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Can’t get your twenty-something out of the house? Maybe it’s an Anxiety Disorder…

October 4, 2017

I am seeing more and more families where an adult child (20 – 25) has a serious anxiety disorder with some depression, where the implications of this as an issue of mental illness is not fully understood. The call for help is from one of the parents.

Their adult child barely gets out of the home and is frequently up much of the night and spending time on-line or with video games. The adult child is seen as non-productive, unmotivated and there is often parent/child conflict and also conflict between the parents in terms of how to manage the adult-child.

Because the implications of this as a mental illness is not fully understood, the issues of the affected person are taken as willful behavior instead of understanding that the behavior observed is rooted in a mental illness.

It is so important to understand the implications of an anxiety disorder to appreciate appropriate from inappropriate expectations. It is also important because without a good understanding of the disorder, the wrong treatment may be provided to no effect which only serves to make matters worse.

With regard to anxiety and treatment, so many people are searching for the right key, thinking that with the right key you may get the engine started and the person will be on their way.

The issue though isn’t the key. The issue is the engine itself. There is (a biological basis to the issue.

We may not be able to “fix” the engine.

However, understanding the issues and limitations of the engine, we can set more reasonable expectations and work better within the abilities of that engine.

Knowing these things reduces stress and conflict which in and of itself can help improve function to some degree.

Knowing these things, then we may apply strategies to manage better with the engine we’ve got. Those strategies are likely to include a combination of medication and “psycho-education” which means we explain and educate on the nature and effect of anxiety and strategies for better self-management (not change).

When the parent phones, I get a very brief history on the phone and then set a first meeting with the parents only. More often than not, their adult child has already been well diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

In the meeting, I obtain from the parents a detailed history of the family and members from a bio-psycho-social perspective. I am seeking information trans-generational in nature and probing for issues related to mental health, physical health, addictions, violence/abuse, quality of relationships, developmental histories, personality styles, etc. I am looking for or assessing issues that may be either contributory or intervening variables to the presenting problem.

From there the next meeting is typically with the parents and young adult child together. The assessment continues and on the basis thereof, education and information is provided.

Today’s client found it helpful to have the nature and effect of anxiety explained for their own benefit as well as to the benefit of the parents. The feedback suggested that the information provided was fully consistent with the experience of the person and the parents’ experience of their adult child. The parents found it helpful to have the information in order to be more appropriately supportive. The adult child found it helpful to finally realize what they are grappling with.

We will continue to meet and I will continue to offer coping and management strategies. These meetings are monthly and will only continue as necessary and as helpful.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

3 Comments
  1. Gary, could a poorly crafted custody order, not allowing for frequent and continuing contact with both parents, result in adult separation and anxiety disorder?

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