It is not uncommon to observe shyness in young children. When you are in public and you meet a friend who has a very young boy or girl who hides behind the mother, cries when addressed or is unable to dialog with any adult other than loved ones, we don’t usually consider that to be a chronic situation. Of course, not all children go through a shyness phase and many are outgoing and expressive virtually from infancy. But it is not considered a sign of mental problems for a youngster to be a bit shy around strangers. In fact it is rather cute and the adults in the child’s life may be encouraged that the child’s distrust of strangers may serve her well to protect herself from people who would do her harm.
Few child psychologists would be concerned if a young child exhibits even significant shyness behavior. While it may hold the youngster back socially or even create problems with being left at school or at a day care, theses problems are all still considered somewhat normal. Parents can get help through normal child rearing counselors on how to help a child become more socially comfortable and able to deal with social situations. The majority of people who were tremendously shy as children mature out of it. While many of us still retain a small amount of social hesitancy or “shyness”, most of us know how to put it in the background when necessary.
In most cases, the causes of shyness in children are not the same causes of social anxiety disorder or social phobias that qualify as a significant psychological disorder in adulthood. Many times a shy child is simply moving a little more slowly on separating from the family unit from a psychological point of view. That family bond is strong and comforting and it takes some time before the child feels self confident enough to explore relationships with stranger which bring the chances of rejection or insult with them.
However, a small child generally is not experiencing the debilitating symptoms of social anxiety or phobia that make life so miserable for an adult who is dealing with a full fledged social anxiety disorder that calls for treatment. An adult suffering with these kinds of psychological disorders will undergo serious fear and concern about a social situation that lies ahead. When the social anxiety expresses itself fully, the patient may sweat profusely, feel nauseous and undergo a full fledged anxiety attack that can result in unconsciousness or hyperventilation. These are cases where the phobia has become a genuine psychological disorder that will require intervention by medical professionals combined with lengthy treatment by a psychologist or psychiatrist before the problem can be corrected.
For a parent, it is wise to observe your child to witness if a dominant shyness problem is beginning to show signs of becoming a social phobia as the child moves toward adolescence or adult life. One tell tale sign that social awkwardness may be progressing toward a phobia is worry. People who suffer with social anxiety disorder often obsess excessively about upcoming social encounters. If there is a social appointment such as a job interview, a public speaking challenge or even a party that is triggering the phobia, the disorder will cause emotional and mental distress that can make the patient suffer terribly worrying and feeling anxious about the upcoming event to the extent that virtually little else seems to matter.
For a shy child, while at the moment of the social encounter, he or she may exhibit that shyness that is a concern, usually when the child is home again, he or she forgets all about that shyness and plays happily even interacting with family or close family friends as though nothing in the world was wrong. When you see that shyness begin to dominate the child’s mind at home through fear or dread of an upcoming social event, that is one of several signs that a social phobia may beginning to evolve from normal childhood shyness.
By being alert parents, you can monitor your child’s shyness to determine if it is becoming more severe as the child ages or if it begins to disappear the more confident your child becomes. The later is the norm and even if that confidence comes slowly, you can comfort yourself that is forward progress is being made, that is reason to be encouraged that the shyness will not become a psychological disorder. But along with alertness, be a parent that is quick to help your child and seek the aid of child counseling services who can give you means to help the child naturally grow out that shyness stage. The steps you take early in your child’s life can make all the difference in eliminating the potential of a social anxiety disorder later in life.