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As children grow and mature, they learn how to avoid being the focus of attention at school or home; as a result, their extreme discomfort in social situations can go unnoticed.

Because children with social phobia are generally content and compliant around home, and because parents do not receive reports of misbehavior at school, many families fail to recognize a problem until their child is already withdrawn from activities and peers.

It is a frightening situation for them, and one they would rather avoid altogether.

Understanding the warning signs The average age of onset is 13 years, but you can see social phobia as early as 3 and 4 years old.

By this point, the child may be experiencing extreme isolation and falling behind developmentally and academically.

Sometimes social phobia goes undiagnosed because parents confuse it with shyness.

With the help of professionals, parents can learn to be exposure therapists, encouraging and supporting a child through the social situations that cause anxiety.

In young children, it may take the form of selective mutism, meaning that the child is afraid to speak in front of other kids, their teachers, or just about anyone outside of the immediate family.

In elementary school, children with social phobia may start to refuse activities and you see kids dropping out of Scouts or baseball.

Bright, intelligent young people who have yearnings to be lawyers or doctors, but cannot interact with other people, may choose a profession or work that is very solitary; or they might not enter the work force at all.

Understanding that social phobia is a gateway disorder to depression, substance abuse, and lifetime impairment, we must make it a priority to identify it when children are younger.

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Understand parents’ role For most young people, social phobia is successfully treated with therapy and sometimes medication.

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