(Photo:Flickr/Dimattia photography)

Some teenagers have trouble fitting in with their peers, but when can shyness be a sign of something more serious?

New research from the National Institute of Mental Health found that some teens who appear to be exhibiting signs of shyness are actually struggling with a social anxiety disorder or social phobia.

“Shyness is a normal human temperament,” says lead researcher Kathleen Merikangas. However, she continues, “there is a blurred boundary between people who describe themselves as shy and clinically significant impairment.”

Researchers surveyed 10,000 teens and more than 6,000 of the teens’ parents about a variety of mental health issues. Approximately 47 percent of the teens identified themselves as “shy around peers they don’t know well,” and more than 62 percent of parents said they thought their teens were shy. The researchers then analyzed how many of the teens appeared to meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for social anxiety disorder or social phobia. They concluded that approximately 1 in 10 of the self-described shy teens met the criteria.

Although it wasn’t an official diagnosis, the teens identified as “potentially socially phobic” were also likely to have other mental health problems, such as depression or substance abuse.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the signs of social phobia usually show in adolescence, and the phobia affects approximately 15 million adults.

Source: (AP) Washington

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

Follow Counseling Today on Twitter.

Comments are closed.