Why psychologists expect social anxiety in young people to increase in the coming months

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(Image credit: ZAK BENNETT/Zak BENNETT/AFP via Getty Images)

The world around them has slowly begun to open back up, but "thousands of young people" are finding themselves struggling to socialize as they once had, writes The New York Times.

The culprit? Social anxiety, or "an intense fear of being watched and judged by others," which has ostensibly grown more severe among the 9 to 10 percent of U.S. young adults and adolescents who identify as having the disorder, after months of COVID-19 isolation, psychologists say.

"As we start to socialize more, we're going to probably see greater rates of social anxiety than there were before the pandemic," said Paula Yanes-Lukin, an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

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Those who thought they had their anxiety in check pre-pandemic might find themselves "grappling anew" with symptoms, while other young people feel they're facing the sensation for the first time. The result, per experts, "has been a harmful weakening of their socializing muscles, underscoring the pandemic's potential long-lasting effects on the mental health of a generation," writes the Times.

In fact, several studies and psychologists nationwide expect diagnoses of social anxiety to spike in the coming months, which could lead to greater rates of depression. "For youth in particular, this is a concern because this is a time when they're building those social skills, and they haven't had as many opportunities as older adults," said Dr. Yanes-Lukin.

Said Nevandria Page, 25, who felt anxiety symptoms come on while experiencing COVID in a new city: "I was alone throughout the pandemic, and I think that feeling of loneliness followed me, despite being able to go out again." Read more at The New York Times.

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