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Dr. Keane
Dr. Keane, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1371
Experience:  Clinical Psychology PhD, Licensed Professional Counselor with experience in marriage/family, teens and child psychology.
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Jon, We have an adult son (20 yo) who has totally withdrawn.

Customer Question

Jon, We have an adult son (20 yo) who has totally withdrawn. He stays in his room and only comes out when we are at work or asleep. Refuses to communicate with us. Need advice on how to proceed.
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Linda D. replied 5 months ago.
hello, my name is ***** ***** I am a licensed psychotherapist/family therapist in private practice in New York State. Thank you for using Just Answer. This situation must be very, very difficult, frustrating and upsetting to you and your wife. I will do my best to help you. May I ask a few questions to help me understand the best way to proceed? Clearly something is wrong emotionally and mentally for him to be this withdrawn, defiant and uncooperative. How long has he been this way? Does he leave the house at all? Does he have a history of mental illness, drug or substance abuse? Does he use the computer/internet a lot? Can you think of anything that may have preceded this isolation? How is his self care,ie. eating, showering, sleeping, etc. Thank you for answering. I may not be able to answer for a few hours, I will be seeing clients, but I will return as soon as possible. Sincerely, ***** ***** LMSW, CASAC
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
He has been in this state for about a month. For the last week or so he goes outside when we are not home or asleep (we know this because his shoes are by the door when we awake or come home). To the best of my knowledge he has not left our property. He has never been diagnosed with a problem. He has also never entered counseling. We know he smokes marijuana. To the best of our knowledge that is all. He has been gaming a lot. This weekend we blocked his internet access which resulted in a temper tantrum. We know he is eating and appears to be making healthy choices in what he eats. He appears to be showering but not regularly. We just moved, just a few miles away. He displayed most of these symptoms before the move, but not nearly to this extent. Part of the reason for the move was to give him space to play music. I don't believe he has played a note since moving.
Expert:  Linda D. replied 5 months ago.
Okay, thank you and thank you for waiting. Well your answers do rule out some possible issues such as a serious drug addiction, although chronic use of marijuana can cause a lack of motivation in a person, apathy and eventually paranoia. Not leaving the property speaks of possible anxiety (an irrational fear of something bad happening if he leaves, which by the way anxiety can also be the counter effect of prolonged marijuana use.) It has only been two years since he graduated from high school......did he have friends in high school, was he social, how were his grades, was he bullied? Does he have siblings that he is close to? The more information I have, the easier it is to assess what may be happening to him, and I may need even more information depending on your answers. I look forward to hearing from you and if it is possible would really appreciate it if I could talk live to you or his mother. I await to hear from you and will be available for the rest of the afternoon. Sincerely,Linda D., LMSW, CASACBtw., I agree with the consequences you are giving him to help him see the results of his unhealthy emotional cut off from everything. I do also think your son could be reacting to intense fear, emotional pain or a real or imagined threat. It is very important that you reached out to see how he can be helped.
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Linda,Thank you for your prompt reply. How do I get him help directly? Every attempt we have tried has failed. We need some strategies and resources. Your thoughts?Eric
Expert:  Linda D. replied 5 months ago.
Dear *****, without understanding what the underlying causes of Jon's symptoms are it is difficult to assess a plan of action but I can make two recommendations;1). that you continue what would be considered tough love, making sure that he understands that you are doing this out of concern for him and will no longer participate in his unhealthy decision making, and give him as many positive and/or negative consequences for his decision making as possible. (Btw, it is always more effective to use the positives if possible) so for example agreeing to turn the internet back on for the day if he agrees to a one hour conversation with you to discuss what is happening to him. And also consequentially, taking away something else he wants as another negative result of his behavior. This is the time for you and his mother to work together creatively in problem solving how to reach your son with the goal of getting through to him in a safe, caring way to understand that he needs to get professional help. The goal here would be to make this as difficult as possible for him to continue this passive aggressive way he is communicating his anger/pain.The reason I asked about whether he has siblings is that including a person he cares about or is close to, to help reason with him may be helpful as well, instead of this being a contest of wills between him and his parents.2). If he continues to be uncooperative, it would be advisable for you and your wife to seek a psychologist who specializes in family therapy to direct and counsel you both on how to learn behaviors that will not enable his choices and decisions. Right now he feels he is in control, but is also expressing pain underneath this pain/anger. As you can see you can not ultimately control how another person behaves, it is up to him to decide to handle this situation differently, but a clinical person will help you both evaluate what your part is in the dynamic and help you to learn those new strategies that you are needing.This is a very complex situation that did not happen overnight. You stated you made a move on behalf of your son so that he can play music..........that is a great deal of commitment to him and control on his part for the family decisions. the three of you may have developed unhealthy patterns and roles with each other that a professional will be able to help you with identifying and changing. Ideally it would be best for all of you to eventually be in counseling together. I hope these suggestions are helpful. Please let me know if you have any further questions related to what I have shared here. sincerely, ***** ***** LMSW, CASAC