This post is written by Ahmad – one of the young people being mentored through our Aspire programme
Today I am writing about social anxiety, a common mental health issue among young people. In simple terms, social anxiety is a fear and nervousness of being evaluated or judged in a negative sense. Most young people like to hang out with friends and go out with mates, but with socially anxious youth, their fear of being judged can hold them back.
The thought process:
A socially anxious person may come across as shy, quiet, unfriendly, nervous, withdrawn and disinterested. But in reality, they will be going through a barrage of thoughts; Does my hair look ok? Should I talk to her/him? Are they talking about me? What are they thinking about me? What if I do something silly or say the wrong thing? These questions might seem illogical to you or me but they can take over a young person’s life.
What are the triggers? Being introduced to new people, a bit of teasing or criticism from someone, being the centre of attention, being tested or watched.
Some symptoms that an anxious person will have are obvious, such as blushing/sweating, shaking/trembling, having palpations and avoiding eye contact in conversations.
At other times, a person may be very anxious or nervous internally, thinking a 1000 thoughts, but don’t show anything externally.
How can you help?
There are few different ways you can help someone going through this. Accepting them as they are and being enduring, patient and kind even when the thoughts seem irrational. When someone is distressed, calmly assuring them that the feelings will pass.
- Giving the young person room or space to express their fears. Listening to them without judging them. Being there for them.
- Suggesting healthy distractions like a walk, reading a book or playing simple games.
- Encouraging them to seek professional help if things are getting really difficult.