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Adult son has no friends, job, life; do I keep hands off??

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Adult son has no friends, job, life; do I keep hands off??

Postby Barbara » Sat Apr 01, 2006 11:49 pm

Hi. I'm a 50-year old working mom. My 23 year old son lives with his father, and we all get along ok, except that I am sad and worried about my son. He has no friends, has not looked for a job since he had to leave college, has never had a girlfriend -- or boyfriend, and seems to live a very small life in his very small room at home. He reads a lot, and likes math and science, and can give any number of answers to tech questions or math problems, but he cannot speak about himself or his feelings, his situation in life at present, or what plans he has, what dreams if any, what desires he has for a life beyond his bedroom. He did go to college for 3 years, got into debt, and came home. He is very secretive about his grades and the debt he owes, in fact his father and I have never seen a transcript, have never seen any accountability for his ever being at the college. He loathed mention of our visiting him there, so we held back and let him be an adult and did not pry, thinking he was happily building his life. Problem is, our laisee-faire is not working. He is very uptight and isolated, and increasingly alienated. He seems not to drink or take drugs, and we have never seen him or smelled him smoking marijuana. He has never been in trouble with the law. He is quite a brilliant thinker and is very good at math and the higher sciences. He is very tidy and gets annoyed if things are not clean. We sent him to a psychotherapist who seems to think there is nothing wrong with him. This makes me doubt the therapist. My son's father will not pry, will not kick him out, will not make him show his grades or his debts. As a mother, I have tried to keep hands off, tried to stay out of it, tried not to be, look, or act worried. But so much time has gone by, and everything we have done and have NOT done has effected zero change on our son's behavior, and we are powerless to give our son what we think could be a better life. I realize, maybe he IS happy living in a tiny room and never seeing anyone.
Does anyone have any suggestions for me, the mom of somebody who doesn't seem to have a life? Should I continue to keep hands off? Should I require him to see a psychiatrist? Should I back off, give him support and reassurance, and just leave him alone to decide for himself? It is very difficult not to keep asking him what he wants to do with his life, or telling him what I think he might try, etc. I tried to set up job interviews for him, but a spiritual advisor said "No way, hands off!" So, I suppose I can only watch him read The Lord of the Rings for the ten thousandth time and play endless online chess with virtual partners (kept at a distance thanks to the internet). His father is content to let him live there forever without working or doing anything outside the house, which I may have to accept, but I can't believe it's normal. I thought perhaps this is all indicative of Avoidant Personality Disorder, which I was tipped off about by a psychology student friend. I am not an invasive person; I have always left him alone. But my son, age 23, a good looking, brilliant man with no friends and no outside life is very painful for me to see.

I thank people for any words or experiences they may offer.
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Postby Book-A-Holic » Sun Apr 02, 2006 2:48 am

Hi,

No two people are exactly the same, but I know it used to make me feel even more inadequate when my parents tried to intervene.
"I think. . . therefore I am" I think?
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Postby Guest » Sun Apr 02, 2006 2:49 am

You obviously care for you son if you are here trying to seek help for him. Your son is an adult, therefore you can not force him to do anything as painful as that is to accept. If your son is not showing signs of depression or anxiety and seems very content, it is possible that he is schizoid and not avoidant. Ir is also possible that he is avoidant and just won't let his symptoms/anxiety show. My advice to you is to have a heart to heart discussion with him at some point. Speak to him alone in a private place. Do not make it seem like you are confronting him. Just start off with small talk then take it up a notch and ask him if he truly is happy living his current alienated lifestyle. There is a difference between prying and showing concern. Let him know he can reach out to you. If he still refuses to open up than there is little you can do. You can not force him to go to a therpaist or go on job interviews. Just try to support him as best you can at that point. I wish I had someone who cared about me the way you do about him. He is very lucky. Good luck.
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Postby Murby » Sun Apr 02, 2006 3:35 am

I fully agree with the point above. I have been in a strikingly similar situation as your son, everything about the description, minus some of the small details, sounds like my life.
If infact he is avoidant, the best thing you can give him is encouragement. Be positive about the things he likes. Maybe learn a bit about the things he likes, so you can start off a conversation that way.
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Postby FriedPiper » Sun Apr 02, 2006 7:14 am

Personally, I dont look to my parents for help because I really hate them...its their fault im AvPD...my mum especially (no offence) since every time she opens her lips, its a complaint about me. (and always has been in the 18 years of my life)
Does he have any brother/sisters? I got one of both and hate them too, lol
Im sorry to say it, but if he doesnt feel secure with turning to you for help, its probably something you did to him a while ago. No biggie, just have a chat with him, tell him your sorry and start viewing him as the young adult he is. You mentioned laissez faire which I believe could have made him over sensitive...is he quite sensitive? Infact parents are a likely factor of the problem. Perhaps he went through a difficult stage in life where you werent there for him? Perhaps he did and you dont know about it?
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Postby Josephine » Sun Apr 02, 2006 2:28 pm

Barbara, it is not always the parents who are to blame. To me it sounds like you have done nothing wrong. (Maybe he was bullied or rejected by someone in highschool or college and never told you about it. Could have been anything.) But even if you have never really criticized him for anything, people who have this disorder still tend to think that every remark is meant to be critical. When you say "Are you really happy without a job or friends?", he may understand it as "I'm really disappointed with you for not having a job at your age and being such a social failure."
I think you should try to establish some kind of relationship with him in which you are equals, so he can begin to feel that he can say something to you, without being judged "from above" for it immediately. Do you sometimes speak to him about your own hopes and fears concerning YOUR life? How can he open up to you, when you yourself keep yourself guarded?
I think developing an interest in his hobbies is a good idea, too. Nobody expects you to become a maths buff, but have you read "Lord of the Rings"? Learnt to play chess? Maybe you'll find there are actually new horizons to be discovered for you too, in his "very small world"...
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Mom keeping hands off... with gratitude

Postby Barbara » Mon Apr 03, 2006 5:43 pm

To everyone who replied to my note, THANK YOU so much! I got a lot of great insight from each and every person who wrote! It was really helpful to hear that it may be me, and not my son, who is most unhappy in this situation. Before I read all your posts, I found on this forum a suggestion for a book, "The Introvert Advantage," the first few pages of which I read online and which I've ordered for my son. I was surprised to read that Extraverts make up about 2/3 of the population whereas Introverts make up about 1/3. In true Chauvinist fashion, we socially outgoing people judge those who are literally happier in their solitude as being "not normal". I felt bad, because it IS intrusive and insensitive to pressure people to be what they are not. I am so happy to get this information because it helps me, and I will share it with my son's dad. Also, I was able to do what one of you suggested, which was to sit and speak gently and not probingly with son about my growing concern. My son was very receptive and seemed more at ease, once I turned the burner down on my "mother's anxiety." When I backed off and let him speak, he was able to tell me in a general way what was going on for him. I certainly wanted to know MORE, but I was able to shut up and take at face value the things he said, with respect for his comfort zone. With just that simple change, he and I both had better communication. All your posts reinforce this and I'm really grateful.
The most important thing here is allowing him the room to be himself, I guess. I think I need reminders. I hope I can post again and get more feedback from you. I would like to tell him about this forum too, so that HE can get the support he may feel he needs. Thanks again to all. Barbara
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Postby FriedPiper » Tue Apr 04, 2006 5:49 am

Thats a great end to a story which sounded so helpless...
But keep in mind that not all avpd are just introverts. As you stated your son is most unhappy in his situation, which could mean hes an extrovert who just doesnt have the confidence to get out there.
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Postby Guest » Thu Apr 06, 2006 2:57 am

he will need health insurance.. hes not in school, hes over 18... its time to bust his bubble and tell him about life. sounds like hes in the wrong world. tell him straight forward... either you get back in college, complete you degree and make something of yourself.. or kick him out the house. although he is at the fathers house... in my opinion that is wrong to allow him to stay at home and play games all day.. why are you allowing this to happen... WHY are YOU and the father allowing him to do nothing with his life.... you need to give him the first kick in the ass to wake him up, thats what a lot of people need to get started.
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Postby planetcutie » Fri Apr 07, 2006 11:19 am

Anonymous wrote:he will need health insurance.. hes not in school, hes over 18... its time to bust his bubble and tell him about life. sounds like hes in the wrong world. tell him straight forward... either you get back in college, complete you degree and make something of yourself.. or kick him out the house. although he is at the fathers house... in my opinion that is wrong to allow him to stay at home and play games all day.. why are you allowing this to happen... WHY are YOU and the father allowing him to do nothing with his life.... you need to give him the first kick in the ass to wake him up, thats what a lot of people need to get started.


Sorry, but I find that offensive. I was in a similar position when I was 20 and if my parents had forced me back into education or kicked me out, I'd have been dead (probably at my own hands) a long time ago. Some people, and you may find it surprising reading this on a mental health forum, are ill and can't cope with the reality of an uncaring world. They need understanding and help, not ultimatums which make them feel that their world is beyond their control more than ever.

It's taken me nearly 10 years to get where I am now. I have a regular job and a mortage, any debts are not massive and I'm slowly trying to deal with people in a social way. There are no overnight solutions to virtual total isolation. My father's attitude was similar to the above posters, and even he knows he was wrong now (he's admitted that he regrets the way I was dealt with , but only to my mother, not to me).

It's all very well saying people need a kick up the arse, and forced into doing things that authority figures want. But people don't work like that, despite what conservative media types say.
"Maybe some day you'll miss me, and when you really miss me, you'll turn around, I won't be there."
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