Kids Afraid of Life
Getting Help continued...
But the standard treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy,
geared to the child's age. The use of puppets, for example, can help children
change the way they think about things and how they talk to themselves. Kids
are also taught relaxation techniques to use in situations that make them
"Through treatment, the kids can learn that the horrible
things they fear won't happen," says Beidel.
Beidel is currently conducting a four-year study funded by the
National Institute of Mental Health, comparing behavior therapy, Prozac, and
placebo in youngsters aged 8-16. Part of the behavioral component consists of a
program in which children in the trial meet with "peer helpers," for an
hour and a half at a time, in a social situation.
"This is a chance for the kids with social phobia to mix
with the kids who usually ignore them in a setting they usually don't go
to," says Beidel. "It gives them the opportunity to practice the skills
they have been learning."
While it's important to get help as early as possible, the good
news is that studies indicate that treatment is effective and need not go on
for an unlimited length of time, says Markway. "Short-term [six to 12 weeks
perhaps, although it does depend on the severity of the disorder] usually
works," he says. "You're not looking at years and years of
If you suspect your child suffers from social anxiety or social
phobia, look for a mental health professional who specializes in the behavioral
treatment of children, says Beidel.
For more information on the condition, these sources may be of
- Association for Advancement of Behavior
- Therapy Anxiety Disorders Association of America
- Maryland Center for Anxiety Disorders