Social Anxiety in Teenagers and the Wonders of Online Therapy

Social Anxiety in teenagers

One of the good things that the pandemic brought along was the rise of the internet. But the internet has always been a boon and a bane so why should things be any different now? Remember when times were simpler and we would barely get an hour of the internet a day for MySpace or Orkut after begging our parents for hours (It would be embarrassing if it was only happening with me!). As we enter this new age of socializing, we also uncover a whole new plethora of obstacles.

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Internet or no internet, social interactions have always been troublesome for certain people, especially adolescents and teenagers. It is usually shoved under the carpet by referring to the person as shy or awkward. Social anxiety disorder is considered to be one of the most prevalent disorders and one that goes unrecognized mostly.

It is a severe phobia of interacting in public situations because of several reasons, for instance, your upbringing, any traumatic or stressful experience, the fear of being judged, embarrassed, or laughed at, or simply your genetics.

How do we recognize the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder?

Some people can mask their emotions, but if you look closely, their body would give it away. Some symptoms of social anxiety that you can observe are:

  • Sweating, blushing, trembling, fidgeting, nausea, increased heart rate
  • Avoiding social gatherings and isolating themselves
  • Rigid body posture and soft & shaky voice 
  • Negative self-talk and low self-esteem
  • Difficulty in making eye contact
  • Irritability, crying and throwing tantrums

(Trigger Warning: Spiders) Let me explain in a more relatable way. Think of something that you are afraid of. Amm, let’s say spiders (I get shivers just by the mention of their name). Now imagine that you are in a room strapped tightly to a chair and one by one teeny tiny spiders are released into the room, and in a matter of minutes, the whole room is crawling with spiders of all shapes and sizes.

They are slowly moving towards you, getting to the bottom of your chair and climbing up with their twig-shaped legs. You can feel the gentle taps and swift movement of their breaths as they slowly climb up and if you’re a Potterhead like me, you are probably thinking like Ronald Weesely “Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be butterflies?”

Now imagine being in that chair every second of every day, for every single conversation. And keep multiplying the number of spiders by 10 every time another person enters the room. So, next time someone says that social anxiety is nothing, ask them what they fear the most and take them for a ride!

How did the internet make social anxiety worse for teens?

Social isolation came as a temporary sigh of relief from Social Anxiety Disorder. Everyone was isolated, curled up in their homes, it was like a dream come true! But it wasn’t something to rely on. Social media, which was ideally an escape, became a thing to escape from. Seeing the minutest details; be it having a cup of coffee or reading a book, or cooking dinner made life harder for those who were already hard on themselves.

It added to their insecurities and doubts about themselves. On top of struggling with a global pandemic, which was hard in itself, they were also locked inside with their families, and anxious or not, that might not be every teenager’s dream!

How can the internet make things better now?

In all this turmoil, Online therapy came as a lifeboat. According to research conducted in 2021 by Pescatello, online therapy can be just as effective as offline therapy.

Some benefits of Online therapy for social anxiety are:

  • You get to stay home! You get to talk about all the things that bother you from the comfort of your home. Be it social interactions, or the sun, you get to beat them both!
  • Shh. If the stigma associated with therapy is holding you back, go ahead and book an online appointment right away! Let’s make therapy, the new normal.
  • Ka-ching!! You save up so much on the cost of travelling that would otherwise be spent.
  • The hours offered by online therapists at BetterLYF go beyond the regular working hours so you can even schedule a session after work.

How can you help yourself?

If you don’t feel ready for therapy, that’s okay too. It can get a little overwhelming, especially if you are a teenager with social anxiety. Till the time you feel ready, you can practice some of these exercises:

Relaxation techniques.

Try to count your breaths as you breathe in slowly through your nose, pause, and breathe out through your mouth. Feel the oxygen travel through your lungs and your stomach by placing one hand on each.

Physical Exercise.

Try to squeeze in some physical activity in your routine to release those happy hormones.

Take it slow.

There is no rush to indulge yourself in social activities. For example, if you are going to class, read about the topic a bit so if you want to participate, you can. If not, you still learned something new.

Question and reassure.

Your anxious thoughts will try to hit you but you can throw a cannonball of positive thoughts and counter questions.

Ground yourself.

Use your senses, and things around you to bring yourself back to reality from the spiral inside your mind.

Self-help.

Access some of these self-help tools and articles offered by BetterLYF to assess and manage your anxiety.

If you are someone who struggles with social anxiety or if you know someone who does, know that –

Help will always be given at BetterLYF to those who ask for it! (*10 points to Gryffindor*)

-Ishi Agarwal, Counseling Psychologist, BetterLYF Wellness

Seeking help is a sign of courage. Don't let self-limiting beliefs hold you back from a life you deserve. Avail online therapy to become happier and better. Learn how



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