Dilemma: my son has no friends

Katharine Whitehorn / 18 January 2016

Agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn hears from a mother concerned about her lonely son's lack of friends.



Dilemma: my son is lonely

We have three sons aged 28, 26 and 24. The two older ones seem happy and well-adjusted, but the youngest is causing us concern because he has no friends.

He has an MSc in IT and a good job with a computer firm. He has always been very quiet and withdrawn. 

Unlike our eldest, he has no social life but comes home from work and spends most of the time in his room. I know he is not happy about this and he has said he doesn’t want to carry on living as his life is so lonely and dull.

I have tried to encourage him to take up a hobby or sport, but with no result – I don’t think he knows how to set about it.

My husband says (and I agree) that it must come from himself. Have you any advice on how to help our son?

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

How very difficult; there are no easy answers. I can only suggest a few things that might help. 

I’m slightly surprised he doesn’t look for friends on Facebook since he lives in a world of computing – but perhaps he’s tried it to no effect. His brothers seem the obvious people to help him – could you talk to them and see if they could include their shy brother in some of their activities? 

It would probably only need one or two girls to take an interest for him to brighten up, at least sufficiently for him to make acquaintances, even if finding real friends took longer. 

What sort of holidays do you take? Could you take him on one with you where there would be people his own age around?

I don’t want to add to your worries, but I do wonder if he might be – or is becoming – clinically depressed. If so, you might feel you have to persuade him to see his GP at least and get some therapy – though as your husband says, ultimately it all has to come from him.

Find out about the depression treatments available.

Our readers say...

We also asked our Facebook followers for their advice...

"Does he complain of loneliness? Some people appear lonely but aren't. Talk to him and find out first, then suggest joining groups/clubs etc with like-minded people and interests. Or try something completely new and hopefully inspiring."

"So many possible reasons - maybe on the low end of the autistic spectrum, perhaps has social anxiety disorder. No easy answers sadly... not everyone fits in easily with their peer group. Family love and support and encouragement always essential, of course."

"Does he know how to make friends, did he have friends when young? It's surprising he can't make friends with like-minded computer types. Maybe a bit of voluntary work would help him be confident amongst people."

"Why would anyone think girls might be the answer? Think again."

"Anxiety is a very complex thing people are very complex. It's good to talk to listen, support and understand... and be there for each other!"

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