web analytics
April 27, 2015 / 8 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Suffering From Shyness: Social Phobias

Schonfeld-logo1

Fifth-grader Yitzi cannot speak in front of the classroom. In fact, it is a wrestling act just to get him into the classroom to begin with. He refuses to get together with friends after school and spends much of his time at home alone in his bedroom. When his parents try to speak with him to try to figure out what is wrong, he cannot answer. Instead, he turns red and starts to sweat.

When his condition began to worsen, Yitzi’s parents took him for an evaluation and found out that he is suffering from social anxiety, a form of social phobias.

What are the symptoms of social phobias?

In 2001, Margaret Talbot reported (in The New York Times) that around 13% of the population is affected by social phobias. While social anxiety was originally considered a rare condition, in the late 90s, psychologists, teachers, and parents began to identify it as a much more common issue. Social phobias are characterized not only by nervousness when in social situations or when forced to give a presentation or speech, but also by a powerful desire to avoid most situations that involve interacting with others.

 

People who believe they might have social phobia exhibit some the following symptoms:

  • Frequently blushing in front of people
  • Sweating in front of people
  • Trembling or shaking in front of others
  • Heart palpitations around people
  • Fear of embarrassment that causes them to avoid speaking to people
  • Aversion to speaking to anyone in authority
  • Going to great lengths to avoid criticism
  • Excessive fear of strangers

 

The Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) is a list of seventeen questions that people can answer in order to better assess their “shyness” or avoidance of others. Many people might exhibit one or two symptoms of social phobia – after all, who isn’t sometimes uncomfortable when speaking with strangers?  However, it is the severity of the fear and the frequency of these reactions that classify people as having social anxiety.

Dr. Michael Liebowitz, a Columbia University psychiatrist and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at New York Psychiatric Institute, explains that there are two groups of people who suffer from social phobia. Some, like Yitzi, experience anxiety that is generated by multiple situations and this anxiety interferes with their day-to-day lives. In other instances, there are people whose fears are more specific. They might feel very comfortable presenting in front of the classroom, but would freeze when forced to eat a full meal in public.

Children

Many children demonstrate signs of social phobia when they begin to go to school. What is often interpreted as severe shyness can be a sign of social anxiety. Children who fear school because they are anxious that they will have to read passages aloud, answer difficult questions, or play sports, might be suffering from a form of social anxiety. On the other hand, if a child who is just beginning school is having trouble leaving his or her primary caregiver it could simply be separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can be healed over time with gradual separation, whereas social phobia requires more specific discussions and intervention.

In The Elementary School journal, Leo Hanvik wrote an article entitled, “The Child Who is Afraid of School” in which he describes a few “dos” and “don’ts” for parents dealing with a school-phobic child. He explains:

 

Do                                                                                       Don’t

 

Be attentive to your child’s feelings                        Punish your child if he or she expresses fear

Be firm about going to school                                    Force your child to attend unconditionally

Model good stress management techniques          Dismiss physical symptoms of stress

 

 

Hanvik clarifies that it is important for parents to understand that the physical symptoms that accompany social phobia are very real and should not be ignored. Parents need to learn how to deal with their child’s fear and anxiety in order to allow the child to acclimate himself to school.

Adults

In adults, social anxiety appears at work, social gatherings, or any situation that is novel and different. Adults with social phobia might hesitate to answer the phone, approach a coworker or boss, or ask the cashier at the supermarket a question.  These hesitations arise from an “over-thinking” of social situations. Though socially anxious people understand that their fears are irrational and that not everyone is evaluating them at every moment, they cannot suppress their feelings of embarrassment and humiliation. Despite their logical thinking, they still continue to experience heart palpitations, blushing, and sweating when confronted with social situations.

Social phobias or anxiety is not rare and Dr. Michael Liebowitz says that he “has treated corporate vice presidents so frightened of public speaking that they consider abandoning their careers just to avoid the podium, and concert musicians who, when a performance looms, spend the hours leading up to it shaking and vomiting.”  Nonetheless, through successful intervention these vice presidents and musicians lead healthy careers that are not handicapped by their anxiety.

 

Here are some suggestions for helping deal with social anxiety:

Raise awareness. Many people are not aware that social anxiety exists.  Understanding that what you or your child is feeling is relatable and treatable may relieve some of the stress that she feels.

Reframe thoughts. You or your children can recognize that your thoughts cause your feelings and behaviors, rather than external things, such as people, situations, and events. The benefit of this recognition is that once you realize that the way you think influences the way you feel, you can then function even if the situation does not change.

Social skills training. Through role-playing and interactive activities, you can learn communication skills. If you understand that you have these skills in your social arsenal, you will feel more in control when you meet someone for the first time.

Breathing exercises. Teaching yourself or your children relaxation breathing can help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. This will, in turn, help you calm your mind when it begins to race.

About the Author: An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation,, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net. Visit her on the web at rifkaschonfeldsos.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Suffering From Shyness: Social Phobias”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
This is what is left of the bus that was firebombed Saturday night.
Shhhhhhh! Police Now Say Bus was Firebombed Saturday Night
Latest Sections Stories
Food-Talk---Eller-logo

“People who never buy cookbooks are getting this one,” said Victoria. “They read it cover to cover and find it so interesting.”

South-Florida-logo

We have recently witnessed how other minorities deal with even perceived danger aimed at their brothers and sisters. They respond in great numbers.

South-Florida-logo

The Hebrew Academy students took part in all categories and used successful and innovative techniques to achieve their goals.

“The objective behind establishing small communities as places for relocation was a remedy for the excessive cost of housing and education in the large New York metropolitan market,” Mr. Savitsky explained.

Jewish Democrats did not entirely trust the son of Joseph Kennedy, a man broadly considered to be both anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi.

The teenage years are not about surviving. They are about thriving.

Every moment was a gift. I held each one, savoring.

We arrived in Auschwitz on Thursday, January 30, 2014. My seminary was taking us to see where the prisoners were kept. When we got there, I stepped off the bus in complete and total silence. I was in the back, and when we got to the gate I hesitated and started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t […]

From the moment Israel was declared a Jewish state, it has been the subject of controversy and struggle.

Now that Pesach is over, we return you to your regularly-scheduled pressing questions:   Dear Mordechai, Can I use a nose hair trimmer during Sefirah? Harry Lipman   Dear Harry, Yes, as long as your nose hairs are so bad that they’re affecting your job. Like if you have a desk job, and they interfere […]

It is very natural for kids to want attention and to be jealous of each other, especially when there is a new baby.

During the Second World War, a million and a half Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies, the Partisan units in Eastern Europe, and the anti-fascist underground movements in Western Europe and North Africa. These Jewish fighters won over 200,000 medals and citations. The Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II in Latrun, […]

The 2-day real estate event will take place in Brooklyn on April 26 and 27.

More Articles from Rifka Schonfeld
Schonfeld-logo1

The teenage years are not about surviving. They are about thriving.

Schonfeld-logo1

She wasn’t paying attention to what the child did when the mother was not in the room. Rather, her main focus was on what the child did when the mother returned.

When any student in the building is in danger of failing, the equivalent of tornado warning sirens should wail around the school.

“If you don’t stand straight, you’ll never get a husband.”

A lot of people have heard about dyslexia, a learning disability that concerns reading.

Because birth order can affect most children in similar fashion, there are things you can do to help your children overcome weaknesses that birth order has thrown their way.

Occasionally, a teacher will encounter a student who simply cannot be motivated to do his homework, finish his worksheet or study for a test.

There is a point that many parenting books miss: children do more for us than we do for them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/suffering-from-shyness-social-phobias/2013/11/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: