Treatment of social phobia in children generally varies depending on the preferences of the therapist, the parents, and the child’s symptoms. Sometimes anti-anxiety medications are used, but there are some parents and therapists who are hesitant to give these kinds of meds to younger children. Cognitive behavioral therapy is another common treatment approach, but its effectiveness in younger children is sometimes lessened because they aren’t mentally mature enough to get the full benefit of the training involved, and they may be unable to understand their own condition well enough to be disciplined in using the techniques. According to some experts, children with social anxiety problems will very often continue to have some degree of social difficulty as they mature into adults, so learning to manage their issues at an early age can be very advantageous when possible.
Various therapeutic approaches are the most common treatment for phobias in adults, including social phobias. Some of the more common treatments include things like cognitive behavioral therapy, and desensitization therapy, which are both designed to help people put their fears into better perspective. These therapeutic methods are often built around the idea that a person can learn new ways to cope with things if given the proper training, but sometimes the techniques and lessons are a little too sophisticated for young kids to pick up.
Even though they may not work as well for social phobia in children as they do for adults, therapy-based treatments are still the most popular approach. In desensitization therapy, the idea is to expose the child to progressively more difficult social situations, going very slowly, so that the child can gradually build up a comfort level. Sometimes the initial phases of this training may be based around guided visualization rather than real life social contact.
Cognitive behavioral therapy when used on social phobia in children is mostly about showing the child a new way of looking at things. The children learn new ways of responding internally to their fears, hopefully leading to more success in social situations, which can potentially be self-reinforcing. Following through on the recommendations in this kind of therapy often involves some level of discipline, and it may be very difficult for younger children to follow through, but as they get older, the techniques can potentially be even more useful.
Some therapists like to use anti-anxiety medications on children with social phobia, partly because it can be very difficult for unassisted therapy to help them. Other therapists, however, and many parents, are strongly against the use of medications to treat these problems in children. When medications are used, they won’t necessarily get rid of the inner thought process that leads to the fear, but they might allow a child to function more normally.
Some experts feel that the social problems children experience because of their phobia have a lot of potential to damage their lives as adults. Their phobias may make it difficult for them to make friends and develop normally in a social context, which can lead to depression and other serious issues later in life. For these reasons, even though it can be difficult to deal with social phobia in children, it is still considered very important to start treatments at a young age if possible.