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Sarah, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 143
Experience:  Chart'd Psych, 12 yrs exp. English prisons, Clinical Hypnotherapist, EMDR Therapist, BPS, HPC reg'd.
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My son who is 22 years old will be 23 in August, in 2nd year

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My son who is 22 years old will be 23 in August, in 2nd year university, had lack of motivation for studying for sometime and now I think he develops symptoms of depression as he could not cope with exam in time. I don't know how severe as he lives in Europe and we live in the middle east. he has difficulties in studying for exams, he lives in remoted european city and I think he is isolated and insisting to solve his problem himself. This situation has been going on for 2 years. Now I feel depressed and don't know what to do. I need your help, do you think we should leave him to solve the problem himself or what should we do? How can I help him. should I travel to visit him ? should I bring him here or leave him there he is refusing to visit a doctor. his situation only get worse during exams time, he has good days. but since last summer when he visited us I observed that he is calmn and sad and not talking too much and sometimes he is aggressive most of the time he is absorbed in deep thinking. Keep in mind my son had always difficulties in waking up in the morning since he was 7 years old. He was always study for exam the last days or a month and he successfully passed. when he was 18 he moved to europe with his younst brother to complete his graduate studies. He enjoyed very much what he studying (Medicine) but his problem start at exam time or when he has to deliver a project. he is very active in group work.I think it is very difficult for him to cope with preparations for exams in timely mannered and sit down and studying everyday for few hours. He seems not be convinced to study for many hours but when he does he gets good marks. he always had been good at math.

Hi there,

I have changed the format to Q and A so you can respond when you are ready as you are offline at the moment. Can I ask you, has your son ever experienced problems as school, issues with learning, being told he is not learning well, etc. OR has he experienced what you might call a trauma - an emotional experience at any time in his past that he may not have had the resources to cope with at the time? OR has there been pressure to do well and to learn? Many thanks for your info, it will help me to advise you later. Best Wishes, Sarah

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
lt;p>My son is very clever he always study the month before the exam and passed but didn't like to study all the year around and he always experienced difficulties in getting up in the morning and was very energetic when he was a kid and he was very popular and til now. And I admit we always had forced him to study and do better and finally always he managed. but this lack of motivation started around 5 years ago and now reached it is highest peak. at some time he had difficulties in getting prepared for exams and we always had to force him to do better. one year and a half ago he experienced some kind of phobia and anxiety at exam time,  and a halnow he is studying college which demand several hours studying almost like medicine (he choose to study it himself). But I was always working for many hours a day as I am a researcher and his father is engineer. We always had small arguments at home and unhappy marriage but we still surviving and our life is O.K. We brought them in a demogratic way they always  express what they feel, he started talking about his problem few years back and described it as lack of motivation. he used to be a very happy child and chab too til recently. he was always good at sports. now is practicing a sport everyday.</p>

Hi there,

Apologies for the delay in my reply. This may not be the answer you were hoping for, but it may be the answer to take your son forward. I understand that your son is bright and has chosen his own subject, which requires lots of time and effort. However, I also hear that, as caring parents, you have cajoled and forced (your word) him to do better along the way, no doubt with good and positive intentions that he gets a good education and a good job, so that he can have a comfortable life, which is what we all hope for four our children. Yet I would question 2 things here, and maybe they are related. In order to 'keep going' at something that is tough, it is important to have some levels of internal motivation, rather than external, ie. it needs to come from within the self, rather than from parents or teachers, etc. If the main motivation to do so much hard work comes from an external source, then eventually it will run out. This is because the benefits also become external - I'm doing this for someone else and not me. I wonder whether, one and a half years ago, this 'phobia' was a fear of letting someone (you as parents???) down if it doesn't go well? (I am only guessing, this is a theory based upon what you have told me). The situation then becomes very 'stodgy' for him - the work is hard, he is not self-motivated and the benefits are (perceived to be) for someone else. Maybe he is working out his frustrations now on a daily basis in sport.

If the above is true (and it may not be), then it is possible that your son does not even realise what is going on and may be as confused and concerned by his lack of wanting to learn as you are. Therefore if you ask him about this, he may simply deny it. My advice to you would be to show no concern, as hard as this may be. The consequences of this, over time, would be that your son becomes more and more aware of the consequences of 'not getting on with things' for himself - in some ways, you are his scapegoat - you tell him he must do well, he tells you everything is fine, and this supports his belief that 'everything is fine' when the reality is that all is slipping away from him. You need to allow it to slip without saying anything to him, so that he can see it is slipping without you to be strong for. Then your son can see clearly - this is my life, it is my future, if I work at it, the consequences are for me, the benefits are for me - no-one else. Yes, my parents will be proud - but I am doing this for me. If he chooses to let it all go, then that is his choice and he must suffer the consequences - it's one of life's lessons. Do you see? He cannot do this for you, or his dad, or anyone other than himself. he needs to find his own confidence, his own motivation, his own strength. I'm afraid it's called 'tough love' and it is indeed very tough. You and your husband (or partner, or whoever you have to support you) need to find support and solice in each other and let your son become the person he is going to be. Let the bird out of the cage and he will fly alone - if he dips, he will learn to soar again. I hope this is useful for you. Please press accept if you find my answer valuable. Happy to respond but it will be tomorrow. It is getting late now in England. Be strong, With very Best Wishes, Sarah

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
lt;p>Thanks Sara for your reasonable reply and sorry for the delay in communication, that was mainly due to time differences. But still I have few concerns:</p><p> </p><p>what about his depression and saddenness now is this part of the process of his maturation?. He also pay attention to people say that he is delayed in the University and his younger brother will be one year ahead of him. He himself chose to study in a different city together with one friend who latter changed his mind and went back to the capital city where his brother is studying now but now he missed the company of his brother. don't you think living isolated in this city exaggerated his situation. I still afraid that he might developed severe depression. do you think he can solve the problem himself ? by the way he is more religious now (reasonable). what about his aggressiveness ?. specially now he seems doesn't like us to follow him with phone conversations. By the way I help him financially as his scholar is not enough so I send him money for the last 5 years as he refused to taking Bank loans should I continue doing that or he supposed to have student job and become independent do you think this will help or aggregate considering his mental situation? Again should we treat him now ? do you think we should visit him or not? what about telephone conversations ? looking forward for your reply.</p>sorry for the spelling mistake in my previous letters.

Hi there,

Thanks for your info - depression is a word used by so many people and it is important to know that it means so many different things to every person - maybe your son is depressed because he is lonely, if his friend dropped out and he feels alone. I wonder how much he needs to find an escape route and how much supported he would feel if he were to follow this through - how would you feel if he dropped out? Changed course? took a year out? I wonder if he needs to make changes and feel supported by you in this. if he doesn't wish to take your calls, perhaps you could write to him, but not to tell him what to do, but to tell him how much you love him and are concerned that he is sad, and that you would support him in any decision he feels to make is necessary to take his life forward and be positive again. With regards ***** ***** flow, I can understand totally where you are coming from and if he was doing a less stressful course, I would agree that independence would be best - but given the stress from the course, I wonder if that would be too much for him. Ask him what he needs, rather than giving what you think he needs - it may be the key to his moving on. With best wishes, Sarah

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Dear *****h, Thank you very much for your convincing reply. Just final request do you think he will be able to work his situation out himself or he needs profesional help. He feels this problem can only solved by him. We already told him his health is our major concern and what ever he decides we will support him. His father told to take a year off or change the university or town or work or take a year off. but he was very sad and he said he wants to continue and the decision is not easy and the transfer is not smooth it will take him sometime and he does not want to move from that anyware. Any I wish if I contacted you long before I hope will be happy again and live his life. The only life he is having now is university and sports but not real social life. The only companion
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Dear *****h, Thank you very much for your convincing reply. Just final request do you think he will be able to work his situation out himself or he needs profesional help. He feels this problem can only solved by him. We already told him his health is our major concern and what ever he decides we will support him. His father told to take a year off or change the university or town or work or take a year off. but he was very sad and he said he wants to continue and the decision is not easy and the transfer is not smooth it will take him sometime and he does not want to move from that anyware. Any I wish if I contacted you long before I hope will be happy again and live his life. The only life he is having now is university and sports but not real social life. The only companion he has is his labtop.O.K he he has few friends at Univ. sports mate and pizzeria and shawarima labours where he eats his dinner these days most of the time, he even told me he was helping one of them ( A-level student ) to pass his test (doing some voluntering work).

Hi there,

Thanks for your reply - i am pleased to know that you have supported your son in any changes that he may find useful. I have another question for you - is there a memory where your son 'failed' at anything, been disciplined, upset, annoyed, something happened as a result of the 'failure' ? OR maybe he has never 'failed' at anything, always been a good performer, the best in his class, etc. I will tell you what I am wondering - whether this may be a fear of failure and a reluctance to accept that he may be happier if he made changes to his original decisions. If you think this may be true, it may be worth pointing out to him that if he has made the decision that he could be happier elsewhere, then it is pointless not to act upon it, more positive to accept new pastures and more of a negative to stick to what you know is wrong for yourself. I can only offer these suggestions for you to ponder and reflect upon - another question that springs to mind is maybe he has fallen in love and been spurned by a new partner? he may not wish to share this info with you. What I can say is that, no matter how much you wish to help him and get him to see a professional, he can only do this and take it forward if he is willing to help himself. With regards ***** ***** formal diagnosis, he can only be assessed should he wish to meet with a professional in order to do this. If he feels he can sort it himself, there seems little you can do in a practical sense. In the meantime, you can only continue to be supportive, offering to support whatever he needs without judgment, letting him know that you are around, unconditionally, and that your door is always open. I do hope this is somewhat comforting, even if you cannot do much more for him at the moment. I wonder if, one day, he will appreciate your continues support, but it may be much later in the future. With best wishes, Sarah

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
lt;p>yes he always had problems with compliances and exams preparations but never had difficulties in learning and yes he passed but he was not an A student although sometimes he got good results sometimes bad ones. As I told you he is clever and in average he is a B student but the difficult of all his experience with A-level exam he got ACC the first time and he repeated this twice and couldn't even manage to get what he got before (simply at that time he moved to Europe and started his own life) so he was studying the language and preparing him self for re taking the A-level exams and travel all the way through to the middle east and so he was very upset from himself and I remember we we also at that time could not understand why he could not study if he himself wanted to improve his results but he was always a good performer in sports. One more thing I wanted to ask you is that now whatever we ask him something his reply he doesn't know. He also says that he has difficulties in concentrating in books. is this part of what he is going through.from your experience how much time do you think he needs ? Do you think his phobia is treatable can he heals himself alone ? I am sorry to ask many questions, but your analysis to the situation comfort me and help me to understand what is going on with my son and I think you were right in 90% of what you were saying. I will always refer to you in when I have mental problems. I think you are very qualified and I felt as if I am talking to one of my sisters. I am will be happy to pay the fees and I feel you deserve more than that. Thank you again very much and hopefull in the near future I will tell you how did it goes.</p>
I wonder why he moved so far away to study? Sometimes if we are searching for something, we travel far and wide, believing that the answer will be found when we are there. However, if the answers live inside ourself, then we take the questions with us and can't necessarily find the answers just because we have moved, perhaps even half way around the world. Your son is very young and has lots of time to work out life stuff - this may be what is happening whilst he is away from home. I'm sorry, I can't tell you how long this might take or where he will get his inspiration and answers from - perhaps from a friend, an experience, or maybe from quiet time and contemplation. Are you aware what he is spending his time on the compute doing? Chances are it's harmless, but there are many things on there that can become both addictive and / resource intensive. I don't wish to frighten you, and I only offer these suggestions so you are able to support him if you find it out to be so, but are you sure he isn't playing so-called games that are written in a manner that 'rewards' the player by supplying new characters, new levels, etc. the more that they play. They have been found to be very time consuming, where people (often youngsters) while away the day in some fantasy world. Or maybe he has found gambling sites, etc. Like I say, he is probably not doing these things, but if you have any way of checking, it might be worth it, because then you can help him. Presumably if he has little money, he won't be frittering it away. I want to repeat, he is probably not doing any of these things, but if it turns out that he is, then you can help him. As for him saying he doesn't know the answers, I suspect what he means is that he doesn't want to tell you, which, now he is 22, may simply be him making his own mark in the world and living his independent life for a while. Again, all you can do is be there for him emotionally when he needs you, so continue to be supportive, from afar. Rather than questions, could you try and share your experiences with him, so you can chat without pressuring him to tell you stuff. He may at some point realise that you have stopped showing interest in his life and he may genuinely miss sharing and feel that he wants to share some of his stuff with you. I do hope these answers bring you some more comfort. Many thanks for your comments, you are very kind. If you want to contact me another time, please start your question with the words 'for Sarah' and I will pick it up. Take care, Sarah
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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I had lots of pressure and stress and I was lost in many thoughts I could not understand what was going on but Sarah helped me to sort out reality from thoughts and her words draw a more clear picture and helped see more clearer, she brought the long distance short and the far near. Her words comforts my anxiety, I wonder if we have such people around why do we wait so long to seek their help and take their advice. I wish if my son will contact her. Thanks again sara for your patience, deep analysis and professional thorough reply.

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