Detecting Social Anxiety in Childhood to Prevent Long-term Issues

Since 1998, I’ve studied how social anxiety disorder affects children and teenagers. We know social anxiety starts young; it doesn’t just suddenly appear later in life. Unfortunately, most children and adolescents do not get identified or receive the treatment they need.

This is very concerning as social anxiety can impede healthy development and academic success. Youngsters often feel disconnected or isolated at school, or suffer academically because they struggle to speak up in class or to form relationships with teachers. In addition, they might choose a college close to home limiting their options or experience a rough transition from high school to college relative to their peers.

The challenge of getting our young people help can be as innocent as confusion about the signs of social anxiety, the differences between social anxiety disorder and shyness, or what is developmentally appropriate in children and adolescents. Because of this, I am passionate about going into community settings where our young people are to help others recognize social anxiety and connect children and adolescents to effective treatments.

As a Professor in the Psychology Department at Montclair State University, I work with schools and pediatrics to train front-line professionals such as pediatric office professionals and school counselors to screen for and provide interventions for social anxiety. I have developed an effective program designed for schools, called the Skills for Academic and Social Success (SASS), to help students overcome anxiety through realistic thinking, exposure and social skills training. This program is detailed in the book, Helping Students Overcome Social Anxiety, available through the Guilford Press.

With a grant from AKFSA, I launched a pilot program to enhance the identification of social anxiety in pediatric primary care. We are screening adolescents for social anxiety and depression during their routine pediatric office visits using two self-report instruments and offering mental health services. We are looking at the rate with which adolescents with social anxiety are identified and their mental health and medical service use going forward.

I’m eager contribute to AKFSA’s Advisory Board to expand outreach and education about social anxiety for those who need support, especially to have a greater impact for children, adolescents, and young adults and to prevent long-term impairment in life.

Carrie Masia Warner, PhD

Dr. Carrie Masia Warner is Professor of Psychology at Montclair State University in their Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology. She is also a Research Scientist at the Nathan S. Kline Institute in Orangeburg, NY. Dr. Masia Warner completed an NIMH postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University after which she served on the faculty in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University’s Langone Medical Center for 13 years. Dr. Masia Warner specializes in pediatric anxiety disorders. Her research has been funded by NIMH, AKFSA, and ADAA, and has focused on enhancing access to services for children and adolescents with anxiety disorders by training frontline professionals to implement interventions in schools and pediatric medical settings. Dr. Masia Warner is best known for developing a school-based intervention for social anxiety disorder that has been used nationally and internationally. The program, referred to as Skills for Academic and Social Success (SASS) is available as a Guilford book entitled, Helping Students Overcome Social Anxiety.

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