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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5820
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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We are concerned about out son. He is a 20 year old college

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We are concerned about out son. He is a 20 year old college son, very bright but doesn't see anything wrong with smoking maruana, trying other drugs, alcohol. He is studying chem engineering and goes into detail about composition ,effects etc. of drugs. Also, he seems very hyper a lot of the time and has developed a very low threshhold for emotional tolerance, angers easily and doesn't seem to get along with others when he used to be so easy going. He used to eat breakfast and skips that meal now as he is usually sleeping then. Has trouble winding down and sleeping. He went into the high school class last Friday to help with a science experiement and all the kids thought he was high on drugs. He hadn't used anything, so told us- he might as well do smoke m. all of the time if he acts the same way when off them. He can't seem to concentrate and seems so agitated most of the time. He doesn't seem to have a sense of right or wrong anymore. We are wondering if he could be bipolar or manic depressive. My dad was an alcoholic so I worry about the addictive personality. Should we schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist? How do we find a good one? Should we keep him out of school next semester? He said he has been trying to get in control and has a girl that he is interested in and started dating 1 month ago but we think he needs more help. He is very bright- perfect SAT but emotionally backward. When he is acting "normal" he has a really engaging personality and people love to be around him. But we don't see that person all of the time. We don't want to lose him when we should be doing something. Smokes cigarettes too. We have two other kids who feel the stress when their brother comes home. They get mad at him. His sister just thinks he needs help. His brother can't understand why his brother is such a screwup. Help! I forgot to tell you that he said he hasn't been happy in a long time.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your problem.

You said in your description that your son has been using marijuana and some other drugs. He also seems hyper in his behavior, has trouble concentrating and is agitated and is having trouble getting along with others.

You mentioned that you are worried that your son has manic depression or bipolar disorder. There are numerous symptoms for both disorders. Although your son has a few, it does not appear he has the symptoms to qualify for either disorder. It is difficult to tell for sure since I cannot do a complete evaluation on him, but some of the major symptoms you did not mention such as persistent sadness, loss of interest in hobbies, or thoughts of suicide. Also manic depression symptoms include grandiose thoughts, severe insomnia, and inappropriate elation. You would see a more dramatic change in his behavior if he had either of these diagnosis.

You can suggest he see a psychiatrist. He could also see a therapist for an evaluation then determine if seeing a psychiatrist is indicated. Since he is also using drugs, they may affect his behavior in ways yet undetermined. That may explain some of what you are seeing with him. The fact that he is 20 years old and is now an adult may hinder you convincing him to see a doctor. He ultimately has the say so in what he decides to do. The only way you could force him to get help is if he shows intent to hurt himself or someone else. In that case, you can have him involuntarily committed.

Talk with your son, express your concerns, and suggest he see someone of his own choice. You can make suggestions, but at his age, he may see it as an attempt to control him and may refuse to comply. I would speak to him in a nonjudgmental way and let him know that you care for him and are concerned.

You may also want to contact a local Al non program for support. If they cannot help, they will refer you. Your local community mental health center will also be able to give you referrals appropriate to helping your family through this. They will also help you find ways to help your son.

There is also a book that can help called Tough Love (Revised Edition): How Parents Can Deal with Drug Abuse by Pauline Neff. It may address younger children but some of the information could be altered to use with your son.

Remember that you need to care for yourself as well. It is hard to parent a child with issues, but the support you offer him and being there for him will help him find his way.

I hope this helped you,


Customer: replied 6 years ago.
He does have trouble going to sleep (by that I mean may not go to bed till 3 or 4- can't wind down) and then can sleep for a long long time. He has also said that he has not been happy for years. Happily, he has said that he is willing to talk with someone about this. He had a bad experience with the person my husband made him see several years ago- too religious based for my son, so I am glad he is willing to see someone. He still has hobbies and is totally against suicide so no concerns there. When I said hyper though, he can get the shakes, talk so fast and seem unable to control himself. He does risky behavior without thinking of the consequences. Leaped back and forth across the creek yesterday, spraining his ankle and skiing in 10 days. I wonder if that can be the drugs. He also said that he has trouble concentrating. Like if he is in the library and someone opens a book, he is compelled to look up. So he wears headphones to block out noises. He thinks he is ADD or ADHD and said he can study and concentrate so much better when he used another student's medicine (?adderol?) Wants to be tested and get on that if appropriate, which he is convinced he would be.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Did any of my last comments give you any further thoughts?

You may be right. The ADD or ADHD might be a better diagnosis. The symptoms you describe sound closer to ADD/ADHD than a Bipolar disorder. If he is willing to see a counselor, they should screen for that as well.

The issue is when you throw in the drug use, the behavioral expectations change. Like I mentioned, drugs can affect people in different ways. That will need to be an integral part of his treatment once he gets started. The counselor may recommend a 12 step program depending on your son's drug use. Your son may also be using the drugs as a way to control his symptoms and once he is on appropriate medication, he might stop using other drugs.

My best to you and your son,


Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for your input Kate. If I can get him in to see anyone this Christmas break, do you think we should have him take a semester off of school to try to get a handle on this or do you think we can get him in to start seeing someone here and then transfer to someone in Austin? I know he is anxious to stay in school but I think it is because he has found a girl that he likes and is just starting to know.


It depends on how he is doing in school. Is he coping with the work load and getting good grades? Does he feel he can fit in counseling and the demands of school? Switching counselors would be difficult because he would probably feel like he doesn't want to tell one counselor everything only to have to repeat it again to another. I would have him see one counselor he feels comfortable with and stick with that person.

Ask him how he feels about staying in school. Sometimes once you stop something like college, it is hard to get back into it. Also, a new girlfriend may also motivate him to work on his problems. At this point, it sounds like he is interested in getting help and that is a very good sign.


Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you Kate. It has been so helpful to hear what you had to say. We will talk with him and try to figure out a plan. If we let him go back to Austin, should I go back with him for a few weeks to start him out with the counseling. And how do you find someone in another city?

I understand about you wanting to go with him to Austin. However, in this case your interaction with him will only build dependency. As much as it may hurt, he needs advice and direction but he must be the one who motivates himself to make these changes. Even with ADHD, he needs to be the one to arrange for a counselor.

He can get recommendations from his school. Another resource is the American Psychological Association. Here is a resource for your son to find a counselor in Austin. The online address is This should help him get started finding a good counselor.

My pleasure helping you tonight,


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