My 19 (20 soon) year old son’s problem requires a long explanation. He has periodically throughout his life had small times of depression (low mood). He had a lot of energy as a child, but as a young adult no longer shows any signs of hyperactivity. He is very bright. Graduated from high school in the top 5% of his class. School comes easy to him when the material is easy for him – which it often was in high school. When it was difficult he sought my help and I drilled him and helped him with study sheet outlines. His first semester of college was not good (grades). His second semester was horrible (he gave up after having a flu). He was very very depressed, but refused to go for counseling – he just wanted to come home and get his head back on straight. It took weeks, but he was soon himself again (he worked and was around a lot of people his age and had a good summer). He came home and attended community college and did real well first semester. Second semester he wanted to return to his college, but we did not have the money without loans so asked him to do one more semester at home. He did awful (again gave up). He makes excuses, but also has shared that he was struggling with a lot of things in his head (not wanting to be here, not knowing anyone in his classes, etc.). He made similar excuses for his poor performance while away at school (did not like roomate, etc.). I have come to the conclusion that he struggles with his thoughts and that when he has a lot on his mind, he can’t concentrate. He seems to have trouble adjusting to new situations and people – and almost becomes immobilized and unable to function (except he has always gotten to work on time). He wants to go to college, he wants to do well, and he is very upset about how things have gone. He does not seem to be able to help himself (doesn’t want his parents’ advice). He has agreed to go for an evaluation to see if he has ADD. I am going to try to get an appointment for him. Hopefully, I can get him in before he goes back to school. He struggles with anger (not violent, just gets mad easily and even with his peers), is very sensitive, and does not like to talk about how he feels and what is going on in his head. Do you have any thoughts on this situation?
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I have a number of thoughts about your son and his situation. Although I cannot give any kind of accurate diagnosis because I do not know your son, I can give a vague impression. Here is my vague impression: You son appears to be experiencing depression. I have no idea whether he does have ADHD. Of course that is a possibility. However, in going for an evaluation, the psychologist or psychiatrist he is going to see should (and will) have an open mind. That is because many things could be causing his problems. Here are some possibilities:
1. Perhaps your son has depression and that accounts for his problems concentrating and doing well in school.
2. He may have a lot of social anxiety and that makes it hard for him to be away at school with people he does not know, and even in classes at the Community College, where he does not know anyone.
3. He could have a combination of depression and sociall anxiety.
4. Yes, there is the possibility of ADHD and that would account for difficulty concentrating and for getting easily angry.
These are just a few possible problems and there could be others. I do agree that he needs evaluation followed by treatment and, maybe, medication. He can get all these met away at school.
It is notoriously true that the first year of College is an extremely difficult time for our young people with the result that many of them do poorly. It is a major adjustment that can take a year to resolve. This is also a difficult time in a young person’s life because they are thinking about their future and how they will live their lives. Issues about dating and getting serious also takes up their thoughts, along with making new friends and not feeling alone at school.
I want to commend you for being alert to what is happening with your son and sending him for evaluation. I would encourage him to return to school after the evaluation and follow up with treatment while there. It is an important step in his life to be able to go to school and I sense, from what you say, that he is upset with himself for not being there. So, encourage him to return as soon as possible.
Best of Luck