A 16-Year-Old Girl Refuses To Go To School Or Social Functions, Fearing Criticism. What Can A Parent Do To Help?

John Walkup, M.D., Johns Hopkins

Question: A 16-year-old girl refuses to go to school or social functions, fearing criticism. What can a parent do to help?

Answer: When I hear about a 16-year-old who refuses to go to school or go to social functions I think about a variety of causes for this. But the one that raises the most clinical concern is social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Social phobia is a condition that can affect teenagers but it really presents itself in social situations.

So these are kids who avoid social situations, they avoid going to school, they don't like to go to parties, they don't like to talk in social situations, they don't like to talk to strangers, they won't raise their hand in class, they don't lie going to the board to do their work.

They don't like anything that's going to put them in the spotlight if you will, and make them feel self conscious. If that's the condition that really is driving this girl -- not wanting to go to school or social activities, I think it's very important to talk with your pediatrician and to consider a mental health referral to someone who really is expert in the management of children with social anxiety disorder.

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