Does My Stepbrother Have an Anxiety Disorder?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S: Hi. I’m 14. I have a step brother that lives in my dad’s house. His mom (my step mom) lives in the house as well. I recently moved in with my dad. My step mom is very protective over her son who is 22. He just recently got his first job ever. But he doesn’t work very often so he does what he’s always done for many years. He stays in his room ALL day. He’s painfully shy and only his very close family gets to see a tiny bit more social side of him. I understand if someone’s shy but when we were in the car the other day, and this has happened before. I’ll touch him on the shoulder and he’ll jump and be startled from a touch. He jumps a lot and gets scared by small sounds. He’s never had a girlfriend, too. He’s 22 years old and I’m confused because I’ve never seen anyone be so antisocial like him. But the jumping thing is what got me to start thinking.

A: Since you are now living in the household, it would make sense to me for you to have a private and honest talk with your dad and perhaps your stepmom about your stepbrother. His mother may be protective for very good reasons. At 14, you can be expected to understand him and to be sympathetic. Do ask your folks what is distressing your stepbrother and if there are any ways you can be helpful. Do make sure you ask in a way that isn’t judgmental and that shows how maturely you can handle whatever answer you get.

There are many possibilities why someone would behave as he does. It could be that he was terribly traumatized at some point and is still recovering. It’s possible that he is on the autism spectrum. And it’s possible that he does have a social anxiety disorder. Those are just a few guesses. It may be something else entirely.

Whatever is going on, it would be helpful to you to have more information so you can avoid stressing him further and perhaps can even be helpful.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Sep 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). Does My Stepbrother Have an Anxiety Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/09/02/does-my-stepbrother-have-an-anxiety-disorder/