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Ryan LCSW, Mental Health
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 872
Experience:  Individual and Family Therapist
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An 18 yr old girl who says she has a long history of alcohol

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An 18 yr old girl who says she has a long history of alcohol abuse, cutting, suicide, etc. was interested in our son. He is 18 and has some generalized anxiety. He was not interested in a relationship and this year both started university, he in another city. She broke up with a boyfriend in the fall and initiated an intense Facebook relationship with our son, telling him nightly about her cutting, panic attacks, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, etc. She is now saying she has PTSD, and suggests it’s due to past sexual abuse, and wants to tell our son about this.

Question: She says she has been in therapy (including some institutionalization) for years but refuses to talk to help lines or crisis lines when these things occur, saying this “triggers her”.

We think this refusal to seek appropriate help is wrong, and somewhat suspicious, and that in any case, our son is not competent to deal with her problems. We also find it odd that her therapist would not have addressed the problem of her being unable to call a help line.

Are we right, and what should we do?
Thanks for your question.

I can certainly understand your concern about your son's involvement with this young woman. She obviously has some very complex problems, and I can understand your suspicion of her dedication to working through these problem if she refuses to call a helpline when she is having some of her most difficult moments. If she has suffered from sexual abuse as well as all of the other things that you've mentioned, it is possible that she does suffer from PSTD and that is at the root of many of the symptoms that you mentioned.

These are extremely complex issues, and I would not assume that just because she does not reach out for help on helplines, that her therapist has not addressed this issue. Unfortunately people who have problems as significant as this girl often take many years of therapy because they are able to start working on their problems in a productive way, and are able to stay away from the self destructive behaviors. What you have noticed in her unwillingness to reach out for help, is that she is still struggling greatly with these issues, as well as struggling with her ability to help herself. Sadly this is a sign that she typically has a long way to go in therapy in order to manage these issues effectively, and it could be a very long time before she is able to be in a functional relationship without allowing these issues to affect it.

Your son is obviously a very well intentioned and caring individual to listen and support her through these problems. However, these are not problems that are going to go away even with your son's support. Even if she is currently in the hands of a good therapist, it could take a long time before she is at the point where she can handle a normal relationship. Sometimes it is hard to explain this to an 18 year old young man who has feelings for someone like this, but it is important that he does not feel like he needs to 'save' her, or that he puts himself in a position where she is dependent on him to save herself. While your son may mean well, these are not the types of relationships that are sustainable, at least until she is at a point where she is self sufficient and can manage her problems more effectively. It may be possible for him to still be friendly towards her and even have somewhat of a friendship with her, but it is not his job, nor is it healthy for him to be her crisis line when she should be speaking to a professional at those times. I definitely wish you the best with all of this, and if there is anything else I can do to help please let me know.

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