What Mental Illness Does My 18 Year Old Have?

Updated on February 12, 2019
C.S. asks from Middlefield, CT
13 answers

My teenage daughter is being treated for anxiety/depression but I think she must have a mental disorder. She is on her third different kind of medication.
She was in a gifted program and had many friends up until 6th grade when she stopped having friends over, stayed in her room a lot, and her grades slipped. We finally got the anxiety disorder diagnosis but getting her to graduate was a struggle. She failed 2 wriiten driving tests before passing and now two drive tests...3rd coming up. She is constantly angry, combative, hostile, directly insulting, swears at me and her brothers. .my husband works all the time, he's no emotional support for me whatsoever. I dont know what to do.
She starts new jobs and quits because she can't handle it. She just started community college, hope she sticks it out. From work she will call and want to come home because she'll start getting a panic attack. I have had to sit in the parking lot for an hour because she begged me to...then she would finish her shift. She just went through 2 boyfriends, she broke up with, both valid reasons, but has maintained a friendship l, barely, with two hs friends. And she verbally abuses my 7 yr old son, when I try to take control, she explodes at me and talks over me. I love her and I'm the parent, but I'm torn between the guilt thst she has these problens (never abused, idk what's caused this, must be me?) And at the same time knowing she's got something wrong, she is so snotty and disrespectful at the simplest conversation that it makes me angry; dont want to be around her, and wish she would snap out of it. Its walking on egg shells around her and so i myself got anxiety startibg 5 yrs ago. I think she has control of some of it and is somewhst spoiled in her thinking. But idk for sure, and idk what to do!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi. I’m a therapist. A few things.....is she possibly being treated for the wrong thing. Believe it or not, the symptoms you describe could be ADHD or ADD. The thing that stands out to me is that she failed her driving test more than once, she is combative, quit doing well in school...the other thing is she bipolar I wonder? If I were you I would start over. I would think about taking her somewhere new, maybe even put her in a treatment facility so they can wean her off of her medication properly, and then see what is actually going on.......

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answers from Portland on

I have a child that is somewhat similar - but not to the same extent, but I can relate to some of what you have written here, so I sympathize. I have a good friend who is going through something similar too. Both our children have some anxiety and I suspect depression.

Both our children (teens) have been in counseling.

The key to surviving it and what is imperative is that you walk away. I went to counseling myself - teenagers in general sometimes take their emotions out on parents (often the mom) and if you're feeling guilty about it (I did too - thinking somehow I did something wrong with this one) then you're overly 'there' for them. You didn't do anything wrong if they have a mental health disorder. Anxious kids/depressed just feel lousy and stressed out in ways they can't express and if they can transfer that upset onto mom - they will. When they hit puberty - it can become almost abusive unless you don't allow it.

I walk away, send to room, and we have consequences for that type of behavior. Again, our kid is not quite as bad, but has been in a few instances. Then loses privileges and just as we did when younger, don't get to join in family things until can be civil and respectful. Ours is not on medication as not to that degree.

I can tell you SLEEP and FOOD is huge - if mine doesn't sleep (can be hard with anxiety) and eat properly - i.e. regularly and sugar makes things worse, as does fast food, then it is like crashes on sugar rushes. Anxiety can soar.

Mine excelled with a job. Loved the routine and rules and so I wonder if your daughter would do well in a different job - something that's very structured. Some places (well known) I can message you, are great for teens with challenges. Where our teen works, there are kids with ADHD, and all kinds of issues. They excel there.

My kid can be a real jerk at times. Socially - friendships have never been the same as they are for the rest of my kids. I don't fully understand it. Is your child slightly narcissistic? Mine is. I think though when you're dealing with an anxiety and trying to handle that as a teen, it's hard not to think of yourself first, because you're coping.

I do think hormones make it all worse, and these years are extremely tough for them. That's how I approach it anyhow. That's why counseling for me was HUGE. The anxiety got better for us as the kid got older. I made the kid own it - and the panic attacks got fewer. Our kid knows there is always an out. I don't try to solve our kid's problems - I stopped that years ago when the counselor - and this site actually - told me I am not responsible for this kid (other than care, love etc.). What my kid does with friends, etc. is my kid's business. I can't solve all my kid's problems.

Protect yourself - I won't do the walking on eggshells things. Just remove your daughter from being around the rest of your family. We make light of it so that our child doesn't affect the mood of the rest of the household. That was key for me because I didn't want us all to be stressed out. I think my reaction was stressing out everyone else more. So I have mommy time outs - I have friends I vent to - and they all have one kid who challenges them - and we all just vent and have a glass of wine.

It could be something more (diagnosis) - I've often wondered that as my husband's side of the family has some mentally ill people - but the counselor felt no. I trust their judgement.

Good luck to you and keep us posted. I think it's very tough and I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. I think we moms need to support each other :)

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answers from San Francisco on

You both need counseling.
Your daughter needs it for sure, it took over a year of weekly therapy for my daughter to get her anxiety under control.
And you need it because as you said, your husband is "no emotional support for me whatsoever." I mean of course you're stressed and angry, you're taking care of your children and no one is taking care of you.
Get on the phone NOW and find a professional to work with. Focus on yourself first, so you can get your own emotions under control.
ETA: re the driving test, why push it? it's common for lots of teenagers to be nervous about driving, especially those with anxiety and emotional issues. This is one battle you can let go of.

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answers from Springfield on

You said your daughter is being treated for anxiety and depression. That same doctor should be able to work with her to determine if there is more going on. You need to speak with that doctor. Even though your daughter is over 18, the doctor should be willing to make an appointment with you and hear your observations and concerns. The doctor may not be able to tell you anything, but you owe it to your daughter to have a conversation with the doctor.

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answers from Denver on

When you say your daughter is being treated, what do you mean exactly? Is she seeing a psychiatrist? Who's prescribing the medication? Is she consistently seeing a therapist or counselor?

There's a lot to consider when someone is taking medication for a mental illness. A psychiatrist (not a psychologist) should be monitoring the reactions, any progress or lack of progress, etc. A pharmacist can tell you if the medicine is being taken correctly (some should be taken with food, some should be taken separately from certain antacids or certain foods, some should be taken at the exact same time every day, etc). And medicines can take several weeks to work. My daughter has been told, when trying a new medication, to give it up to 8 weeks before deciding if the medicine is helping. Of course, if there are severe negative reactions (allergic reaction, etc) it's not possible to give it the 8 weeks.

If your daughter is trying some homeopathic medicine or essential oils, get her to a psychiatrist or physician.

As for the driving, put that on hold until her mental status is balanced and calm and managed. Do you want an abusive, explosive, combative person behind the wheel of a 4000 pound vehicle? I don't.

Thinking about guilt is normal, but it won't help. Call NAMI, call a psychiatrist for yourself. You have a mentally ill, unstable, explosive person living in your house and you need professional help so you know how to protect yourself, your husband, and your son.

My daughter has anxiety and depression too, and it's debilitating. My husband and I have gone to a therapist to understand how to parent her effectively, and how to not blame each other, and how to handle it. Please get professional advice now.

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answers from Louisville on

Ok first of all anxiety and depression can be a severe emotional disorder. And your daughter sounds just like me at that age. My dad would have to come and sit at work just so I could finish a shift. I was home bound for 2 years and didn’t drive for 3 due to anxiety. Trying three medications is not many I tried at least 15 before I found one that made life manageable. It sounds like she has GAD and panic disorder. What kind of doctor is she seeing for her medication? Is she seeing a therapist? Look for someone who specializes in emdr. But please don’t just say oh it’s just anxiety bc it is so hard to live with.

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answers from Portland on

You are not the one who caused this situation. Anytime any of us have difficulty we were impacted by many things. Research has shown that anxiety and depression involve chemical changes in the brain. That is why medication is combined with counseling. Trying different meds is a part of the process to find the right combination of our body and helpful meds.

You have received good advice from other moms. Their experiences seem to be similar to yours. I believe they have given you advice that has helped them.

Is your daughter 18 and an adult. I wrote the following based on her being a teen still under your control as a parent. If she is chronologically an adult change some of my answers to help her to.......see a psychiatrist. I don't know how cooperative she is.

I know from my experience with myself that taking care of myself is an important part of living with a situation such as yours. Eating healthy, getting a healthy amount of sleep and exercise is important. Of course you're overwhelmed and anxious. I suggest you will benefit from some medication for yourself.

My other suggestion related to having some control over this situation is to never argue with her. Step away. Leave the room. This is one if those things we have to "fake it until we make it."

I had support from friends and counselors. Support is very important for our own mental health. NAMI can be helpful in that way. I hope you know some women with whom you can develop a casual relationship. Just being with someone, without talking about or getting support from them, will give you a break from the heavy responsibility you feel. How old are your other children? Get involved with their activities. Take your young son to activities you both enjoy.

If you haven't taken her to a psychiatrist or psychologist for a more thorough diagnosis, make an appointment to do so.

Depression and anxiety can cause this sort of behaviour. Depression and activity can be a form of mental illness. That diagnoses is a part of a medical chart.

Because she's a teen, I suggest some of her behaviour is related to teen issues. Parenting a teen is different than parenting a younger child. Some teens, especially depressed teens, have some difficulty adjusting to hormonal changes. They sre often expected to be more mature than they may be capable of being. Some kids react to the pressure of being a teen with depression and anger. They show there insecurity by trying to be in control of other people. This, along with a lack of working boundaries, could explain being abusive to siblings. All that you describe could be explained as a reaction to anxiety and depression.

If she's not regularly seeing a counselor, I suggest she needs a counselor that she can learn to trust. I suggest that you will benefit from counseling for yourself as you navigate the teen years. A counselor will give you support as well.

Also learn about how to communicate with teens. I recommend 2 books. One is How to Talk So Kids will Listen and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber. There may be the same book directed towards teen behaviour. I also suggest parenting books writen about Love and Logic. Love and Logic has a web site as well as several books.

Kids need boundaries with immediate, consistent rational consequences. Consequences related to their behaviour. They need to know parents love them no matter what they do. Love and Logic describes how to do both for children and Teens. I parented a daughter and then a teen granddaughter. Both of these changed the way I disciplined. I was able to gradually change the way I thought about parenting with the support of counselors.

I've been anxious and depressed my entire life. Once there was available medication I was able to benefit more from counseling. Both my daughter and granddaughter take antidepressant and antidepressant meds. I see a change in how they face life. Medication paired with talk therapy makes a difference over time.

We have all had medication changes until we and the doctor found those who work best for each one of us. Finding the one that works best is trying out different meds. Both my daughter, as a teen, and my teen granddaughter resisted taking meds. They said the meds didn't help. However, I saw a subtle difference. My daughter is taking meds and now says they help her moderate her moods. My adult daughter is in counseling now.

I empathize with you. Parenting teens, at the best, is difficult. When our teen and ourselves are anxious and depressed it's 10 times worse. Know that life will get better.

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answers from Santa Fe on

She needs to be seeing a good therapist because she needs to learn constructive ways to deal with her moods and stress in life other than taking it out on other people. She needs to learn taking responsibility for her own behavior. Otherwise she is going to be one of those angry people who can't keep a job, blame others for everything wrong in their life, and have no friends. She needs to start learning these life skills! She can also work with the therapist on how to tell when a panic attack is coming and what she can do to handle it, calm herself down, and still deal with life in general. She might benefit from a meditation class as well. Also, you need to be better about setting boundaries and not being her doormat. I would suggest therapy for you too to learn how to deal with her calmly. Good luck....this sounds really hard. We had our son see a couple therapists for 2 years to help him with exactly these kinds of skills. Look for someone who specializes in teens, young adults, anger and anxiety.

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answers from Washington DC on

i don't know for sure either and i don't know what you should do.

i know what you shouldn't do, and that's to ask strangers on the internet to diagnose your clearly suffering daughter for you.

i think posting to ask for help developing coping techniques for yourself, or simply seeking some support and sympathy would be completely appropriate. i wish you worded your question thus. i'm going to pretend that's what you did.

if she's simply on medication, it's clear that she needs to be in a much more intensive therapy. if she's seeing a therapist who isn't acknowledging the escalation of the problem or is only throwing different meds at her, you need to find a better therapist and soon.

in the meantime i suggest that you develop some hard boundaries, and very simple ones since your overwhelmed teen probably can't handle a lot of nuance right now. stop 'trying' to intervene when she's abusing your small son. protect him, and back her off. she can explode outside or in her room, but show your 7 year old that you've got his back. don't let your teenager intimidate you into walking on eggshells.

have a simple go-to for when she melts down. if it means she spends most of her life in her (un-internet-ed) room, so be it. if it means she has to put on a coat and go outside to vent, out she goes. if she attempts to physically intimidate you, call the cops.

if she needs to be an inpatient to get the help she needs, get her checked in.

if you're simply looking for sympathy, you've got it from me. this has got to be a terrible atmosphere for your home. my heart is cracking for your young son. i hope you can put some coping solutions in place, and quickly.

ETA LOVE margie's response!!


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answers from San Francisco on

There's a wonderful book that uses your phrase as its title and may help both you and your daughter understand more about what's happening here besides the depression and anxiety.
Stop Walking on Eggshells by Randi Kreger

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answers from Aguadilla on

Hi C., Have you taken your daughter back to the doctor to see if perhaps the meds are still not the right ones for her? I know this is more holistic approach, but is she eating healthy by staying away from junk foods? Its a known fact that when diagnosed with anxiety disorder, mood improves greatly by eating real food. Omega 3 suppliments and Vitamin D help greatly too. Don't know where you live, but getting enough sunshine to get Vit. D is excellent for mood disorders as well as exercise. I would honestly try the natural approaches before meds and wait for a couple of months to see if there are any improvements and if not then proceed with having her meds changed again. Some tough love might be in order at the end of it all as well since she has to follow house rules and respect for her family is at the top of the list. I hope it all works out for you.

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answers from Chicago on

Sounds like she doesn't have very good self-regulation skills and is struggling to hold things together emotionally. Behavior therapy sounds like the direction I'd head. My oldest (at almost 11) is very much like this. We are working on self-regulation, and I'm working on encouraging the positive and ignoring the negative. Look up the explosive child. She's a bit old for that, but it sounds like she fits the bill of an intense kid that is lacking in skills.

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answers from San Francisco on

What therapy has she been receiving? How frequently? What is the level of training of her psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist? Three medications without ongoing therapy is not something I would recommend (Board Certified Child, Adolescent & Adult Psychiatrist).

There also is the issue of compliance with taking medications. Does she want to be taking them and is she taking them? What side effects is she experiencing?

Being compassionate is important but setting limits and boundaries as to what acceptable behavior is, is crucial.

Has she or you ever done Andrew Weill, MD 4-7-8 breathing (check youtube)? Have you or her treater exposed her or encouraged her to do mindful breathing exercises?


S. G., MD

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