As highlighted in the accompanying resource, anxiety among students is serious and perhaps more widespread than you might think. Unfortunately, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a common condition that has affected significantly more individuals over the last year, in part due to the challenging conditions in education caused by pandemic restrictions and disruptions.
Pandemic-related issues are far from the only problem contributing to heightened anxiety among students, however. The increased use of social media and other forms of digital communication have served to isolate some students to one degree or another, limiting their face-to-face social interactions and thus preventing them from practicing the social skills that will be important for their personal and professional development throughout life. Compounding the problem is the tendency for social media to expose students to bullying and other negative, hostile types of communication that create stress on top of stress, sometimes with very serious consequences for the victims.
The good news is that SAD is a very treatable condition that need not doom a student to a life of anxiety, underachievement and isolation. The resource presents a number of coping strategies for SAD and should be required reading for students, parents, family members and concerned friends.
The first step in dealing with SAD holds true for most physical and mental conditions: Recognize that there is a problem. For physical ailments, admitting there is a problem is relatively easy. If you are suffering from a broken ankle, cracked tooth or sharp stomach pain, you’re very likely to seek medical attention without thinking twice. However, with psychological conditions — SAD included — people may feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit there is a problem, much less seek help. If there is a student in your life suffering from anxiety, perhaps the most important thing you can do is reassure him or her that anxiety is a common problem that many people have overcome, and that help is readily available.
The overriding theme of the coping strategies presented in the resource is to take things one step at a time. It’s not necessary to forge 10 close friendships the first week of school. Instead, try to cultivate one good friendship at a time. It’s not necessary to take a full course load of AP classes and long lectures. Instead, take a few small classes and supplement with online learning. It’s not necessary to attend every social gathering, dance or party. Instead, try one — but keep trying, because practice makes perfect.
For more information about SAD and how students can prevent it from slowing their education and personal development, please check out our resource.