Parenting --Teens/teenage son with anxiety


our second born son (we have five sons) is a complete hermit and suffers from symptoms of anxiety including racing heart and sweaty palms.  He looks terrified when out socially and escapes social situations as quickly as he can.  He does exercise and is popular at school but his friends would like to see more of him.  
He suffers insomnia, is academically gifted (teachers say he knows more than they do) but denies any problem at all.  
I am a psychologist but of course he ignores most of my ideas and suggestions.  I am trying to get him to a psychologist for some bio-feedback and relaxation etc (or anything that is worth trying) as insight therapy would be a waste of time.  My husband and I are devoted to our boys and there is always one of us at home to tend to them.  The GP gave him a DASS and it showed the high anxiety with slight depression (probably due to the anxiety)  Do we just wait until he wants to help his suffering?  He has to take much time off school due to exhaustion (all blood tests are clear)
Thank you very much for your attention
Jane Petersen

ANSWER: Hello Jane,
Although you may feel most of the time like you have no choice but to just wait until he's ready to ask for or accept your help, I think there are things you can do.
First, I would say that you should refer him to a mental health professional who has experience working with children with difficulties similar to those of your son. While he may not be able to admit he needs (or wants# help from his family, he may be more open with a therapist #at least once he feels more comfortable with that person#.
Second, though, I think you should not let him avoid social situations. He might prefer to ease his own anxiety by living like a hermit. However, that would not help him to overcome his anxieties and worries; and I would think they would actually get worse. So, keeping him involved with others #to the best of your ability) will be better for him.
If at the same time he is seeing a therapist who can help him learn techniques of relaxation, he may show improvement so that in the future he will be able to function much better in social relationships.
James Windell

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QUESTION: Dear James,
many thanks for your support in doing what we are doing.  We cajole him out to be with people whenever we can and have made an appt with a psychologist I liked the sound of on the phone.  He is refusing to attend.  Just wondering whether there are any tips on how to get him to see that it is alright to seek help.  Thank you again for your help.  I have sat down and explained it all to him including the problems as they appear to me.  I know this is a difficult situation but it is hard to just not keep trying to help him so he can be more himself.

Hello Jane,
There is probably little you can do at his age to convince him that seeing a psychologist is okay. It would be best to go with him and to talk to the psychologist (at least for part of the session) with your son in the room. That way you can demonstrate that you feel comfortable talking to a psychologist and that you can be open about yourself and your feelings.
Most young people around your son's age think that seeing a mental health professional means that someone thinks they are crazy. They feel that way because they are not very secure in who they are as they struggle with making the transition from  childhood to adulthood and attempt to cope with all the changes in their life.
James Windell

Parenting --Teens

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James Windell


I am a parent trainer, psychotherapist, and author specializing in parenting issues.During the past 40 years I`ve worked with parents with discipline problems and challenging children. I give frequent lectures and workshops related to discipline, social skills, and aggressive children. I consult with various agencies and schools where there are child behavior problems. I am listed in the American Psychological Associations` media panel as an expert on parenting and am frequently quoted in leading magazines and newspapers.


I have worked in a juvenile court as a clinical psychologist and as a psychotherapist in private practice. In the Oakland County (MI) Juvenile Court, I developed an award-winning parent training program for parents of adolescent delinquents. In addition I have done group therapy with adolescent delinquents using a social skills-building model. I have consulted with courts, schools, churches, preschools, and domestic violence shelters in areas of parenting.

I received my BA with a major in Psychology in 1963 from Wayne State University. I got my MA in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University in 1972.

I am a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association. I have written pamplets, newspaper articles, and professional journal articles. I have been the Coping With Kids columnist for several newspapers for 26 years, and my columns appear weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been the author or co-author of 16 books. My books include, 8 WEEKS to A WELL-BEHAVED CHILD, CHILDREN WHO SAY NO WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO SAY YES, 6 STEPS TO AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT TEENAGER, and THE FATHERSTYLE ADVANTAGE. My most recent parenting book (2012) is THE EVETYTHING CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BOOK. I have appeared on over 180 radio and TV shows related to my books and parenting. For more information about me, my books and columns, go to my website at

I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University.

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