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Severe social anxiety

Casual scribe

Severe social anxiety

Hi all I am new here, I am concerned about my 13 year old son who has just started high school this year and he says he has no friends and suffers from quite a lot from social anxiety. He refuses to purchase anything from shops and avoids social interactions wherever possible. He has been like this most of his life and I am unsure what I can do?

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Re: Severe social anxiety

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Hi @JJL24 , 


First of all, welcome to the forums! I hope you find it a useful and safe space for you Smiley Happy 


The transition to high school can be a challenging one for a lot of  young people, even more so when there's some social anxiety in the mix as well. From what you say it sounds like this has been an issue for your son for quite awhile, I'm just wondering if he has ever had any professional help for this at all? 


Speaking as a parent of a child who's also experienced social anxiety, I can say that getting some professional help was a real game-changer for us. The Cool Kids program is one program that has a great reputation, and helps kids and their parents to develop skills to manage anxiety, including slowly building up their exposure to situations that trigger their anxiety, and gently starting to challenge the thoughts that can lie beneath social anxiety - it's also offered by private psychologists. Does your son have a GP that he trusts? One possible approach could be to visit your GP for a mental health plan, then look for a psychologist who has skills in treating anxiety in teens  (I've linked to our page that describes a bit more about how that process works), or going to your local Headspace centre.  If he's not keen on speaking to someone face to face, there's also services that offer support online, over the phone or via text, like eHeadspace. 


We also have some really good resources on anxiety on our parents page here,

There's also a FAQ for parents about anxiety here


Has your son ever tried any breathing exercises, or meditation, to help him manage his anxiety? If he's interested in giving that a try, there's some great apps like Headspace that can help him to learn those skills - we have a list of great apps for mental health here


Does your son have any other interests that he enjoys, like sport, or music? If he's struggling to find people that he clicks with at school, outside activities can be a great way to find other people that he clicks with. 


I know from experience that it can be pretty tough seeing your child unhappy in this way - if you think it would help to talk things through one on one, we do offer a one to one parents coaching service that is free for all parents/carers in Australia, and is available online or over the phone, you can find out more about that here. It's great that you're reaching out here for support, it's a really supportive community, and you're not alone. 


Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: Severe social anxiety

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Hi JJL24

Welcome to the Reach Out Parents' Forum. I've been hanging out here for the last couple of weeks after I came to the website looking for advice re one of my daughter's friends. I was stoked to find the parents' forum because I'm cut off from most of my friends as I'm immuno-suppressed and at high risk re covid. I'm an extrovert and I miss talking with other parents of teens in person and am finding this a good alternative. I've also been writing a blog for about 6 years where I've met quite a lot of introverts and heard more about their perspective. 

My question about your son is whether he is content not going into shops and not having social interaction? While it's not ideal, you can get through life without a lot of social interaction ,e specially these days when you can work from home, shop online. There are people who are happy with only a few friends. However, there's a difference between a few close friends and no friends and that's particularly hard in the school context. 

Do you know what concerns him? For example he might not like germs, in which case, his anxiety is only going to get worse during covid? Is he concerned about not knowing what to say? In that case, role playing could help. Both of our kids have been involved in Scouts and our son is still going as a venturer. They work towards badges and being in the outdoors and camping is really good for you on so many levels. Some of the kids struggle with shyness, communication difficulties etc and can relate to each other. During lockdown, my son's group was an amazing support and they all chatted away in zoom. 

I've mentioned this in a few of my posts but having a dog could do wonders to ease his anxiety and help him to feel love and be loved. Talking to his dog could also be a stepping stone to reach out to his peers. 

Learning a musical instrument is another idea. Guitar is a good social choice. I play violin and have gone back to piano during covid. It can be great to pull out a guitar in a group and play and people can sing along. He could also connect with people via the music without having to talk. 

In addition to seeing a psychologist, occupational therapists are well versed at helping to overcome issues. I'm not quite sure what the difference is but if you're having trouble getting him to see a psychologist an OT could be the way to go. 

I just thought of another big help to me and that is photography. When you zoom in and focus on something, you're actually focusing on a point which is a relaxation technique. I found that out later. However, photography got me through a very difficult period of my life when I was very ill and unsure whether I'd get back on my feet. I didn't always focus on good stuff, but that was cathartic as well. 

I hope this helps, in addition to previous advice about courses you can do through a psychologist or local service. 

Best wishes,


Casual scribe

Re: Severe social anxiety

Thank you for your input.
He says to me "I can't do that" when he sees his brother or one of us go to the shop counter and buy something, he also says a lot that he wishes he had friends which makes me feel terrible because I don't really know what to do.
I have spoken to the school and they re introduced him to an old school friend from primary who is 1 year ahead of him but he says that he ignores him and doesnt speak to him at school.
He says he doesn't know what to say and that if he says something they ignore him and he's worried about what others think of him.

Yes he is also very anxious over getting sick and it has become a lot worse since covid. He worries that he will get sick all the time and is using hand sanitiser like crazy even when he is just at home.

He is seeing a Psychiatrist but he finds it hard to speak about his problems which makes it very hard.

Yeah we have a few pets which he loves and talks to at times.
He is interested in music but I am not sure which instrument he likes, I will have to speak to him about that.
Casual scribe

Re: Severe social anxiety

Hi and thank you for the information you have shared.


He is currently seeing a Psychiatrist but he finds it very hard to explain how he feels which makes it quite hard. 


He does try a bit of meditation now and then, sometimes when he can't sleep.



I will look into these programs that you have suggested thank you


Re: Severe social anxiety

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Sorry to hear about your son. I work in schools as a psychologist and this is a common battle for many young people. 


He could try this self help workbook from the Centre of Clinical Intervention:


It's a good place to start if he has a hard time opening up during talk therapy.


The Teen BRAVE Program is another useful free self help program for anxiety, though, it's not specific to social anxiety. It's online and there is a parent version too which will provide you with information and strategies to assist your son.


All the best and take care!




Re: Severe social anxiety

Hi Janine, I'm new here as well. We have had very similar challenges with our 12 year old daughter. She has suffered from extreme anxiety all of her life & was only able to walk into school on her own in year 2 yrs ago. She's always struggled with change & has had long periods of school refusal. Friends, social interactions & noisy places are also an issue. She has limited interest, restrictive eating & is very controlling at home. Life is very tough & we often feel very isolated. We were told from a young age that our daughter had a severe anxiety disorder. So that's the path we have always followed. If I am honest with you we felt like failures as parents. Then approx. a year ago following a period of extreme anxiety & other challenging behaviours a psychiatrist from our local C&A community mental health team, diagnosed our daughter with ASD. We have since had this formally diagnosed through ASPECT & a paediatrician has also now diagnosed inattentive ADHD. It hasn't fixed things but what it has given us & even more importantly other people (teachers, peers, extended family) greater perspective & a deeper understanding of the why. We have a long journey ahead of us but it feels right & we now no which path to follow. Your son may have other underlying causes for his anxiety but keep exploring all avenues & possibilities. You are most definitely not alone. Wishing you & your son all the best!

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Re: Severe social anxiety

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Hi @Fran37 , 


Thanks so much for sharing your experiences here, it sounds like you've done a wonderful job in advocating for your daughter and helping her to find the right supports. I'm sorry to hear that this journey has sometimes been an isolating one for you. I know that ASD can often be diagnosed later in girls, and I hope that having a correct diagnosis helps your daughter to get the support she needs. I love what you say here: "It hasn't fixed things but what it has given us & even more importantly other people (teachers, peers, extended family) greater perspective & a deeper understanding of the why. We have a long journey ahead of us but it feels right & we now no which path to follow" - this is so incredibly valuable for other parents to hear. 


How is your daughter going with navigating school now? 


It's wonderful that you were able to get some support and organise a diagnosis through Aspect, they're a great organisation! I've heard from other parents of kids with autism that they've found some of these resources really helpful as well so I just thought I would share them here in case you'd like to check them out - apologies if you're already aware of them! 


I Can Network are an autistic run organisation who deliver school based programs and online mentoring programs for young people with autism

Reframing Autism is an autistic led organisation who provide education for families and support ; "

Are you ready to celebrate Autistic identities, embrace the Autistic community, and empower Autistic individuals?

Join Reframing Autism as we work to change the world to achieve respect, acceptance and citizenship.


Yellow Ladybugs is an organisation that supports and celebrates autistic girls, women and gender diverse individuals


Thanks so much again for sharing your experiences, it's so valuable for other parents to hear. It sounds like it's been a really challenging journey for you at times, have you been able to access support for yourselves? 

Casual scribe

Re: Severe social anxiety

My 12 year old daughter has been the same way ever since she started puberty last year. She would shake with anxiety in large crowds such as a store or a mall. She would beg and plead with me to leave and go home.

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