Caring for a depressed teenager

Posted by hlvslp72 @hlvslp72, Feb 26, 2019

Good Evening ,
I’m reaching out for advice, thoughts and experiences to help me and my family support my 17 year old son. He was diagnosed with anxiety and depression In the middle of of his Freshman year in high school. He was always a straight A/B student from elementary and all through middle school. School avoidance was a big issue freshman through mid junior year of high school. He is and always has been a quite , shy , somewhat anxious kid but when puberty hit his anxiety heightened leading to more depressive symptoms . He has been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts when he was 16. He is currently treated with medication, sees a psychiatrist monthly and a therapist , who he trusts and will talk to , every other week. School was a trigger for so many things that we decided to pull him from public school and complete his high school credits online . Some days are good and many days are not. I don’t hear suicidal thoughts , but his motivation is minimal. He avoids going anywhere. He will hang out at friends houses or out to eat but comes home and says he “got bored” and gets frustrated that he “can’t enjoy anything”. He constantly tells me how ugly he thinks he is . It’s a continuous roller coaster with his emotions. I know the negativity is the depression talking . We have tried many different medications. Currently he takes 300 mg of Effexor and 1 mg if Rexulti per day. He also takes Adderall to help increase his ability to focus on school work when needed . He has taken the Effexor for over a year and the Rexulti since September of 2018. There was a huge difference when he began the Rexulti and he was “back to normal” for the majority of the fall semester . Then the anxiety crept in and we reverted back, as if the medication was no longer working. An increase in dosage did not seem to make a difference .
I’m hitting a wall. I want to help him but feel I have done all the things a mom needs to, but I’m still trying to pull him out of the depressive moods so often.
I’m here to support him but don’t want to enable him to the point where he won’t leave the house . My husband has a hard time understanding anxiety and depression so I am the main problem solver. We have 2 other younger children . This has affected our family tremendously.
Any thoughts or advice are appreciated !

Good morning,I am terribly sorry that you are going through this horrific time with your 17 y.o. son.I too am going through the exact thing with my 15 y.o. son.I haven't put him on any medications yet.Not sure which safe enough.I'm afraid of making matters worse! I looking and praying for answers for us all.Now looking into CBT therapy, and possibly home schooling.I wish you and your son the best and lots of hugs!

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Hi, @hlvslp72,

Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. As a fellow mom, my heart goes out to you with the depression and anxiety your 17-year-old son has been facing and how it has affected your family. That is very tough he avoids going anywhere, talks about how ugly he is, says he “can’t enjoy anything,” and has a roller coaster of emotions. I am so sorry you feel as though you are hitting a wall with trying to pull him out of the depressive moods so often.

Some Connect members I hope will join this discussion to provide support as well as advice, thoughts and experiences to help you and your family support your 17-year-old son include @dd1931 @rmftucker @krisgrab @merpreb @harleneq @america. I think that @windwalker and @gailb will have some thoughts for you, too.

Will you share a bit more about how this depression and anxiety in your son has affected your family, @hlvslp72?

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@hlvslp72 – Hi and I feel for you so much. We have experienced anxiety, depression and panic disorder with my Grandson. My suggestion if you have not already done so is to get him genetically tested for his psychotropic medications ASAP. We just found out recently per that test that the medication my Grandson was on was not right for him. He has weaned off it and just last week started one on the list of approved meds for him. It has to do with how the liver metabolizes the drug. To me the number one most important thing is to be on the correct med(s). It was done through CAMH in Toronto. It is a saliva test and cost nothing -the results were sent to his doctor. I think this is done in other places-just Google Genetic Testing for Psychotropic Medications.
Good luck and best wishes
Ainsleigh

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@harleneq

Good morning,I am terribly sorry that you are going through this horrific time with your 17 y.o. son.I too am going through the exact thing with my 15 y.o. son.I haven't put him on any medications yet.Not sure which safe enough.I'm afraid of making matters worse! I looking and praying for answers for us all.Now looking into CBT therapy, and possibly home schooling.I wish you and your son the best and lots of hugs!

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@harleneq– Hi- Please see my response to @hlvslp72. I would suggest you get him to a Psychiatrist ASAP and also get the genetic testing done so he can be on the correct medication.
Good luck and best wishes
Ainsleigh

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@hlvslp72, @harleneq, @ainsleigh.
I know that parenting a teen can be complicated and stressful, even in the best of times. And when any kind of a chronic condition is involved (mental or physical) it is easy to see how it might affect the entire household. Your teens are fortunate that you are at their sides during this difficult time. I have located this Health/Patient Care Information from Mayo about Teen Depression that I want to share with you. One important thing that I read is that,"Teen depression isn't a weakness or something that can be overcome with willpower — it can have serious consequences and requires long-term treatment. For most teens, depression symptoms ease with treatment such as medication and psychological counseling."
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/teen-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20350985
I am happy that you have all connected here. I believe in the power of learning from each other and supporting each other. And most important is just knowing that you are not alone!
I used to teach, and when medication is correctly prescribed, the dosage regulated and coordinated with meaningful counseling – it can bs effective.

Have you considered a psychologist and psychologist who specializes in adolescents?

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@helvslp, Hi there. Boy oh boy, do I feel your pain on this one. Your story sounds exactly like mine, except my child is a daughter. I had her online home schooled as well from the 10th grade onward. She would NOT go to school no matter what. Amazingly, she did get a BA degree in Advertising at a University. I have experienced everything you mentioned concerning your son. It is heartbreaking. My daughter is now 31 and just started back to work last month after having been out of the workforce for a year. She works hard all week and then hibernates in her room all weekend. She turns off her phone and ignores the world all weekend. This is worrisome to me. I am so sad for her. She is drop dead gorgeous, and has a personality and humor that doesn't quit. She should be out with friends enjoying her youth. She has never been genetically tested before; I had never even heard of that. I am so glad that this group got started; I wish it had been around back when I was dealing with all of this when she was in high school. It is really weird, my two siblings, myself, and all of my first cousins on my dad's side has a child with the depression and anxiety. It seems there is so much of it going on with the kids today. Is it purely from genetics? Is it from pesticides or fructose in our food, or is it that technology changes so rapidly that they have to be in constant flux? My husband, my daughter's stepdad, didn't understand mental illness either. He would expect her to "Snap out of it.". Or say she was spoiled and lazy. I enrolled us in the 'Family To Family' class through an organization called NAMI. It is a 12 week course, once a week, and free. Wow! What an eye opener that was. It helped my hubby to understand better as well. Just about every city and town has a NAMI chapter. It is well worth looking into. They also have a support group available for the parents as well as the kids. I had been told to be cautious of putting your child in a teen support group because many tend to self medicate and will introduce your child to drugs.

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I speak as the child you have and has now grown elderly. I can relate so much with everything mentioned here. You have all given good advice. I struggled with depression and anxiety, was shy and had a father who did not understand. I have gone through the problem of medications stop working. Here are some observations from me from a lifetime of dealing with this.
I made it through. It was tough, but I made it. All is not hopeless. If I can, so can others.
Be aware that just being there and caring makes a lot of difference.
This is a difficult time of adjustment for your teenager. Adjusting from child to adult is not easy. Your child will amaze you in the changes they can make.
Telling your child about how you had difficulties in your teenager years and how you made it through can help a lot. You did it so there is hope they can.
This time of change will come to an end when your child reaches there twenties and gets established as an adult. If your child gets a lot better and then when they get into their 30s or 40s and then has problems again, it may be a genetic predisposition to depression. This is especially true if there is a history of depression and anxiety in a parent and their ancestors. I can trace this back to my g-great grandfather. Asking questions of your parents and grandparents about this can be done, but be careful to explain you are doing it to help with your child's treatment, and not because you are trying to blame.
Fathers are taught that a male is tough and a male makes it through. Mothers are taught that they are determiners of the child you love. Both perspectives are good and needed. Fathers can and do change their beliefs in their children as mine did. Mothers can accept that not all things are your fault and that we all are born with some kind of genetic predisposition that can cause problems. We all have lived through them.
Medication that stops working was a common thing with me. We all react differently to our meds. With me it was not metabolizing the meds effectively. Thus an increase was not enough for me. Only recently my doctors discovered I needed a lot more. My medication usually is dosed at 20-40 mg. I am now taking 150 mg. This, as I said, is very variable according to the person. Genetic testing can help. Also my doctors say you can just see what happens. If the patient sees the meds stop working, it can be a sign that factors, including genetics, are at work and indicate the necessity of increasing the dosage until it finally works again. Some meds work on others, but will on you, and vice versa. So yes genetic testing can help determine what is the best for the patient. Again just trying different ones will show this. I say this because not everyone can get the test or afford to get the test.
In the end I made it through and am still making it through. Our knowledge on this has expanded so much. When I was a child the idea of chemical causes was just starting to be theorized. There were no antidepressants. And yet I made it through. How much more can today's child make it through. I was shy, now I test right in the middle of shyness and extroverted. I was depressed and now though I still have some problems, it is no longer overwhelming. I can lead a somewhat normal life as long as I continue to take my meds.
Keep up the great work you are doing in helping your child through this.

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Hello @hlvslp72, Your post brought back a lot of memories for me. Our son will be 49 this year. When he was about 13 he went through a lot of the same things. He was always super smart and much more so than dad. When he was in the 5th grade during the summer he went to a chess camp and ended up being the champion. He played me twice and then wouldn't play with me anymore and when I asked him why he said sorry dad it's too easy when I play you. He started having problems in the 7th grade and spent a year in a hospital ward seeing psychiatrists, trying different treatments until they finally through their hands up and said there was nothing they could do. We had to take him to a state hospital and it was pretty much a low point in both my wife's and my life. Probably one of the times I had contemplated suicide but couldn't because of my son and my wife.

When we meet with the social worker at the state hospital I pretty much thought it was a permanent thing. I think the social worker figured this out and told us point blank I don't know what you are thinking but this is not a forever thing. We are here to teach these kids how to live in the real world on their own and teach them coping skills. We were not allowed to visit him for 30 days and he hated every minute of the 6 months he was there. It was a God send because he did come home different. He had several relapses and met regularly with his doctor who tried several new drugs and finally was able to help him. The world of mental health has improved 10 fold since those years so I am really hopeful for you. I know what you must be going through and I feel for you. One of the best things my wife and I did was find a local support group with parents who were facing similar challenges. The support group was part of NAMI – https://www.nami.org/. I would recommend seeing if you can find a local support group if possible.

Our son is doing great now but he has his challenges. He still lives with us but he has always been able to keep a job and provide for his needs. Keep up the great work supporting and advocating for your son and make sure you take care of yourselves too.

John

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First off, let me say I don't have any children. That said, I can only offer my observations from a distance. Growing up is not for sissies, just like growing old is not for sissies. It's important that we recognize as a young person goes through so many hormonal, physical and mental challenges there are bound to be rocky parts in the road. It seems parents have the responsibility, duty and privilege [yes, absolutely privilege] to guide their child through this maze of aging into an adult. I believe that patience and humor is needed along with feet that will stand on morals and not give in. It seems that these days such like @johnbishop stated there are so many more resources available. I wish they had been available when I was growing up. The problems I have that continue to this day would not be as severe as they are. I sincerely wish the best of luck to all parents, caregivers and the young people so that they come out of this as strong as people, more loving people.
Ginger

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@gingerw

First off, let me say I don't have any children. That said, I can only offer my observations from a distance. Growing up is not for sissies, just like growing old is not for sissies. It's important that we recognize as a young person goes through so many hormonal, physical and mental challenges there are bound to be rocky parts in the road. It seems parents have the responsibility, duty and privilege [yes, absolutely privilege] to guide their child through this maze of aging into an adult. I believe that patience and humor is needed along with feet that will stand on morals and not give in. It seems that these days such like @johnbishop stated there are so many more resources available. I wish they had been available when I was growing up. The problems I have that continue to this day would not be as severe as they are. I sincerely wish the best of luck to all parents, caregivers and the young people so that they come out of this as strong as people, more loving people.
Ginger

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@gingerw I agree with what you said My son is now 45 But when he was an adolescent I was going through menopause We had a lot of clashes I even put him out of the car once. But with love you can conquer all. We had hard times but also as you said humor was always keep with us. It is hard believe me to raise teenagers they go through a lot but with love you can conquer it If they need help yes find it . Fortunately the only help my son needed was tutor in math .

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@I was a very tough teenager. I was a twin and there was a lot of needless competition between us. Needless because of the way my mom reacted to us. She wasn't a very warm person and I craved being accepted so I fought back with every thing that a young person has. I've changed a lot, but always love competition. I never got into trouble with the law, but my twin did. I have had so my therapy that I'm surprised that I didn't want to go into the field.

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@johnbishop

Hello @hlvslp72, Your post brought back a lot of memories for me. Our son will be 49 this year. When he was about 13 he went through a lot of the same things. He was always super smart and much more so than dad. When he was in the 5th grade during the summer he went to a chess camp and ended up being the champion. He played me twice and then wouldn't play with me anymore and when I asked him why he said sorry dad it's too easy when I play you. He started having problems in the 7th grade and spent a year in a hospital ward seeing psychiatrists, trying different treatments until they finally through their hands up and said there was nothing they could do. We had to take him to a state hospital and it was pretty much a low point in both my wife's and my life. Probably one of the times I had contemplated suicide but couldn't because of my son and my wife.

When we meet with the social worker at the state hospital I pretty much thought it was a permanent thing. I think the social worker figured this out and told us point blank I don't know what you are thinking but this is not a forever thing. We are here to teach these kids how to live in the real world on their own and teach them coping skills. We were not allowed to visit him for 30 days and he hated every minute of the 6 months he was there. It was a God send because he did come home different. He had several relapses and met regularly with his doctor who tried several new drugs and finally was able to help him. The world of mental health has improved 10 fold since those years so I am really hopeful for you. I know what you must be going through and I feel for you. One of the best things my wife and I did was find a local support group with parents who were facing similar challenges. The support group was part of NAMI – https://www.nami.org/. I would recommend seeing if you can find a local support group if possible.

Our son is doing great now but he has his challenges. He still lives with us but he has always been able to keep a job and provide for his needs. Keep up the great work supporting and advocating for your son and make sure you take care of yourselves too.

John

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Thank you @johnbishop for that heartfelt response. What a wonderful story of hope. I think it is good to realize there are many of us in the same boat. We all struggle, but we all make it.

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@johnbishop

Hello @hlvslp72, Your post brought back a lot of memories for me. Our son will be 49 this year. When he was about 13 he went through a lot of the same things. He was always super smart and much more so than dad. When he was in the 5th grade during the summer he went to a chess camp and ended up being the champion. He played me twice and then wouldn't play with me anymore and when I asked him why he said sorry dad it's too easy when I play you. He started having problems in the 7th grade and spent a year in a hospital ward seeing psychiatrists, trying different treatments until they finally through their hands up and said there was nothing they could do. We had to take him to a state hospital and it was pretty much a low point in both my wife's and my life. Probably one of the times I had contemplated suicide but couldn't because of my son and my wife.

When we meet with the social worker at the state hospital I pretty much thought it was a permanent thing. I think the social worker figured this out and told us point blank I don't know what you are thinking but this is not a forever thing. We are here to teach these kids how to live in the real world on their own and teach them coping skills. We were not allowed to visit him for 30 days and he hated every minute of the 6 months he was there. It was a God send because he did come home different. He had several relapses and met regularly with his doctor who tried several new drugs and finally was able to help him. The world of mental health has improved 10 fold since those years so I am really hopeful for you. I know what you must be going through and I feel for you. One of the best things my wife and I did was find a local support group with parents who were facing similar challenges. The support group was part of NAMI – https://www.nami.org/. I would recommend seeing if you can find a local support group if possible.

Our son is doing great now but he has his challenges. He still lives with us but he has always been able to keep a job and provide for his needs. Keep up the great work supporting and advocating for your son and make sure you take care of yourselves too.

John

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@johnbishop, @johnhans– Very touching stories that you shared with us! Thank you for allowing yourselves to be as vulnerable in your personal stories to come alongside this dear mother and her child. By doing so you both allow your stories to not only be heard by this dear parent reaching out to this group, but also touch so many others that may need help and are in the shadows.
God knows who they are and my prayer is that He will use your stories to bring healing to those families in need.
God bless you both. Jim @thankful

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I think medication and therapy have their legitimate places but I would urge you to access this video on YouTube: The Biggest Disease Affecting Humanity: I am not enough – by Marisa Peer. It could change your son’s and many other’s lives.

He is a high achiever and hates the way he looks. He doesn’t think he is good enough. The biggest disease affecting Humanity. Good Luck and much Love ❤️ Susanna

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I have almost the exact situation, even my son's age. I'd like to share my (limited) success experiences and also asking for help from others.

1. He's been in therapy and medication since the onset in late 2016. After trying numerous meds and dosages, it helped some. But then he stalled. Then I found out about ketamine infusion, a clinic called NY Ketamine Infusion in downtown Manhattan, last year. Please research and familiarize yourself. It made some immediate and unmistakable improvements. It's the only thing that's worked! The first treatment was 6 sessions over two weeks, followed with one booster infusion two months after. BTW, I highly recommend the clinic without reservation.

2. I've been doing some reading on psychedelics, which have attracted a surge of research interest in recent years. But he seems overly cautious and concerned about trying it. I encouraged him to read up on his own. But he seems always focused on the negative — partly as his predisposition and partly, I guess, due to his ongoing anxiety. I highly recommend everyone with similar challenges to read up on this fascinating and promising topic.

3. The effects and experiences with psychedelics, I've come to appreciate, heavily depends on the mindset beforehand (as well as the setting during the process). So he has to want to try it before it can work. You don't just pop in something like the usual meds. This is where I'm stuck. Any advice on how to persuade him would be much appreciated.

4. His currently state, I think, is mostly not depression but rather lingering anxiety. And I suspect a big part is the habit formed over the last 2.5 years — not going to school even when he does manage to get up, procrastinating, spending too much time playing games and chatting, not leaving the house, not doing any physical activity. Am I wrong? Any differing perspectives would be much appreciated.

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