In light of Mental Health Awareness Week, we are excited for this special AiT Exclusive with the Executive Director of the the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety, Lori Blumenstein-Bott! Join us as we discuss social anxiety in teens, what to look for as it relates to social anxiety symptoms, and how to help someone with social anxiety in college and beyond!
AiT: Is it possible that a young person may have a social anxiety disorder without others knowing?
LBB: It is possible and very common for young people and adults to have social anxiety without others knowing it. Social Anxiety is a condition that centers on avoidance and therefore the more one avoids and isolates themselves, they can hide their pain and suffering. They may not even know they are suffering. More often than not teens may use drugs or alcohol to mask and numb the pain. In fact 40-45% of people that suffer from social anxiety have a co- occurring problem with substances.
AiT: What are some tell-tale signs that a young person could be developing a social anxiety disorder?
LBB: Social Anxiety can begin as early as pre-school. For teens middle school transition often exacerbates symptoms due to the stress associated with change. The person may seem withdrawn, demonstrate fear of public speaking in class (they avoid or do not come to class for a presentation), Cannot walk into class after it has begun. They may seem perfectly fine in a group to perform (think cheerleader etc.…) but cannot go to the fast food counter to order something. They view themselves and talk about that what they think or say is not of any value. Since social anxiety sufferers are riddled with the strong feels of being judged they avoid participating in things and slowly move to a more isolated life. Social Anxiety is very much an individual experience, while there are clear symptoms the scale of severity can differ greatly.
AiT: For young adults with social anxiety on their way to college, how can they better prepare for starting their first year?
LBB: For any student suffering from social anxiety, seeking appropriate treatment is essential to their future success. Cognitive Behavioral Therapists provide the best treatment and can make the difference in one’s life within a very short time of the person engaging in therapy. Regardless of the transition time in the young person’s life treatment is the best way to assure success.
AiT: What are some of the best treatments to help social anxiety?
LBB: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the best treatment for social anxiety. This is evidenced based and universally accepted through years of research. Many times medication is prescribed along with the treatment to reduce the anxiety while the individual is engaged in therapy. It is important to seek a professional that is well trained in CBT.
AiT: What are some important components of mental wellness maintenance and keeping social anxiety at bay over the long haul?
LBB: Social Anxiety is highly treatable and once the person learns how best to manage their social anxiety they can use the techniques and experiences from treatment throughout their lives.
AiT: About the Andrew Kukes Foundation and resources for teens and families:
The Andrew Kukes Foundation is dedicated to education, outreach and treatment. We are strongly centered in helping to provide accurate information for this treatable condition. There is hope and help. We are currently engaged in two large projects specifically focused on teens and college students. One is based in high schools to break down barriers and stigma and provide solid information. We understand that teen to teen knowledge has the potential to save lives. We are also invested in online education to help spur the person to seek more treatment and get their lives on track. For more information go to www.akfsa.org
By: Lori Blumenstein-Bott LMSW, Executive Director, Andrew Kukes Foundation