of months not years.
Exposure therapy is more effective than medication, therapy and medication combined, or any other kind of therapy. Medication provides only temporary or partial relief and has side effects or symptoms just come back when you end the medication. Exposure therapy provides permanent relief, essentially eliminating excessive social anxiety forever. Most clients benefit from exposure therapy alone with no medication.
In light of many "unexplained" "popular teen" “tragedies”, psychologist Steven Brodsky wants schools this year to cast a wider glance over the entire classroom and not settle for appearances. The bottom line is social phobia is extremely treatable, but only if its identified.