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Our 23 Year Old Son Refuses To Get Help For His Anxiety Attacks And Depression.

Question:

Our son has been away at college and began suffering from anxiety attacks and depression about 2 years ago. He has had to drop out of college, lost his job and basically is doing a very poor job of making decisions in general. He lives 9 hours away. We have made numerous trips to get him help in his area, since he refuses to come home. He never follows through with any appointments we make and seems to be getting worse day by day. He currently has a prescription for Paxil, but I’m not sure if he is taking it on a regular basis. He is very angry and not the same young man he was a few years ago. What can we do as parents, other than sit and watch him self-destruct?

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Answer:

You are describing a familiar scenario and it is always painful one for parents. However, as much as I want to be able to tell you what you can do to help your son, I must admit, there is really nothing  to do. In fact, my educated guess is that, the more you push him to get himself help, the more he will be resistant. Here are some of the reasons why I believe there is not much to do:

1. At age 23, your son is still in a protracted adolescent stage of life. It is protracted because the complexity of life today, adolescence is extended into what would have been considered adulthood just 50 years ago. For that reason, his fighting you over getting help is part of that adolescent rebellion.

2. I hate to suggest this to you because there is nothing much you can do about it but, the fact that he is so very changed from a few years ago, may have to do with drug and alcohol abuse.

Please understand, I am not accusing your son because I do not know him, and I am only putting forward a suggestion. However, dropping out of school and not returning home and with him so very angry, does hint at the possiblity of drug abuse, especially today when college often means exposure to this problem.

3. Like it or not and most of us parents do not like it, at age 23, your son is legally if not mentally, an adult and can make his own decisions.

4. As with many men, your son may feel ashamed of himself for needing help for depression and anxiety. This is a common problem and, if this is the case, he needs to be made aware that it is OK to need help.

5. Sometimes, people are resistant to getting help until they are feeling so miserable that they are willing to change and accept psycholgical services.

However:

I do have a couple of ideas that you might try but, in no way can I guarantee results:

1. When you call your son, ask how he is feeling and, if he complains, gently drop a hint that help is available. Then, do not argue with him. Yoiu might also hint to going to psychotherapy is nothing shameful and, even ask him if he is ashamed. He should not be.

2. You could mention that, if he does not want to get help for himself, what about doing it for you and his Dad as both of you are terribly worred about him? A small amount of guilt can, at times, help. Besides, it is true that you and his father are extremely worried about him.

3. I would urge you not to finance him (my opinion). I can only assume that he is self supporting. If this is not true then there is no reason for you to support his stubborness or worse (drug abuse). He should get a job to support himself if he is not in school and wanting to live on his own.

4. If and when he is willing to go for help, he should see a Licensed Clinical Psychologist or Licensed Clinical Social Worker so that he can be properly diagnosed. It may be that anxiety and depression are not his primary problem. Perhaps there is ADHD, etc.

Do not give up hope. However, you need the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomn, to deal with this situation.

Good Luck

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Comments
  • Worried Mom

    Thank you for your response.

  • Lisa Dadiego

    Hi I am a mom of a 8 year old boy, but have have delt with depression all my life. There is hope I have tried everything. One time I was so bad I was in a castrofic coma, all my family was here for my sons Birthday and alls I could do is rock back and forth for a week. Thats when i knew i needed my Dr. He saw me and now I take 150mg of Effexor!! It works I look at life with a whole new look out .If your son wants to email me he may. I wish him the very best. God Speed and good luck.

  • Michael T. McComb

    What the parent described could be due to so many different issues. But, let's just say he is using drugs and drinking (which majority of college students do). Ok. Do we overreact and make this worse than it is (self-fulfilled prophecy) or do we stay calm while reassuring the child that we love him/her and that we will always be there for them? Do we give them "THE HONEST TRUTH" about drugs or do we use scare tactics and set limits/restrictions that could send the child into a downward spiral?

    Michael T. McComb

  • dennis

    after reading aboult youre son,you sound like my mom reaching out to help me.im dennis 28 i`m depresed i suffer from anxiaty and i do smooke weed.i never want t blame the weed for my sad nees or for being scard all the time,but after over 8 years of being like this i want to be normale,but people have no clue how hard EVERYTHING is trying to changes my rotines or daily life habites are allmost imposible.i`ve reached out to a doctore for help and got givine pills.i think in my case and maby others aswell i don`t like pills or i don`t balive theyed work and bigest i`m scared talking them worried ...we need alot of suport but not babyd ....i`m going to leave off right there i hop i can come back hear and type more ...dennis....

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