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Thread: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

  1. #1
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    My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    As the title says, my son (20) told me today he has bad social anxiety. I kind of always knew this - he stays in a lot, doesn't have many or any friends, was always a quiet and shy person, even as a kid.
    But he kind of made it official today by saying it to me. And he's wondering if there's anything he can take or do for it as it's really starting to get to him.
    He's returning to university tomorrow and he's not looking forward to it. He spent the last year and a half doing all his college work from his bedroom as it was all online. But things are now returning to normal so everything is back on campus again.

    I want to help him but I'm not sure how. I've never really had social anxiety myself, health anxiety is my demon. I'd rather not tell him to go to a doctor who will probably put him on some pharma medication and he said he doesn't want that either.

    Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with social anxiety? Is there anything he can do to help himself? Any natural remedies that help it?
    Looking for anything at all really because I don't know where to begin with it

  2. #2

    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    Whilst I do take medication from time to time (PRN / As Needed) I have found many natural alternatives some being more routine orintated rather than organic consuption although a healthy diet certainly plays into that. I'm actually out atm with my therpist. He sugest that perhaps finding a GP that has a mental health interest as well as orintated towards alternatives. I'll give this more thought and reply again later. I mostly just wanted to say I resonate with the direction that your leading with. Again I give this more thought and am sure others will come forward with constructive advice.
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  3. #3

    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    OK – Before I forget. Just got home. I try to be concise and pass on the best advice as a parent who can relate.

    1. Encourage, foster and support his wishes. From what you have written you seem to have a good handle on that.

    2. Consider what I said previously about shopping around for a GP/General Practitioner with a mental health interest that is more orientated towards alternatives. Now that I am home, I will only add that this is not an easy task. My long time experience (52 y/o father/grandfather with historical family issues across multiple generations) regarding the use of the medical system is plagued with many pitfalls when it comes to over use, over reliance, misdiagnosis and over identifying with one’s prescribed and or self-diagnosed label/s vs simply accessing community help programs may well be enough to deal with said issues. Also be careful, of inadvertently being boxed into one way of thinking. The labels themselves can be as much a commodity as the pills. Whilst for many the latter can still be of help. Just prioritize what is important to you guys first and be sure that your the one's making well informed decisions. Many people are easily led (Myself included - I have someone come with me) and hand over too much power to others. Just be sure your well informed and again, that your wishes are being respected.

    3. When feeling around … and I suggest looking online for local community programs. Unfortanley in most westernized countries these supports have big time been centralized and thus industrialized making it very hard to get find a more community based response/support. These could be as simple as a help line, support line or even a collage counselor, where you could initiate a call in the same way you have reached out here, but have the benefit of something more local. In fact, I would advise going this route first before seeing a GP. The problem with getting linked up in a centralized focused network is being automatically referred to a mainstream response that is far removed from the community. You will have to be clear about what you want before you call so they can better assist you. Do not be quick to get a label ... It's normal for kids and adults to have bouts of depression ... especially this day and age. Sometimes just talking with people is enough to navigate hard times. Not meaning to minimise and yes for sure continue to reach out. Just be careful how far you want to go. Best not to create something that lasts much longer than need be or make it bigger than it really be. Like when a toddler falls over, how we respond often sets the tone for what follows? Does that make sense? Help out for sure ... but understand how we go about it can affect the response. That is all.

    A well meaning GP could very well lead you onto a path you and your son do not want. Happens to the best of us. Which Is why I suggest looking for local support groups online that will have more time than a pressured 15-minute consultation by a GP whom are mostly engineered to think a one way. The latter often admitted by many doctors themselves. "My hands are tied" (Like seeing a physiatrist the deals only in medication who may end up referring your case onto psychotherapy) There are some out there more open than others, but better found asking around the community first. Also - whilst remaining stead fast with GPs, just know it's OK to make multiple appointments until you find the one that resonates. Better yet, ring around the community and get a phone referral and or meet up with an in-between social worker who are very good at listening and then linking up more appropriately. Just be wary of centralized phone numbers where again you need to be clear about your situation.

    4. Moving on from there – Just be open and perhaps see more than one person all along going with point 1.

    5. Points 2 & 3 should not rule out what I am sure many others would advocate all well meaning from their own experience. Bare in mind mental health forums have many cons when it comes to the recommendation of medications as our circumstances, biological, environments and experiences are all different. That said most people are well meaning. I thought I would outline points 2&3 as I did. No disrespect intended for that do well with full time pharmaceuticals.

    6. Being a more long term clinical case that relies on alternatives myself and one that often has adverse reactions to antidepressants and antipsychotics (my PRN is Diazepam which I do my best to relegate for hard core situations only) The following is generally what works for me:

    I find getting sunlight, fresh air and keeping hydrated is the first point of call. I can do this in my own back yard or seek out a secluded spot. In the city this might be on the roof of the tallest building I can find or some back alley at odd hours of the day night cycle. Point is … understanding the need for basic routine that allows for free natural exposure works really well and something that is devoid in most people lives today. I struggle very much with it all myself .. but have community support which helps a very much.

    Google search local community support. Even deliver this pitch you made here to a college/University counsellor. Not as in find a course but as in request if they have a counselling services as you wish to explain your situation and that your following online advice to find local community support with your son's circumstances in mind. Can they refer you to any local supports? That kind of thing. You may be surprised at the response you get. You may very well end up with a few numbers to call and from there more doors may open that follow in a direction more acceptable to both you and your son. If you strike a dead end there, try ringing a help line and doing the same again. Explain your looking for alternatives and options before going to a GP. A support group may be more appealing than setting up a therapist, however the conversation and the way you deliver it may also impact how your son receives it which comes back to point 1. Groups with like-minded people who struggle the same can end up quite liberating. At age 20 I am sure there are many Youth Groups about that deal with such things. Just start ringing around and get a good background of knowledge so you can better explain to your son. Some groups may allow parents to come along.

    Of course only you and your son can determine the degree at how far you wont to go. Perhaps a one phone call with one visit to see someone may be enough.

    I hope some of this was helpful. I wish you and your son all the best.
    Last edited by Ponder; 06-09-21 at 06:26.
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  4. #4
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    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrokenGirl View Post

    Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with social anxiety? Is there anything he can do to help himself? Any natural remedies that help it?
    Looking for anything at all really because I don't know where to begin with it
    CBT would be the best way to go...

    Medication can actually be helpful in order to bring highly anxious people back into a more receptive state to engage with therapy, but CBT is the important thing here, and your son will have to commit to this and persevere - especially when the going gets tough.

    Also, maybe your son would benefit from a social anxiety therapy group? Other than online, groups have never been my thing personally (autistic) but they can be very helpful for lots of people who say that it helped to be around others who were experiencing the same anxieties and lots of people have this disorder. I think it's about the 3rd biggest MH disorder?

    I was diagnosed with social phobia when I was 13 but it turned out that it's because I'm autistic, so it's not the same dynamics as with non-autistics. This is why nothing worked for me, no matter what I did or what books I read on the disorder..

    All the best to you..
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  5. #5
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    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    Thank you both for your replies - I really appreciate it.


    Today was a tough day. First day back at college after about 18 months.
    I asked him this evening how things went for him. He didn't say much but I knew by his answer and body language that he didn't enjoy it.
    He didn't want to talk about it so I didn't push him. I knew going back to college would be very difficult for him. I think some people who never had anxiety are suffering at the moment going back to work and college after lockdowns and working from home.


    I just wish he could make one or two friends at college. That's the part that breaks my heart. If he could have someone to hang around with I think life would be a little bit easier but that hasn't happened. He was only in college for a few months and then it all went online. He never managed to make any college friends in those few months. Living at home and not with other students didn't help.


    I'll take on board all of your advice above. We'll keep all options open for him but for now I think he needs to get over the initial shock of being back in college. Maybe in a week or two I could try to bring it up with him again. As I said I don't want to push him but at the same time I want to help him in any way I can.

  6. #6
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    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    There might be some support available through the university too? Many years ago I worked at a college of higher education. Part of my job was working in Student Services which had access to trained counsellors.

  7. #7
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    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    Thanks Catkins.

    I know there is a student counselling service in his college. Whether he'll consider going to it or not is another thing.
    His form is a bit up and down at the moment but overall not too bad, especially when he's at home.
    It's horrible to see someone you love suffer like this, wish I could wave a magic wand and fix it for him.

    I'll still leave it another week or two before I say anything to him, unless he mentions it again to me of course.

    Having social anxiety and no friends just really sucks. Life can be so damn difficult at times

  8. #8

    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    We do have a daughter that lives behind a locked door. I only share this as to let you know I understand the challenges of watching our young ones find their way in this world. It's a different kind of pain watching our loved ones from the sidelines. I hope your posting helps.
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  9. #9
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    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ponder View Post
    We do have a daughter that lives behind a locked door. I only share this as to let you know I understand the challenges of watching our young ones find their way in this world. It's a different kind of pain watching our loved ones from the sidelines. I hope your posting helps.
    Thank you for that Ponder and I'm sorry you have to watch your daughter go through that. It really is so difficult to watch them struggle.
    If my son was a young child and was suffering in some way I could get more involved to sort the issue out. But when he's 20 there's only so much I can do.
    We just want the best for them and want them to be happy and get on in the world. I keep hoping some day that something will happen for the better, he mightn't be so anxious or he might make one friend in college. Just one would do. I only want for him what so many other people his age have and take for granted.
    I really hope things work out for your daughter too!!

  10. #10
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    Re: My son (20) has social anxiety - how do I help him?

    Hi, I am just a bit older than your son and have felt the same thing in the past. At school I did enjoy talking to people and joking around with friends but I became more and more reclusive as life got more serious and people started to feel more judgemental. For me the biggest issue which my social anxiety stemmed from was my lack of confidence, I did not want to speak up in class in case I am wrong and people would thing badly of me for example. Now I am not saying this applies to your son but it may be something which is impacting his social life. At the end of 2019 I was probably at my worst in terms of my feelings. I had OCD and anxiety, I had some health issues which were quite embarrassing and I was the highest weight I had ever been.

    At one point in December of that year I decided enough was enough, I signed up for a 10km race at work (which gave me a lot of motivation because of the fear of failure) as well as joining a gym. After 3 months I felt like a different man, I had lost around 20kg and was feeling much more confident and enjoyed going out, speaking to people and going to work get togethers, which was incredible for someone who didn't want to go to their graduation at university.

    I understand it is not as easy as just picking up a hobby but trying to help your son build a routine which can help him gain more confidence and get out there more can be really beneficial in my experience. Now this does not have to be something like the gym or anything necessarily physical but it can be something like joining some kind of club for one of his hobbies or learning a new skill which he can gain confidence in. I know how difficult it can be not living with other students as I had several friends who did this and also had difficulty making friends (even though I did not have many great friends from my studies I loved my housemates to bits). Doing something related to a hobby is also good as often people like to discuss this and at around his age being around people with similar hobbies can give them something to talk about and often more outgoing people can encourage him to get involved more and come out of his shell. At uni there are a lot of clubs he would be able to join typically depending on what he enjoys. It is often much easier to talk about your hobbies than make friends at university where everyone is there to get in and out (and some don't even make it in half the time). This change also helped a lot of other things for me, I was more confident to talk on the phone or be in meetings, my health anxiety felt a lot better.

    This is just from my personal experience so may not apply directly but it may be worth a shot if he also feels like it could be something that might help.

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