Shy, Awkward Teen Wants Help

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I need help. :( I’m 18 and I have several problems going on in my life. I am a shy (male) senior student in high school unsure of my plans of what to do in college and how to get a scholarship in the art world. What is holding me back is lack of self-confidence. I’m not the person that I want to be. I have attempted many times to be outgoing, but as always come off socially awkward. Sometimes I fear of what people may think of me. I am sometimes unable to understand what people are saying to me. I don’t have any close friends, just aquaintances that I talk every now and then at school. No one ever calls me on the phone. My mood can strangely change in a single school day. At one time, I am depressed. Another time, I am laughing for no absolute reason to myself during a class session.

I become so angry when my dad tries to point out my problems with me lacking a driver’s license at the age of 18. I always fail to communicate my feelings based on his criticism. My social skills are terrible. It takes me forever to answer a simple question. I do not make eye contact most of the time, I stare at the ground. I hate myself for getting so bent out of shape when someone is trying to help me with my issues.

Another problem I like to share is that I am unaware of a environment filled with groups of people. As I’m sitting at a resturant, I am afraid to look around at times. Whenever I walk, I look straight forward without turning my head. Even when me and my sister went to Chick-Fil-A, I walked straight passed her on the way out the door, without realizing she was right there. And I thought she was already in the car ready to go.

People look at me funny whenever I go to public places. My parents point out I am not aware of my facial expressions. I often look in the mirror to help fix this problem.

That is all I have to share.

If you do not reply back, thank you for at least taking your time out and reading this. Thank you, Psych Central. :)

A: Hi. Thanks so much for writing and asking for help. That’s the first important step in making change. Bear in mind, please, that I can’t make a diagnosis on the basis of a letter. But what you are describing is consistent with the experiences of a person with Aspergers Syndrome. People with Aspergers are socially awkward, have trouble making eye contact and tend to be concerned with a narrow range of interests. Often they find the stimulation of large groups of people or a noisy environment overwhelming. Intelligence ranges from very, very smart to intellectually disabled. Since you’ve made it to senior year in spite of your issues, I suspect you are on the very, very smart end of the continuum.

If I’m right, the most important thing I want you to know is that being an Aspie (an affectionate term for people with the syndrome) isn’t the end of the world. Many of my best friends and some of my family members are Aspies. I think they would all tell you that there are some challenges they’ve had to work hard to overcome but their ability to focus on what they really love makes it worth it to them. By the way: Many tell me they have spent hours in front of a mirror teaching themselves how to make appropriate facial expressions.

I suggest you ask your parents to get you an evaluation. Criticism and correction aren’t going to help you. Working with a therapist who has experience with Aspergers will. You can learn how to interact more acceptably and, more important, more comfortably with others.

Meanwhile, you also need some serious coaching if you want to go to art school. It takes more than self-confidence. Most schools require a portfolio. I suggest you see the art teacher at your school for help with that. Then see your guidance counselor to figure out which schools might have a scholarship program you qualify for.

Thank you for your courteous letter. I can sense that you are a warm and interesting person. You just need some help to let others see it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Feb 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Shy, Awkward Teen Wants Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/02/17/7/