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Why does my son refuse to talk?

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My son is 16, nearly 17. He has developed a habit over the last 3 years of not talking. He talks when it is something he is interested in but only in very difficult to hear sentences. When he doesn’t know the answer he will just withdraw and not answer, not saying anything-not even respond or acknowledge he has heard the question. He will not even make eye contact. When it comes to simple responses to questions like ordering in a restaurant or being waited on in a store he will not say anything no matter how long we wait. He does it at home and at school. When he becomes angry he completely withdraws and will not speak at all will hide behind the hood of his coat or go to sleep rather than express what he is upset about. No matter what we say he will not respond. Any suggestions?

Why does my son refuse to talk?

Answered by on -


In order to help, I would need to know more. (I take it that you have ruled out shyness since you don’t mention it as a possibility. ) If your son is generally doing well in school, active in some activity, and talkative with friends, then I would guess that he is in some kind of power struggle in his family. Making people wait and making them strain to hear puts him in a powerful position in relation to others. If that is the case, the focus needs to be on addressing his relationship with his family.

If, on the other hand, he does the same thing with his friends and if he has withdrawn from all activities other than school, it’s possible that there is a much bigger problem. He may be seriouslydepressed or abusing drugs. The two are not mutually exclusive. Drug abuse often causes depression. Some kids try to relieve their depression by taking drugs. If you have any thought that this is the case, please take him for an evaluation by a therapist who specializes in teens. Depression in adolescents is even more serious than in adults becaause they tend to be more impulsive about hurting themselves. Drug abuse has serious health and legal consequences. If your son refuses to be evaluated, I suggest that you and your wife make an appointment for yourselves to get some guidance about how best to help him. This is too tough and too dangerous to handle alone.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Why does my son refuse to talk?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Why does my son refuse to talk?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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