My 21-year-old son often talks to himself and has done so for many years. When he was younger, it was not a big issue, but now he is more interested in having friendships and an intimate relationship, and the behavior is off-putting to others. Is there a way I can help him stop talking to himself?
- Conversation Is a Two Way Street
A good starting place for a question like this is to remember that all behavior serves a purpose. If you and your son can determine why he engages in this behavior you have a better chance of altering it. For instance, if your son talks to himself to manage anxiety, he may need to learn other skills to help him cope with anxiety. This could be accomplished in individual therapy.
Another thing to remember is that changing behavior can be a difficult process. Since your son wants to develop an intimate relationship, it might be helpful to speak with him about how potential partners might view him when he is seen talking to himself. Helping your son to see how this change will help him reach his end goal of a relationship will give him motivation.
Your son may not see a problem with him talking to himself. If this is the case, getting him to cease this behavior will be very difficult if not impossible. Change is not something that can be forced on a person. Often when a person is forced to change, the person may end up resenting the person who forced the change.
If your son chooses to change this behavior, he will need support as he begins the change process. Change is not a linear process. As your son is working on not talking to himself in public, he likely will experience times when he talks to himself. Again, remember all behavior serves a purpose. If you can help your son by noticing when he is talking to himself and determine what caused the behavior, he can work to develop coping strategies. A therapist or behavior specialist can help you find alternative ways to meet the same needs as his self-talking. Possibilities might include fidgets, writing out his thoughts, or taking some deep breaths to calm anxiety.