Is Your Troubled Son Avoiding Social Situations?

Has your son always struggled with being an introvert in social situations? Or has it become more of a concern you recognize in recent years?

A troubled teen may start to withdraw from and avoid social situations. While it is easy to write this off as being shy, the truth of the matter is that your teen may be struggling through avoidant personality disorder.

In this article we will answer a few questions:

  • What is an avoidant personality disorder?
  • Can it be treated?
  • How can you best help your troubled boy through difficult situations?

Understanding of avoidant personality disorder

An avoidant personality disorder is currently understood as a chronic condition with an early onset and lasts a lifetime. Unfortunately, there is a lack of recognition and related studies to this personality disorder, which means that many people go undiagnosed. A result of underdiagnosing is that there is a correlation with a lack of effective treatment.

Avoidant personality disorder can lead to difficulty in relationships, at school, or within the family. For a teenager who is already struggling with the trials that come with simply being of that age, these difficulties can feel amplified.

A troubled teen may start to avoid social situations with even their best friends or a girlfriend. They may be hyper-focused on what they perceive to be their personal shortcomings, combining with a fear of rejection. Relationships can prove challenging to maintain for someone with an avoidant personality disorder.

Someone living with this mental health disorder may fear criticism or even harsh judgment from other people. This could lead them to turn down positions on a sports team or perhaps a leading role in a play. They may want to participate but do not want to be in the limelight, which could increase the potential for being judged or criticized.

A person with an avoidant personality disorder will have an incredibly skewed personal view of rejection, loss, and judgment. Which can, in turn, lead them to prefer being alone rather than taking a risk on a connection with someone else who may reject them painfully.

Behavioral symptoms of avoidant personality disorder

As is the case with any mental health concern, the symptoms can vary between individuals. The intensity of symptoms can also vary.

Some of the symptoms of an avoidant personality disorder include:

  • Appearing to be overly sensitive to criticism or disapproval.
  • Having very few close friends, if they have any friends at all.
  • Having a reluctance to form relationships with new people.
  • Experiencing anxiety and even fear in some types of social situations. Resulting in them avoiding any activities that will involve being around other people.
  • Shyness, awkwardness, or feeling self-conscious in situations involving other people.
  • Appearing to exaggerate concerns that may seem insignificant to others.
  • Feeling reluctant to try new experiences or to take chances on anything new.
  • Having an unusually poor self-image. They may view themselves as being inferior or inadequate to peers.

Is it essential to recognize that while these fears of being criticized and rejected are largely unfounded, they are very real to the person feeling them. Mocking them or dismissing their fears will only lead to more avoidant behavior. And can also reinforce the idea that they are always in the wrong or always in need of being judged.

It can be hard to get an accurate diagnosis without the right focused mental health treatment. Especially since avoiding certain social situations is also common in those who live with general anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others.

How can avoidant personality disorder be treated?

It can be challenging to treat any personality disorder. The concern is that individuals with personality disorders tend to have patterns of behavior and thinking deep-rooted in their identity.
However, a troubled teen with an avoidant personality disorder is a good candidate for extensive treatment. This is largely due to their disorder causing them a significant amount of distress that they recognize, and many to have an interest in developing relationships. This strong desire can prove to be a factor in motivating teens to follow a treatment plan.

Psychotherapy is the primary treatment offered. This individual counseling provides a focus on altering both the mindset and behavior. Cognitive and behavioral therapy can offer a focus on challenging and changing each thought process and behavior. Therapy can also offer guidance and coping tools to help your teen cope with social situations.

Medication therapy might be an option for some teens. When combined with psychotherapy, medication can help manage some of the anxiety that accompanies this disorder.

As with most types of treatment, treatment for social avoidance disorder can be most effective when each family member is offering support for the troubled teen.

Many find that family therapy and individual therapy for other family members can be beneficial.

Not seeking treatment for avoidant personality disorder

Like most mental illness concerns, avoidant personality disorder will not go away on its own without treatment. This is a life-long disorder that can be treated so that a sense of normalcy can be established.

Without seeking treatment, your troubled teen is at an increased risk for:

  • Isolation from family, friends, and society as a whole.
  • Long-term concerns with education and employment.
  • Depression and the potential for suicidal ideation.
  • Substance abuse.

With treatment, your teen has a good prognosis. Treatment for this disorder is often a lifelong effort. A person who sticks with treatment, and adjusts their therapy as is needed, can see a significant improvement in how this disorder impacts their life. With the correct treatment protocol, some can learn the best ways to relate to others and to adjust to a life that includes social situations.

Does it feel like your troubled boy is withdrawing from and avoiding social situations? Get him the proper treatment to meet each of his mental wellness needs. Reach out to us at Liahona Treatment Center. We will work to find adequate resources to help your teen son feel supported as he works through his mental health concerns.

Reach out to find out more about how we can help your teen and your family return to a sense of stability and potentially sociable family and friend situations.

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