Teenagers with avoidant disorders may struggle with a chronic state of heightened anxiety which can impede their ability to make friends and participate in social activities. They may lack confidence, struggle with feelings of low self-worth, have difficulty expressing themselves, and exhibit extreme sensitivity to criticism. Their fear of rejection can become so extreme that they begin to experience a range of physical symptoms. They may have panic attacks and begin to withdraw from social situations including normal activities and routines, perhaps even refusing to attend school. The intense difficulty with fear, self-doubt, and worry can lead to other problems such as depression, self-injury, eating disorder, or self-medication.
Teenagers with avoidant disorders need an opportunity to talk with an understanding, empathic, and supportive adult about their fears and anxieties. Some teenagers may need help in developing their social skills though often individuals with social anxiety have the necessary skills but struggle to relate comfortably with others because of incapacitating feelings of inferiority. To overcome the feelings of fear and inferiority experienced with avoidant disorders, teenagers often need help in correcting their beliefs about themselves and how they are perceived by others. They need to know that their parents are proud of them and that they can generate an accepting response from others with correct thinking and friendly behavior.
Teenagers with an avoidant attachment style will often try to avoid expressing their emotions though they may exhibit them indirectly by complaining, sulking, or becoming distant and aloof. They may try to cope with stress on their own and dismiss the need for close relationships with others. They may be overly focused on themselves and their own comfort while disregarding the feelings and interests of others. They may express an overly positive view of themselves along with a negative, cynical attitude toward others, but the inflated self-image is often only a defense against underlying feelings of low self-worth. They likely struggle with a highly critical inner voice that underlies an extreme fear of rejection.
In counseling, a teenager’s relationship with the therapist can offer a safe, supportive, and encouraging opportunity to explore their thoughts and feelings and to develop a new experience in their relationship with others and themselves. Fearful teenagers can learn to understand themselves and others in ways that afford opportunity to connect socially with genuine confidence and comfort.