I haven’t gone to any psychiatrists or mental check-ups my entire life. Maybe I’m just imagining that I have a problem with my mental condition but to be sure, I want to check online if I do have one, before going to a psychiatrist to have an official check-up. I haven’t told my parents about this because I don’t think that they would appreciate having a child who has mental issues and I don’t want to deal with the drama that will undoubtedly ensue.

As a person, I’m not entirely of bad character, although I may be a bit of a social recluse. I feel uncomfortable with others, even my own parents. I feel that I can never be entirely open to anyone, that I should be considering the other person’s reactions to what I’m doing. And of course, I wouldn’t want them to react negatively because I don’t want to deal with the consequences that come with that. This type of behavior eventually resulted to what I am now, a person who does not like social relationships, but thinks that she should because that’s what’s normal, what’s healthy and what is expected for her. I’m told very often that I need to engage in more social situations, like making friends with others. For me, I find it a hassle to become friends with near strangers, even if they are my classmates. I like it better if someone likes my attitude and decide for themselves that they want me around. Of course, that’s how I find myself friends too. I believe that if we are compatible, then we’ll find a way to be friends in the future. If not, then God won’t make trouble for the world to even consider making us friends.

I do have friends, by the way. Although I have this nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that they don’t really like me as much as I like them, it’s simply too much of a bother to cause the drama that will happen if I call them out on it. Not like they will answer me honestly because a person will first try to save themselves before trying to save another’s.

It’s been that way since I can remember. I call it introversion because I don’t have anything else to call my personality by. But I do wonder if it’s something more serious? Thanks.

A. Essentially, it seems that you want to know if your symptoms constitute an emotional problem before you decide whether to consult a mental health professional in person. While it is impossible to provide a diagnosis over the Internet, I can provide general feedback. It’s also important to mention that you are assuming your parents would be upset if you asked them to assist you in consulting a professional but you could be wrong. Don’t assume the worst; you might be surprised by their positive reaction.

You feel uncomfortable with others and can never be “entirely open to anyone.” If I could interview you in person, I would want to know your definition of “entirely open.” Many people are at least a bit reserved no matter who they are around. They likely feel most comfortable when they are alone, with no one around to judge them. Generally speaking, what you described doesn’t seem outside the norm.

It’s also relatively common for people to worry about what others think about them. Teenagers are especially concerned about the opinions of others. Eventually, as you gain more self-confidence, you will likely care less or not at all about what people think of you. That will signify normal and healthy emotional development.

You wrote that you are often told that you need to “engage in more social situations”, but you didn’t say by whom. The person or people giving advice matters because not all advice is good advice. One must be choosy about the advice we take and from whom.

Nevertheless, research has indicated that teenagers are interacting less in person with their peers and more on social media, through their cell phones. This decreases one’s ability to develop healthy social interaction skills. It is better for you to interact with people in person than through screens. Studies of teenagers show that more time spent looking at screens often means an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety. The more face-to-face interaction you can have, the more comfortable you will feel about your social skills. Take every opportunity for face-to-face interaction. Practice will help. It will decrease your anxiety about interacting with people.

As I mentioned above, I can’t determine if something is wrong over the Internet but if you have the opportunity to meet with a mental health professional, you should do so. You don’t have to wait until something is wrong to try counseling. It will help you to develop powerful problem-solving skills that will benefit you for life. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle