How to get a kid to counseling when they won't go...?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Vicky4364, Aug 22, 2016.

  1. Vicky4364

    Vicky4364 New Member

    Hello everyone. This is my first post here. I found this forum with a web search, and I really hope someone here can give me some helpful tips.

    My almost-16 year old son has been struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) for the past year. It started when he left middle school and was about to enter high school. He did all right for the first 6 months or so of 9th grade, but gradually started having more and more anxiety, and around spring break of this year, he was so bad he could no longer attend school, and he's been doing a home school program since then. His anxiety was not due to bullying or problems at school, it seemed to stem more from the huge change of moving from a small, local middle school where he knew everyone, to a huge public high school that's quite far from our house and he knew nobody.

    We've tried medications without much success, and his ability to attend counseling has been sporadic at best (due to panic attacks). We recently found a counseling center much closer to home (walking distance) and he went to his first session last week without a problem and did beautifully. But today, he's back to refusing to leave the house, completely freaking out and nearly making himself vomit/pass out. I can't physically force him to go, obviously, as he's taller and stronger than I am.

    We've already had to deal with $50 cancelled visit fees at the previous counseling place, and they eventually refused to treat him anymore as he missed two appointments in a row. Now I'm worried it's just going to repeat again with this new counselor. How can I get my son the help he urgently needs, if he won't even leave the house? He desperately wants to get back to school and get his life back, but every time he has to leave the house now, he tends to start melting down a few hours before it's time to leave.

    I do my best to remain calm and encourage him to go. I explain that, in order to feel better, he needs to work through the moment of anxiety and realize it's temporary, it'll pass, and that once he gets over the hurdle of getting to the appointment, the worst is over. We try deep breathing, we try refocusing his thoughts, nothing seems to work. And every time he allows the panic to control him and keep him home, I know it's only being reinforced.

    I'm out of ideas, and I'm so exhausted and weary of worrying about him and watching him suffer. Help??
  2. runawaybunny

    runawaybunny Administrator Staff Member

  3. Vicky4364

    Vicky4364 New Member

    Thank you so much for your reply. Even if you don't have firsthand experience with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), it's always nice just to know someone cares!

    Thankfully, this new counselor is much more flexible and understanding. She gave us the option to move our appointment back a few hours and try again. My poor son wound up having to take a Klonopin, so he was knocked out like a zombie, but least HE MADE IT THERE. Fingers crossed that we'll have success again next week. The daily battle to help him through this is so very, very exhausting and hard.
  4. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Hi Vickey

    My son was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and it led to substance abuse and this abuse started when he was prescribed Klonopin. Even that word terrifies me.

    My son has moved on to bigger things as you can see by my signature. I wish to God I had never let him take a narcotic that was addictive. I don't want to scare you but I just had to tell you my experience. I was ignorant to substance abuse back then but I have learned a lot. There are non addictive drugs that can help with anxiety.

    I PRAY you don't have to go through what we went through.
  5. Vicky4364

    Vicky4364 New Member

    We've tried several other medications; Buspar, Propranolol, Zoloft, Prozac, all without any success. The Klonopin is something he is only permitted to use when a panic attack is imminent, and I keep the medication bottle, so he can't get to it himself. And honestly, he HATES the way it makes him feel, he does not like the drunk/dizzy feeling whatsoever.

    I'm so very sorry for what your son has been through :(
  6. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    I sent you a private conversation
  7. StressedM0mma

    StressedM0mma Active Member

    Will his therapist consider some phone appointments until he can comfortably leave the house to to sessions at his/her office? My daughter suffers from anxiety as well, and also had to home school for H.S. for similar reasons.
    I couldn't "force" my daughter to go to counseling. I tried in the beginning, but quickly realized that until she wanted to do the work to lessen the hold her anxiety had over her there was not much I could do.
    I hope your son finds peace soon. I know how stressful this time can be. Hugs.
  8. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Adding in my welcome. I'm sorry things are so rough right now. My daughter deals with depression and anxiety. I don't know how to make someone go to therapy. When my daughter was young we did "force" her to go to therapy so she could learn how to deal with her brother who has his own set of needs. At that age she was young and we could "force" her to go. She didn't want to but we basically didn't do anything else for her unless she went. We wouldn't drive her to events with friends, wouldn't buy her special treats at the grocery store, things like that.

    It made it easier (for her to go for help) when she started dealing with more severe depression and anxiety. She has come a long way and still has a long way to go. She is going to school right now to get her degree in community psychology. She wants to be a therapist for kids dealing with depression and anxiety.

    Sending gentle hugs your way.
    • Optimistic Optimistic x 1
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  9. Vicky4364

    Vicky4364 New Member

    Thanks for your encouragement! I haven't asked about phone appointments, but I may. I know he's got to be willing to do the work for himself. I just try to encourage him as much as I can, and help him believe that he CAN get better, and there is hope for him, but he's got to be willing to face the difficult and uncomfortable stuff.
  10. Vicky4364

    Vicky4364 New Member

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. It helps so much just to know other parents are going through the same things. I've thought about taking away certain privileges (computer, video game time) until he starts keeping his appointments, but he's already lost so much (school, friends, activities) with his anxiety, and he has so few things that bring him any happiness anymore. Is it right to start taking more things away? Especially when he has so little control over his panic attacks? I'd feel like I was punishing the poor kid for having a panic attack, like that's not enough punishment in itself?
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have had panic attacks that were so bad I couldnt leave the house because id be afrsid ive have an attack and scream or go crazy or pass out in front of other people. I wouldnt punish this kid for being mentally ill. Thats like punishing a kid for having a broken leg or epilepsy. Stress kicks up panic attacks. Mine had been dorment for years thrn suddenly ramped up when I went through a divorce. Stress/pressure won't work.

    What Id do is find if there is s psycologist who would start home therapy and working on desensitizing which is very helpful. i needed medications too. I felt safer knowing I had a medication that would stop the panic attack if I had one. You aren't a professional, although a very loving mother, but you don't know either how terrifying a panic attack is or how to teach somebody how to stop them. There are good techniques.

    I wish you and your precious son luck. It takes time and the right help, but is very treatable.
  12. Vicky4364

    Vicky4364 New Member

    Hello Somewhere, thanks for your post. I do understand panic attacks, as I've dealt with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) myself through the years. I know exactly what my son is going through.

    We live in a very small town, so we don't really have a big pool of therapists to pick from. Finding one who works from home would be nice, but I don't know how realistic it is for us. The counseling center we've started using is literally about 3 blocks from our house, and my son felt good enough to walk home on his own after his appointment yesterday. So the big hurdle is just getting him TO his appointments, really. He needs to see that he can do it, that he can make it through, and he'll be all right on the other side. He barely gets out of the house anymore, either, so anytime I can get him out, I need to try.

    I'm very much aware of what panic attacks are, and the techniques to help avoid them, as I've had to use those techniques myself many times! You're right, it takes time, hard work, and patience.
  13. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder. Unfortunately the only medications that work for me are benzos, which I am on in scheduled doses and have been for 12 years. Unfortunately, over that time, I've become dependent on them. Not addicted. In 12 years, my dosage has been increased once, and I don't seek out, let alone enjoy the "high" from benzos, which I experienced when I was first put on them and when my dosage was increased.

    I was NOT able to benefit from therapy until my anxiety and panic was under control with medications, though. If your son is becoming agoraphobic, which it sound like he is, he needs to be properly medicated before that turns into a dysfunctional part of his coping tool kit.

    You can beat it

    In my twenties I was so bad that I used to unable to speak to a clerk at a store and used to try to get my husband to pay for groceries, etc, so I didn't have to interact with the cashiers.

    Now? After several years on medication and therapy I am still socially inept and don't enjoy socialization other than one on one, and get overwhelmed pretty easily.

    But, I can handle myself and my stuff on my own, And the most people think about me is that I'm a little "off" and painfully shy. They then go into shock if I have to switch into assertive mode as it is so opposite from my usual personna. I owe that personna to being the only women in the computer room/server farm in a very male dominateed profession.
  14. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    It seems that so many people have anxiety. I do get it at times myself and I know it's an awful feeling but I know I don't have a disorder because it's not that often, thankfully.

    I have talked to many psychiatrists after we finally said "no more" to the benzos for our son and changed psychiatrists and they have all said that it is not safe for teenagers to use benzos.

    They help immediately then you hit a wall and then what? Then you want another benzo.

    Then anything else you try won't seem like it "works" because it will take time to build up in your system and the relief you feel will be minimal compared to the immediate relief you get from a benzo.

    Talk therapy is so important. My son didn't want to do that. He was young and a guy and men in general don't usually like to talk about their feelings like women do. My husband sure doesn't. He's still of the generation that if you're a man, you can be seen as weak.

    So son ended up in a mess. We ended up in a mess. I just WISH that original psychiatrist had told me the warnings of putting a 15 year old on benzos so I could make an educated choice. I was so green to medications. I put so much trust in the doctor and I think that is where things went south for my son and our family. I am always the type that does a lot of research but it all happened so fast and things were so out of control that I thought that was the answer.
  15. Vicky4364

    Vicky4364 New Member

    RN, my heart really goes out to you. My brother is a lifelong drug addict (he's 40 now) and I've seen how any sort of substance abuse can completely wreck and destroy families.

    We were only prescribed the Klonopin after trying about 5 other medications, and nothing was effective. Even on the long-term medications like Zoloft and Prozac, we noticed no difference in his anxiety, or in the frequence of panic attacks. And as I've said, my son doesn't like the feeling the Klonopin gives him; it knocks him out to where he can hardly function, and gives him nightmares. So while it is a last resort to avoiding a panic attack for him, he doesn't express any desire to take them at other times.

    I agree that talk therapy is crucial. My son is a very open and engaging person, so he doesn't have much trouble talking about things. Hopefully, that will work in his favor with this new counselor.
  16. Go slow mama

    Go slow mama Guest

    Thank you for these posts. A lot of interesting thoughts...

    My son takes lorazepam for anxiety, zopiclone to sleep and sertraline for depression. He has never abused them but he does smoke weed daily and constantly. I have been taking clonazepam for years for my own anxiety and I take it only as needed, not even daily. My son has never tried to steal or use my medications.

    I think that because we're all different, with our own biological neuro-pathways etc, we're all going to respond differently to medications. I agree, these drugs are strong and we as parents should be informed by our medical providers; that said I don't know that it's necessarily true that just because a medication is addictive, someone is bound to abuse it. In my field of work I get a lot of research and education about drugs; there are studies that show certain mental illnesses will correlate with certain drugs. The co-morbid factor of mental illness and substance abuse is so strong, it's hard to negotiate when looking for help but risking addiction.

    Keep trying and keep your head up!