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Failure To Launch:  9 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety in Dependent Adult Children

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This week I call your attention to the problem of “Failure to Launch” (FTL) in young adults.

I’m not referring to the awful 2006 movie Failure to Launch starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. In the Hollywood version of FTL a handsome, fun-loving yacht salesman who lives with his parents at age 35 has a problem committing to just one of the many beautiful women who want to sleep with him. When his current romantic interest, played by Ukrainian-Canadian beauty Katheryn Winnick, starts talking about a future together, Trip (McConaughey) slyly brings her back to “his place” where she has a run-in with his mom and promptly exits his life. Problem solved.

In this make-believe world of extended adolescence, all of Trip’s socially active buddies live at home and enjoy the good life, while their parents wonder if they will ever be able to enjoy retirement in peace. It is only by hiring an attractive “professional motivator” (Parker) to date their son and involve him in outlandish intrigues that Trip’s parents are able to bring about a successful launch from the family nest.

Back in the real world, a 35-year old man living at home and still dependent on his parents would be the subject of ridicule and disapproval, as a recent podcast by Eli Lebowitz, PhD, of the Yale Child Study Center, makes clear.

Dr. Lebowitz uses the phrase “failure to launch” in a non-judgmental way to describe the situation of “adult children living at home and highly dependent on parents.” Unlike Trip who drives an expensive sports car, has to fend off attractive women, and sells sailboats for a living, most young adults with FTL live a socially-limited existence. Their situation leads to feelings of shame and isolation while their parents are criticized for being weak and overindulgent. The movie’s title may be amusing, but real life FTL is a serious problem that causes anguish and despair in thousands of families every day.

I first became aware of Dr. Lebowitz’s work when I heard him address a parent group in 2011. His talk on childhood anxiety  was a turning point in my development as a professional and a parent, mainly because of the powerful message he delivered: that anxiety in young people affects entire families and that treatment is most effective when there is support for parents as well as children.

His recent article “Failure to Launch”: Shaping Intervention for Highly Dependent Children  and the accompanying podcast refer to the “dependency trap” that young adults with FTL and their parents fall into when anxiety or other mental health disorders are a problem.

Although the podcast, article and other writings by Dr. Lebowitz are directed at clinicians, his sympathetic tone and clear communication style make his work accessible to non-professionals. His message to clinicians is equally relevant to the parents of a young person with anxiety who refuses treatment. In both cases, parents and professionals are faced with the problem of how to help someone who doesn’t want their help.

Dr. Lebowitz sees FTL as a “system” that involves both the young adult and parents. Although one part of the system may be resistant to change, it is still possible to change the whole system through its other parts, in this case the parents.  His recent podcast on FTL highlights the ways that clinicians can support parents dealing with this problem. These tips can work for parents, too.

Tips for Managing FTL

  1. Stop accommodating. This is obvious. So obvious that we think Trip’s parents are fools for hiring a surrogate girlfriend to lure him out of the house, when what they really need to do is stop feeding, taking care of, and cleaning up after him.  Which is a great segue to the second tip…
  2. Don’t judge. The parental accommodation we see in the movie is what FTL looks like to most outsiders. Young adults with FTL and their parents are used to being harshly judged by other family members, friends, helping professionals and society: ‘What he needs is a good kick in the pants.’ Or ‘Just stop babying him.’ If only it were that easy!  FTL is often caused by a serious mental health condition, such as a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or agoraphobia. Judging the person with FTL and his family minimizes the paralyzing fear he experiences and the real distress that parents feel. After a police intervention, forced hospitalization, assault, or suicide attempt (yes, it gets that bad), parents can be understandably cautious about doing anything that might cause another crisis.
  3. Anxiety is a multi-person system. Parents and their adult children with FTL often feel trapped in a pattern of anxiety and accommodation that only leads to more anxiety and accommodation. Dr. Lebowitz calls this the “protection trap.”  The hopeful message in his approach is that strengthening or changing one part of the system can have an impact on the whole.
  4. Form an alliance. The therapeutic alliance between patient and healer is an essential part of effective treatment. But what if the person with the problem refuses treatment? In cases of FTL the parents may be highly motivated to change the situation, but lack the knowledge, skills, and tools to make a difference. By forming an alliance with those most willing to change, parents and professionals can work together to change the system of anxiety and parental accommodation within the family.
  5. Take small steps. Most parents would like to see their children gain the confidence and skills to move out of the house and establish themselves independently. But to the young person with severe anxiety, such a monumental goal can seem completely unattainable. Parents can help by setting expectations for much smaller realistic goals. Can the young adult with FTL start doing her own laundry? Maybe the first step is to get her to pick the dirty clothes off the floor and put them in a laundry basket.
  6. Actions speak louder than words. This tip goes hand-in-hand with #5. Parents who tell their daughter with severe anxiety to get a job by June or move out of the house, are not just setting her up for failure. They are backing themselves into a corner when June comes around and she still isn’t working. Parents should set realistic expectations and be prepared to follow up with actions. Not washing a young adult’s dirty clothes unless she puts them in the laundry basket is a natural consequence that doesn’t put anyone at risk.
  7. Open up the system. When a young person’s mental health disorder rules the home, the stress can be more than the family “system” can bear. Parents can strengthen the system by adding new parts: neighbors, friends, and relatives who can support the parents and reinforce the message that change is necessary. Seeking help from a professional is another way to open up the system.
  8. Communicate openly and honestly. Changing the family system of anxiety and accommodation is liable to produce many negative feelings in the young person and frequently provokes outright resistance. That’s why it’s important to explain the reasons in advance of the change, preferably in writing as well as at a family meeting (other parent supporters such as aunts and uncles, grandparents, and family friends can be a great help to parents at this stage). Messaging should focus on concern for the person with FTL, not on the wish to be free of the burdens of parenting.
  9. Encourage hope. Making accommodations to young adults with FTL may make them feel safer and more comfortable in the moment. But it leaves them without hope that their situation will improve.  In fact, it usually results in the problem getting worse. Gradually reducing the accommodations while helping young adults with anxiety face their fears sends a hopeful message that change is possible.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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Author Bio: Dr. Lebowitz is an Assistant Professor at the Child Study Center Program for Anxiety Disorders, a participating provider in RtoR’s Directory of Family-Endorsed Providers. For more information about the services of the Yale Program for Anxiety Disorders, including referral information, contact a RtoR Resource Specialist.

Want to read Dr. Lebowitz’s book? Click the link below
Your purchases will help support the costs of running rtor.org, a free service of Laurel House, Inc., 501 (C)(3), non-profit organization.

Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety: A Guide for Caregivers.

Photo credit: Tobin


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Jay Boll, Editor in Chief www.rtor.org

88 thoughts on “Failure To Launch:  9 Tips for Dealing with Anxiety in Dependent Adult Children

  1. Mary Kate says:

    I enjoyed Jay’s article on FTL (Failure to Launch) for many reasons. He states the real problem with great empathy for both parents and the FTL individual and then offers clear steps for growth and change using Dr. Lebowitz’ book and podcast. Well done and truly an article that will help many people.

  2. Ingrid Fitz-James MD says:

    Enlightening! Is there a therapeutic community that young adults can be part of?

  3. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:

    Dr. Fitz-James,

    Thank you for reading the blog and commenting.

    Our Resource Specialist Denise is available to do free consultations with any family member in the New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts region looking for information or resources for a child, adolescent or young adult with anxiety. Families seeking help with referrals or information on anxiety treatment providers can find her contact information here.

    The Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website http://www.adaa.org is another good Internet resource on anxiety. Their website offers a directory of anxiety support groups which covers many communities across the United States and Canada.

  4. Fernando says:

    This article strikes a familiar sentiment with me. My wife and I are both completely frustrated with our FTL son who is now almost 24 years old. I believe he suffers from GAD. I have seen him exhibit behavior that I can only describe as his seeming terrified at the approach of a new situation or responsibility. My wife and I are also guilty of enabling him by providing all the comforts of life so-to-speak and constantly being there as a safety net when he falters. I feel strongly we need to draw in the boundaries and reel in the subsidies that we provide, but she is not completely ready to cooperate. I think we just don’t know what to do. This article may help us to open up some dialogue. Thanks.

  5. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    I know how difficult it can be to have a young adult at home who does not seem to move forward in his life. It is very common for parents in this situation to recognize there is a problem but not be sure of what to do about it. Perhaps our Resources Specialist, Denise, can offer some suggestions. I will ask her to reach out to you on Monday (this is a free service).

  6. Cathy Powell says:

    I found this very enlightening, and feeling a small amount of relief in that this is really a thing and not just a result of ” bad parenting.” We are not in your area though. Could you make any referals or suggestions for northern Virginia/ Washington suburbs?

  7. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:

    Hi Cathy. Glad you found the article helpful. We are in the process of expanding our service area to the entire Northeast, including Maryland and the Washington suburbs. I will have our clinical Resource Specialist contact you by private message to offer assistance. Thank you for visiting http://www.rtor.org. Best wishes -Jay

  8. Ann says:

    Informative article that hits home. We are parents of a 19 yr old multiple who unlike his siblings who attend college and have jobs, he is living at home and cannot move forward to do anything.
    As a child we thought that he displayed having high functioning aspergers and had him tested. We dealt with some anxieties in those early years but nothing that would keep him from attending school or having some friends. But it wasn’t until the transition from elementary to middle school and of course puberty that all things changed. School phobia, sleep habit changes, depression, anxiety, and social phobia. it was a disaster. Not to mention many therapists and medications through the middle and high school years. At the present I see other issues like BDD and some OCD along with the social anxiety. And here we are, an almost 20 year old who sleeps until late morning, plays video games and does nothing, no job , no school. HELP!!! I need a referral in my area, of someone to launch this young man towards greatness

  9. Denise Vestuti, Resource Specialist says:

    Thanks for sharing Ann and I am so happy to hear that you found the article helpful. We receive many emails and calls around these issues, so you are not alone and there are ways to move forward. I will email you privately to offer personal assistance.

  10. MeanMom says:

    Here’s the solution: Simple not complicated” Adult children, you don’t want to be a team player? Get the hell out of my house! Birds do it to their children when they come of age. Flap your wings or drop. Your choice.

  11. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    I believe it is totally within the rights of parents to say to their adult children “It’s my house and my rules, and my way or out.” Sometimes that is the only option parents have and I don’t judge the parent who does it.

    However, the bird analogy doesn’t apply. As someone who spends much time observing birds in the wild and reading about them, I can assure you that it is not at all natural for parents to push their young out of the nest. This is a common misconception. In fact, most baby birds, or “branchers” as they’re called, slowly learn to fly by venturing out of the nest and hopping around on low branches and the ground under their parents’ close supervision. In this way, they gradually develop the skills and abilities they need to leave the nest for good.

    This webpage from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife explains what to do if you find Baby Birds Out of the Nest.

    Thanks for reading my blog and commenting.

  12. Mei says:

    I would like to know if this applies Transgender?
    My son who came out to me 5 years ago he thinks he is transgender and wanting to transition. I took him to psychologist and I do not know what came out of it.. off and on his feeling didn’t go away, he just finish is master degree in EE (electrical engineering). he been working for 9 months now, he told me he hates his job and he wanting to transition and now he wants to go into nursing. somehow he thinks he will be transform to a real woman.. please help me..

  13. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    It is not uncommon for transgender people to experience depression or anxiety, both of which can lead to a failure to launch-like situation.

    I will have Denise, our Resource Specialist, reach out to you by private email to offer assistance.

    In the meantime, here are some online resources which may be of help to you:

    The Trevor Project operates the nation’s leading crisis intervention lifeline for LGBTQ youth (ages 13-24).

    The Trans Lifeline offers a crisis intervention lifeline for transgender people of all ages.

    And here is a website to support the family members of transgender people: Resources for People with Transgender Family Members

    Thank you for visiting http://www.rtor.org and reading my blog.

  14. Mary says:

    Hello Jay,
    What would your advice be for a FTL who is physically disabled as well as having GAD/MDD? I’m 25, have a BA, and have severe physical limitations. I’ve had 3 jobs since finishing college all of which have been part time and I’m appealing for disability right now. My parents insurance is good, so I’ve been through all parts of DBT and tried many medications. I’m struggling to hold a job or find work I can do full time, so I can afford to be independent. I live near Portland, Oregon, so I’m a little far for any direct help, but any advice is appreciated. Thanks!!! Mary

  15. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:

    Hi Mary.

    Thanks for reading my blog. I’d like to start by saying you are not an FTL. Like most young people in this situation, you are struggling with real challenges that are holding you back from living the kind of life you want. That is not a failure, because you recognize the need to do something different and you still have a chance to live that life.

    I use the term FTL in my article because that’s the way many people see the problem. The truth is that most people in this situation want to change, but don’t know what to do. Reaching out for help or advice is a sign of your willingness to change the situation. It is not a failure, but a step on the path to victory!

    Since every FTL story is different, I cannot offer a blanket solution for everyone here in my blog. However, our Resource Specialist Denise would be happy to speak with you about the specifics of your situation and offer advice. This is a free service of Resources to Recover and Laurel House, Inc., the nonprofit organization that provides rtor.org.

  16. Robert says:

    Almost celebrating her 29th year, my daughter languishes at home after finally completing her undergraduate degree cum laude.

    She wants to continue her education with a degree in math, but she can’t start it knowing that it will put her in debt > $20,000. I have asked her to find work to earn the tuition, and shortly thereafter begin her studies to complete the degree and pursue a role in a STEM career. But she won’t for reason that escape me -even refusing if I provided her a car and continued room and board gratis.

    My spouse and I need help to motivate and incent our daughter to launch.

    Thanks in advance for your help and direction!

  17. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    It is reasonable to expect a 28-year-old to figure out how to finance her graduate education. However, some young people can feel extremely challenged to get a job that would help them cover $20,000 in tuition costs – especially if they have not worked recently or have a limited employment history.

    Our Recourse Specialist Denise may be able to offer some advice on how to help her with this challenge and support you and your spouse in the process. I have asked her to contact you in private to offer her assistance.

  18. Rob & Alice says:

    Thank you for your article. We live in northern Virginia and have a 23 yr old daughter who has dropped out of college. She has had a long struggle with depression/anxiety, but successfully got herself on SSI and Medicaid after we could not keep her on our insurance because of her not being in school full time. She tried continuing to live on her own after leaving school; it didn’t work very well and she asked to come home 9 months ago. She eventually signed up for an adult partial hospitalization program, and completed 4 weeks. Now she wants to quit, and we are concerned that she have ongoing counseling and support to make it possible for her to reboot her life, and eventually move out. We would appreciate followup with any ideas you have for us. Thank you!

  19. Terry says:

    Our 24yo daughter lives at home. She is in her final year of undergraduate school. It has been a long road fir our family. Husband, son, myself and of course our daughter. She has had many uncontrollable episodes where she would cry for hours and have terrible temper tantrums. We have seeked advice from phyciatrists. She has been hospitalized twice while a late teenager to no avail. The uncontrollabe crying persists and continues too affect all of us. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  20. Patti Ann says:

    Our son, who is very hyper ADHD and had an extra senior year of High School at an alternative school, came home this October from college after not passing any classes. We told him to get a job which he did only to become a drug addict. He is now in an acute facility and needs to move to residential rehab or intense outpatient treatment.
    Any recommendations for facilities in New Jersey or the Northeast. We think his FTL is causing him pain and inability to move forward resulting in addiction. We are afraid that after treatment he will hole up in his room as he wanted to as he blames addiction on our making him work.

  21. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:

    Patti Ann,

    It sounds like you have taken positive steps by getting your son into a treatment facility for his addiction and thinking ahead to next steps after discharge. I will ask our Resource Specialist Denise to reach out to you by email tomorrow to offer assistance and recommendations for programs in the area. – Jay

  22. Optimistically Searching says:

    Hello , Finding a free support group in Central Florida to help our family with the complexities resulting from our FTL 34 year old son is essential to repairing our continually damaged relationship. I still believe that with the right tools, presenting some options to him, it could be instrumental in guiding him to make a healthy choice to begin his life over outside of our home should he be willing to try. I am researching constantly to find some answers and support but I have not found anything yet. Perhaps there is a database of support groups you might have in this regard? I thank you.

  23. David says:

    My 18 yr.old son, Robert, has been expelled from high school for the second time for possession of pot. He only has 20 credits towards a 42 credit diploma, so I don’t see him going back to high school. He won’t seek a job as other friends do that he is around, thus stealing things from the house to sale or just plain stealing from our pockets when we are not aware. My wife and I lock our bedroom door at nights now to curb the theft. Robert is ADD, but refuses to take his medication. Says it makes him feel too different. He recently put holes in the top of a couple of mettle jars with a sharp object, and he told me he don’t know why he did it. He knows why, but that’s the answer I usually get when I confront him about wrong doing. As you can see from my concerns here, I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to call the law on him for theft, but the wife and I are getting fearful that he will go too far one day. He is a sensitive young man and immature for his age, and I think this is why the wife and I hate the thought of sending him out the door if the behavior continues. Yesterday while we were away, Robert sold our tv in his room, for pot I imagine. What’s next we are constantly thinking. My question at this time, ( what on this earth can or should we do to help our son besides turning him over to the law?) FTL seems to be out of the question since he has no where to go and no monies to speak of. What would you do? Any advice is better than what we have now. Robert has been brought up through the years as a church goer, and I percieve that fearing God and man is not a top priority.

  24. Denise Vestuti LCSW, Resource Specialist says:

    David, I have reached out to you privately to offer some personalized assistance. I want to discuss looking for some co-occurring treatment and presenting that to your son.

  25. Michaela says:

    Having just read an email on your page, posted by “Fernando” which mirrors our problem. My husband and I are extremely worried & frustrated with our FTL son (my step-son) who will be 24 years old in a few months. He will admit to being depressed and lonely & has broken down a few times to his father but refuses to talk about what is bothering him. He has sleep terror episodes occasionally and sleepwalks (runs) from time to time. He has no social life, no friends, he never eats with us at home. He was diagnosed with ADHD as a young child & uses activity to help him burn off some energy, On the surface he looks like the ideal son, he does work ( a job my husband pretty much set him up in) & has a great work ethic, his work is pretty isolated & offers no opportunity to be around people of any age. He is very active in his spare time (on his own) plays basketball at the gym for hours or at home in summer, enjoys being outside by himself or with us but doesn’t really interact on any meaningful level. He does not take drugs, he doesn’t smoke and he rarely allows himself to drink to excess. He does spend much of own time in his room or eating out by himself He worries that he is not clever enough, bright enough etc. He is an extremely articulate and good looking guy, who attracts attention everywhere he goes & manages to strike up an initial conversation with just about anyone of any age & always makes a great impression on anyone he meets, But he fails to connect on any level a second time, his conversations are often repetitive monotonous and frustrating and almost seems to be missing something, if you look carefully, you can see that he has a constant sad look in his eyes, even when he is smiling, I wonder if he may be alexithymic. He has to our knowledge, never had a girlfriend nor does he bring girls home, yet has women throwing themselves at him daily, which embarrasses him & is something that is often brought up by our friends, family members & acquaintances. We are also guilty of enabling him by providing all the comforts of life so-to-speak & a safety net. I feel strongly we need to make some changes at home to prepare him for life away from home, but he doesn’t seem to have any plans beyond today. we have agreed that he needs to be contributing both financially and personally. My husband has been very soft and possibly over-protective, something he now admits to & agrees that something has to change. but we don’t know where to start. His son refuses to speak with anyone professional, this is beginning to cause issues in our marriage as I cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks.

  26. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    I have asked our Resource Specialist Denise to contact you to offer assistance.

    At the root of many FTL situations is a problem with depression, anxiety or other mental health disorder. Many young people may be aware that they have a problem and want to seek help, but are reluctant to do so because they don’t want to be labelled, are unsure what treatment may involve (e.g., taking medication), or are afraid of failing. Others may have a more serious condition that prevents them from having insight into their illness. However there are some who know that they are different, but are just not interested in changing or seeking help. A very skilled clinician after a few sessions with a young person can usually tell which of these it is. However, that is not much help if the person refuses to see a professional. In the meantime, the strain on parents and other family members can be considerable.

    Our Resource Specialist, Denise, is very skilled at guiding families through situations like this when the young person is reluctant to seek help.

  27. Dia says:

    My 18 year old has been through a high conflict divorce since age 7. At 11 diagnosed with celiac disease with a history of being a sickly and withdrawn kid. During his senior year last year he was very sick long to a type 1 diabetes diagnosis which rocked all of our worlds

    Now at 18 hes not at dads because all he does is yell and scream at him which creates more anxiety and low self worth. This condition is ruining my current relationship but I have to get him help!

    The challenge is his health issues having to be gluten free and manage his diabetes while in treatment. I put him in a teen rehab for video game addiction last summer 1 week prior to his 18hh birthday and it was not helpful due to the other kids being drug/alcohol and other abuses he felt he was not relating to and checked out

    Now he’s failed his first semester in jr college and now this semester he just got put on probation. He hates I’m micromanaging and monitoring him but he’s distant and not accountable so I have to find things out by reading his emails since he is 18 and the school won’t communicate with me

    Is there an outpatient program in southern California you can suggest? He’s been labeled with so many things this diagnosis is EXACTLY what is going on!


  28. Anna says:

    Like many parents here, I am at a loss. My 19 year old daughter has ADD and has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia this year. She has been struggling with depression and anxiety and has been in treatment for years with varying success. She dropped out of school in senior year but got her GED before she would have graduated (because we set up the testing for her). She did moderately well in a first semester of community college but now in her second semester, her anxiety and depression have peaked again and she is not getting out of bed to go to school. We just found out that she had stopped taking her medication. She stopped going to physical therapy and has absolutely no friends outside the family.
    We can’t keep wanting school and life for her more than she wants it. We can’t keep fighting to get her out of bed in the morning.
    We live in Hawaii and the cost of living is so high that many young adults live at home for a long time but not like this.
    We try so many different things but we are at a loss.

  29. Denise Vestuti LCSW, Resource Specialist says:

    Anna, I am so happy you reached out and I can understand how frustrated you might feel. Your daughter, like many young adults working to manage anxiety and depression often have periods of a set back and then forward movement such as her dropping out senior year but then she was able to self motivate and get her GED. I am happy to set up a call and will email you privately to offer some guidance, tips, support and hope.

  30. Ruth says:

    Our 25 year old daughter has been a been in a cycle of ADD, anxiety and depression. Her moods are cyclical where she seems like she will go out and look for a job and then she is hit with migraines or stomach aches or sleep issues and she just never winds up applying. She does take medication, but has to be reminded daily to take it. She received an AA degree (with much prodding and help from us), but she could never decide what she wanted to major in because she was afraid she wouldl decide on the wrong thing and did not want to make a commitment. She spends a lot of time sleeping and reading “read it” and talks about her on-line friends, but does not really have in-person friends . When people meet her, she seems personable and she has worked part-time in some volunteer positions and has developed computer and some Accounting skills, but cannot transition to a paying job. We are stuck and at a loss, as to what to do, and would really like to know a good professional to contact in our area (Maryland).

  31. maria says:

    I live in NoVA and would love help with my FTL 26 year old son. He has a degree, but it has been almost 2 years since he graduated, no job. He is on meds for GAD but we can not find a good professional to work with.

    Thanks in advance

  32. Shawn says:

    Our 21 year old son is having a difficult time. He was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and ADHD at about 8 years old. He is very bright, but has very low self esteem. He made it through high school due to many interventions. He tried community college, but only lasted 1.5 semesters before quitting. He has struggled over the last few years, but had eventually been working and living independently in an apartment with friends for a few months,, but then he got bored and quit his job, so his friends kicked him out for laying around and not paying rent. Now he is out of work and sleeping in his car. At his request, I am actively looking for a new psychiatrist as he feels his meds are no longer working for him and he doesn’t like his current doctor. Luckily, he is med compliant and sees their benefit but refuses to see a therapist. (Dad is a therapist, so is very opposed to therapy.) Changing his meds is probably a good idea, but he is hoping that just changing meds will be a magic pill and “fix everything”.

    My husband and I are really struggling with trying to support him in healthy, empowering ways without enabling him to continue with his pattern of avoiding life and responsibilities. Whenever we let him stay with us it feels like a band-aid and it just prolongs his struggle. He just wants to sleep or play video games and won’t take any steps to find a job even though he says he wants to work. Plus, he doesn’t want to live with us. Fortunately, he does not have any drug or alcohol issues. We think that a transitional living program (6-12 months) would be perfect for him and he is open to it, but he is hesitant to leave the area because of his friends. We live on the central coast of California. For us, cost is also an issue. Do you know of any FTL programs that deal with depression and motivation issues and teach living skills, but are not for kids with alcohol or drug issues? Any that might take insurance to at least off-set the cost. Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you for your time.

  33. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    You describe what sounds like a challenging situation. When a young person in this situation is resistant to therapy I often recommend something like a “life coach” who can help support employment and education goals. Transitional living programs can be an effective option, but are often quite expensive. Finding the right medications can be helpful, but will not solve the underlying problem, as you note.

    I will contact you privately by email to offer some suggestions.


  34. Debra says:

    I would like to ask your resource specialist some questions concerning my son who is 26 years old and spends 99% of his time in his room.Can she reach out to me? I typed something long and detailed only to lose all I typed. Thank you.

  35. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    Thanks for reading the blog. I will ask one of our Resource Specialists to contact you privately. There is not charge for this free service.

    (Sorry for the inconvenience of losing what you typed the first time.)


  36. paul says:

    My 27 y/o son who is extremely bright was diagnosed with bipolar2 disorder and treated successfully with mood stabilizers during adolescence. He has rejected this unequivocally as a young adult and presently is floundering in life. Since graduation from college, he has been unable to transition to a self-sustaining adult. He has some good relationships and lives with a very supportive woman but has volatile relationships with family, acts impulsively and cannot earn or find a path to employment. He suffers from anxiety, self doubt and hyper-focus which preclude him from pursuing a fulfilling and productive life path. A gifted vocalist, who graduated form NYU with a degree in musical theatre, his disappointing failure to make it in that industry underlies much of his current difficulties in my opinion. Can u help him or recommend someone who can? I believe he needs vocational, behavioral and medical treatment.

  37. Michelle says:

    I have a childhood friend who has a heartbreaking situation. She is in her 30’s and lives with her parents. She has a significant learning disability for which she perhaps never got the right help when she was younger. I ran into her in the supermarket the last time I was home. I asked her “what are you up to in life?” She said she just started a new job “so far it’s holding up, but I’ve never been good at a job”. I told her that it takes a while to learn a job. Her two younger siblings live on their own. She does not seem to have a social network outside of myself and another childhood friend who stop by to visit her at her parents house when we are in town during a holiday. Her mom is wishing there was a program where “she could learn some skills”. She has an associates degree in general studies from a community college and completed job corps. She had a few professional interests, but was not successful in launching a career in those areas. Her mom has some health problems and my friend seems to be developing a comfort zone in helping to take care of her mom. It hurts to hear the way my friend talks about her life. I would love some insight or perspective on this.

  38. Denise Vestuti LCSW, Resource Specialist says:

    Michelle, I think it’s wonderful as a friend you reached out and commented on the blog post. Friends are so incredibly important to our well-being. I will send you an email to offer personalized help as I am happy to look up some resources that might help her. She might need some short-term support to help promote strengths she has such as completing an Associates degree and job core, and enhancing her self-confidence possibly related to her learning disabilities.

  39. Tracy says:

    I’m at a loss. My 21yo daughter (depression, anxiety, ADHD) is in her last year of college (yay). She works two jobs. She was just kicked out of someone’s house (who works for my husband) because of her alleged horrific living conditions. My daughter has never been that way when living with us or with her last roommate. What has happened, or is the woman exaggerating? My daughter isn’t taking the lead in acknowledging the severity of the situation or looking for a new place to live. So I feel like it once again falls on me. My husband (not her father) won’t allow her home and says it’s time for her to figure it out, even if it means living on someone’s couch or her car. I again feel alone in this battle with this awful disease. No one seems to understand she doesn’t want to feel this way or live life this difficult. What do I do?

  40. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    I have asked our Resource Specialist Denise to contact you privately to offer assistance with your situation.

    Thank you for reading the blog and for reaching out to us. Denise will do what she can to help. – Jay

  41. Carol says:

    Thank you so much for your awesome article. My oldest daughter (now 19 1/2) and I have had a long rough road and I’ve had therapists say I was the best mom in the world alllllll the way to somewhat shaming me for not holding various limits (and lately I realized that it is not totally me – – it is simply that I needed more in order to be ABLE to hold some limits for her)…. My daughter was 12 turning 13 on 12/31/10 for first psych admission – and which “laid low” till 11/2/11 and then full force, non stop thru 3/12/14…then one more adm on 10/8-16/14 and blessedly home since then. She has had various diagnoses from MDD, GAD, Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder///traits of BPD…etc I THINK she likely has some Asperger’s, the new Video Game Addiction disorder, and likely Dependent Personality Disorder (particularly given she is adopted and birth mom is known for significant long term substance abuse and my daughter was born testing positive for cocaine so she has a higher tendency toward becoming addicted) AND my daughter has had 3 concussions…. Sept. 2016 she dropped out of school in her senior yr of high school – – having had almost three years of non stop suicide attempts and hospitalizations from 2011-2014 – – it was very difficult to deal with all the losses we ALL had (single mom and a younger daughter; they are both adopted/not biologically related). I’ve not had much support and have gotten thru one more day and one more day… She is pretty cheery in many respects, medication compliant, and I am very supportive/kidding around with her – – yet I do WAY too much for her. I’ve been starting the last 8++ months telling her I love her AND I don’t want to do things she is MORE than capable of doing for herself altho I still wait on her a good bit and cajole her to go places at times. I range from praying and trusting she is ok and going shopping with younger daughter, to feeling I can’t get a full time job in my field due to the what ifs…. A huge struggle for me is to understand WHY….. why doesn’t she want to do anything else??? I couldn’t do what she does….On a positive note she is willing (finally) to have therapy because the new med mgmt prescriber’s office requires patients to be in therapy….so that is something positive. Thx for the opportunity to vent and to read posts of other parents – – I have tried local NAMI support groups but have never met parents in my shoes. I love Matthew McConaughey and totally loved the movie!

  42. Diane says:

    As a mom of a 21-year-old living at home, I just wanted to offer a note to parents and young people – don’t hesitate to reach out to Denise. You will really get help and resources regarding where to start if you have a son or daughter who seems “stuck” and you don’t know what to do. There is genuine help available here, and no strings attached. Hard to believe, but it is true. Thanks to Denise and Jay for this wonderful resource.

  43. Denise Vestuti LCSW, Resource Specialist says:

    Diane, I want to thank you so much for your kind and affirming comments. All of us at rtor.org
    are most appreciative. We hope more parents reach out!

  44. Michelle says:

    This article, including the photo of the ‘FTL room’ and many comments are all to some extent matching my current situation. I have 3 children, my daughter has her bachelors and is working with a full time job and a part time job to save up to buy a house. My youngest boy is getting ready to start 11th grade, has straight A’s, is into sports and self motivated. My son who is the middle child has always been a bit different and it just seems like he struggles to fit in and function. Our area is small so the teachers worked with him and he is intelligent but is also a bit lazy with turning things in on time, etc. He graduated high school and decided he wanted to go to college. He chose to go away to a small college and live on campus but did not pass much of anything except learning how to play D&D which is fine, I just was upset about him not appearing to make much of an effort to go to classes. I even had to jump through hoops to pay extra and get him into another class after he was dropped from one so he could continue to be a full time student. I now have a parent plus loan for no reason. He has been out of college for over a year and has not made much of an effort to do anything with his life that could be considered growing or maturing that I can see. He does work but its only 3 days a week which is enough to pay his car payment, car insurance, student loan and a little left over for fuel and small expenses. I did send him to get tested in case there was something therapy could help him with if there was any diagnosis of Autism, Asperger’s or something that needed special guidance for moving forward. He has social anxiety, antisocial tendencies and some psychopathic tendencies. He did not want to continue with any therapy and he did not want to take any medication. He is not cruel but he does like to be very smart, talk about subjects he has read about (he spends A LOT of time reading things on the internet) but has not really experienced in life. He does not tend to be very affectionate, he misses social cues but has gotten better about it to some extent. He gets angry when he is questioned about what he is doing with his life, I know he wants to be out on his own, but he does not know how to go about doing it. He has spent a lot of years doing nothing, because if you don’t do anything then you can’t mess it up or make mistakes. I plan to ask him to make a goal and then follow through on whatever that goal is no matter how small. It needs to be something worthwhile like – take a college class and pass it or even something small like cleaning everything off the floor in his room. I just want to be making the right decision when it comes to him having the right tools to be able to function and live if and when something happens to me. It is not fair that he would become a burden to his sister. Thank you for listening and thank you for the article. Sometimes it is nice to just know we are not alone.

  45. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:

    Hi Michelle.

    It sounds like your middle son has found a comfort zone in life and is reluctant to move on from there – perhaps out of fear of failing or because he doesn’t know how, as you suggest. In situations like this it helps to focus on what you as the parent can do differently, because there’s only so much you can do to get him to change himself.

    I have asked our Resource Specialist, Denise, to reach out to privately to offer assistance.

    Best wishes, and thanks for reading the blog and commenting.

    – Jay

  46. Laura says:

    We have a 30 year old son who can’t seem to leave home for any significant period of time without returning to the nest. He can’t seem to hold a steady job or maintain relationships despite being highly intelligent (he did finish college but we had to bribe him) and, people tell us, quite personable. He has always had “odd” habits, has been previously diagnosed with OCD, anxiety disorder, ADD, and short term memory deficiencies. I believe he also may have cyclothymic disorder if not, he may have bipolar disorder as he does tend to swing between manic periods and depressive periods. He also has substance abuse issues which clouds the issue greatly. He is extremely opposed to pharmaceuticals, doctors and counseling in general, yet we need to find some resources and help. We are in need of some sort of plan that will help us/him make small and achievable changes that may result in him finding some stability and feeling more confident about his abilities. Our end goal for him is to find some self confidence and learn to be self sustainable.

  47. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    Your son has many of the traits we see in cases of FTL. None of them alone would prevent a young person from moving forward in life, but combined together they present some formidable barriers to independence.

    You are on the right track in thinking of plan that will allow him to make small and achievable changes in his life. In addition, he would probably benefit a great deal from the guidance and support of the right kind of mental health professional. This can be tricky, as many young people in this situation are reluctant to seek treatment for their mental health issues. I have asked one of our Resource Specialists to contact you privately to offer advice in that area.

    Thanks for reading the blog and commenting.

    – Jay

  48. Donald says:

    Jay, I don’t know where to start.
    I have a 27 year old son who just tried to commit suicide by driving his car into a building unrestrained at a very high rate of speed.
    He has always been off to himself and feeling the world is against him. Every time his mother and I help him to get straightened out, he finds a way to destroy all hopes of it happening. After thousands of dollars, many sleepless nights, and buckeys od tears, we are at the end. He spent a week in western pa psychiatric hospital and came home with a positive attitude. It lasted only days, and now he is back to his old depressed, argumentative ways.
    I swore I would never see him homeless, but I also see how it is tearing my wife an my relationship apart.
    I am screaming out for help.
    At times lately, I ponder just getting up on the middle of the night and disappearing. But I would never do this to my wife… Or to him for that matter.

  49. California In-Home Mental Help says:

    Hello, I saw your blog. Your blog is so informative! As per your blog you are providing information about mental health, which is very impressive. actually, we also do the same job.

  50. Anne G says:


    I have a 36 year old daughter who has struggled her entire life with a variety of mental health issues and alcohol addiction. Her most recent crisis/downhill slide landed her on the street last November and she eventually entered the detox unit of the local emergency room. I made arrangements for her to enter a 6 week rehabilitation program after which she was to enter a private facility that would provide her housing, career development and support in behavioral changes for as long as is needed. As soon as she got out of the detox unit she declared that she could handle things. Her father and I found her housing and have paid rent, utilities and food bills since then. She owes thousands of dollars in medical bills because she won’t fill out the required paperwork to enable her to get the level one financial screen. She shows no indication of forward movement and cries at any suggestion to get a job, to meet with the local legal aid group to address the medical bills (she also has substantial bills for previous hospitalizations including liver failure and esophageal varices caused by bulimia). She’s not living in my home nor will I allow her to, but I’m at my wit’s end. Can you suggest any resources in the Central Virginia area?

  51. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    Thanks for reading the blog and commenting. It sounds like you and her father have done the right thing by encouraging your daughter to move towards independence and not allowing her to return home. I’m sure there are resources available to her, but she will have to do her part to take advantage of them. I will have ask one of our Resource Specialists to contact you privately to offer some suggestions on how to help her move forward in her life. Thanks again!


  52. Michele says:

    Our 23 year old son has suffered with chronic depression since middle school. He also has issues with anxiety, panic attacks and aspergers and learning disability. Once in high school he began to do well academically. He graduated and had a fairly successful 3 years of college studying Physics and Bio Chemistry. He decided to transfer to a community college because he began having more difficulties with his studies, depression and anxiety. Before transferring his girlfriend broke up with him and coupled with his other issues really through him over the edge. His therapist thought he needed a break so he took the spring semester off from school and came home. He returned to school this summer (living with his brother) but failed to complete 2 of the 3 classes which were online. He is now saying he thinks he needs more time away from school. He does not have a job nor will he actively apply for one. We support him financially including his portion of the rent (which we really can’t afford). We are desperate for answers! We have found it difficult to find the kind of help for him that makes a real difference. He sees a psychiatrist, is on medication and sees a therapist every other week but things don’t seem to be getting better.

  53. Deborah Lener says:

    My son who is now 45 has had ADHD/ADD, anxiety and depression since child hood. He has been in and out of alcohol recovery for the past 20 years. He is a cancer survivor at 38 with stomach cancer. He has worker at 3 jobs for a short time since then, always saying his anxiety/depression was to blame. He has always been willing to do medication, recovery and therapy. His back living at home with us. (Mom and his step Dad). He has been sober again for 5 months now. He has weekly therapy and monthly addiction therapy, he has applied for 2 jobs recently but not been called back. We are supporting him completely.

  54. sarah says:

    Hello and thank you for your work in this area. I have 2 sons (26 and almost 28). They live in CO and I live in RI. Their father and I were married from 1991 to 2007 – the divorce was very ugly and not wanted by him. He did not work, smoked marijuana every day and did whatever he wanted to do while I worked in Corporate America. He was also physically and verbally abusive. I left for a year in 1999 and took my sons and moved near my mother as I had to travel quite a bit for work and needed her help. His parents got involved and said we owe it to our children to work things out. He went to Menninger in Kansas City and was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personalty Disorder (He had previously been to Betty Ford for cocaine addiction prior to our meeting – and Sierra Tucson in AZ for marijuana and ‘Failure to Launch’ issues. Anyway – after Menninger in 1999 he got a job with American Express as a financial advisor and did some therapy and I returned a year later. After 6 months he quit his job, took a 90K second mortgage on our home to Day Trade from home and lost it all within 6 months. He was only difficult to live with if I put demands on him and when I returned he never was physically abusive but still very emotionally abusive when things got tough. When i left in 2007 my sons were 13 and 14 and went through very dysfunctional experience with our divorce. He took my youngest son to Wyoming when he was 15 and my oldest stayed with me in NY. I sent him to a program called Summit Achievement in Maine when he was between 10th and 11th grade as he wes exhibiting bad behavior with controlling girlfriends (like his father), smoking pot, etc….Fast forward to 2015 – both of my sons were in and out of college and their father was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer at 56 – he deteriorated rapidly especially at the end and passed away May 6 2017. My oldest son graduated from University of Wyoming 5 days later after completing a semester on line. My youngest graduated in December 2017. Since then they moved to Denver and have been in and out of jobs. I have paid off all of their debt – co-signed for a car, a town-house, paid their rent at least half of the time and I am at my wits end. I’m not sure if you have any advice

  55. Kim O’Rielly, Young Adult Resource Manager says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment and accounting of the issues you and your sons have faced over the years. It sounds like you have supported them in numerous ways to help them grow into adulthood. As a next step, you may want to work with a family therapist to help you define what incremental changes you can make in the support you are providing and identify the limits to ongoing help. Look for a family therapist that is experienced in helping parents explore options and leverage that will encourage their young adult’s independence. To learn more, listen to the podcast by Dr. Eli Lebowitz who speaks about young adults struggling with independence and what parents can do to help. https://www.jaacap.org/pb/assets/raw/Health%20Advance/journals/jaac/jaac_pc_55_2.mp3

  56. Carolyn says:

    I can’t get over how much this article sounds like enabling adults who use anxiety and depression as excuses to live off their parents forever. I had extreme anxiety when I worked with several very cruel co-workers who were constantly making my work life a nightmare, and I lived through the most extreme depression after my only child went to Heaven at the age of 19. Guess what I did every day through those terrifying and gut wrenching times. I went to work every day to support our blended family! There are no excuses for adults who play video games or use social media constantly but claim they can’t support themselves. That’s a bunch of BS. They are addicted to technology—not anxious and depressed! SMH.

  57. Lisa R says:

    We have a son who recently turned 24. He has been struggling with GAD – as well as ODD, – his main anxiety issue is very unique and has been haunting him for years – he has trouble entering school buildings or classrooms without having a panic attack (not sure of its origin)

    We have spent many years in family/individual and in & out patient therapy. He went to college (much to our surprise and delight), where during his 3rd year, his anxiety started spiking again. He has been unable to finish his undergrad degree, and has moved back home with a huge college debt loan and about half his degree completed. He is working in retail making minimum wage, and says he plans to finish his degree on-line (even after we asked to him to apply for his Associates degree and get a full time job).

    We have been trying to encourage him and have had regular meetings with him on the advice of our couselor, but it seems everytime we ask him to make a plan and let us know what he is doing, the plan never materializes, and he gets very angry and tunes us out –

    He avoids decision making and planning – and on his days off he plays hours of video games – (he does help out around the house when asked). He is a good person, but does not follow through on getting help for his anxiety – without constant prodding from us – and he refuses to follow through with making a plan for his future (he insists that his mind doesn’t work that way – he doesn’t need to schedule or write things down).

    We would like to encourage him, but also make limits – or deadlines – so that he can continue to move forward – what advice would you have for us to help him move along?

  58. Kim O’Rielly, Young Adult Resource Manager says:

    Thank you for sharing about your son who has been struggling over the past several years. It sounds as though you have engaged is some positive steps to support your son and set some limits to encourage his independence. You may want to listen to a podcast by Dr. Eli Lebowitz who speaks about highly anxious young adults who are struggling with independence and what parents can do. https://www.jaacap.org/pb/assets/raw/Health%20Advance/journals/jaac/jaac_pc_55_2.mp3
    I will email you privately to offer you some assistance and recommendations.

  59. Sharon says:

    My son is 30, college grad, underemployed, lonely& depressed with trouble deciding what he wants to do. He’s on his own, responsible, but lacks motivation. Whenever he has a crisis, I find he stopped taking his medicine(s) a week or two earlier.
    We lost his dad to cancer about 3 years ago and he got out of an abusive girlfriend live-in situation at that same time.
    He gets disappointed with his jobs at the 1 or 2 year mark and now wants to quit, but can’t say what he wants to do instead.
    I’m afraid if he comes back to live at home he will just stay in & play computer games.
    How can I help motivate him to move toward doing something he likes?

  60. Andrea says:

    Hello, Although our 24-year-old daughter does not live at home at this time (she lives with her boyfriend ) we have been providing financial (and emotional support) since she lost her job in November.. Prior to that, we supported her as well through gaps in jobs or jobs where she didn’t make enough to support herself. She’s a 4-year college graduate who was also a collegiate athlete. She’s struggled with serious depression since she was 9 and has been diagnosed with bipolar and has had suicidal tendencies in the past. She is mostly medication compliant unless she lets her prescriptions lapse which throws her into severe episodes. Since her last job ended she just can’t get motivated to start applying to new jobs. She didn’t even apply for unemployment for over two months. We have had numerous pep talks, sat down and reworked her resume and tried to help her reevaluate what she is interested in doing for work and in life, to no avail. We’re exhausted, scared for her wellbeing and running out of resources. I no longer have a car because she commandeered mine and trashed it and she is in constant need of money, no budgeting or thinking ahead. The financial and emotional tolls are overwhelming, and we don’t feel like we are actually making any meaningful improvements to her situation. Just when we think we’ve rounded a corner, another crisis hits. Although we don’t live in your area, any guidance or resources you can point us toward are appreciated (we’re in Sacramento, CA). Thank you.

  61. Kim O’Rielly, Young Adult Resource Manager says:

    Thank you for sharing about your daughter who has been struggling over the past several years. It sounds like you have supported your daughter in numerous ways to help her grow into adulthood. As a next step, you and your husband may want to work with a family therapist to help you define what incremental changes you can make in the support you are providing and identify the limits to ongoing help. I will email you privately to offer you some assistance and recommendations.

  62. Denise says:

    Our oldest son, currently 18yo, was at one time (between 15-16yo) seemingly content with a few friends, and although he found it very difficult to develop relationships was doing ok. He had been diagnosed with anxiety in the 9th grade and was also on ADHD meds. After experiencing some severe depressive episodes we engaged a therapist who specialized in teens with other diagnoses. Together they determined that a change in school would be beneficial, so in the middle of his junior year, my son switched from the very small university-model school to the local high school with over 4K students. We attempted to get him in for an IEP based on mental state, (during the evaluation it was also revealed that he is on the Autism spectrum, but high functioning) but it was denied mainly because his grades up to that point had been really good.

    Has not thrived as hoped; but is in steady decline. He quit his ADHD meds, and he is very sporadic with his anti-depressants. Academically he has failed several classes, and while very intelligent, can’t be bothered to do the work, or he just skips school and stays home. Graduating is in jeopardy. He did manage to get a job last year as part of his therapy challenges, but is not interested in it and wants to get a different one. He has not started driving and does everything to refuse to learn. He had a permit, but it expired and he won’t go to get it renewed. We see glimmers of progress, but are very concerned that the pattern of reluctance is one that will continue will into his 20’s.

    We are currently in need of another therapist as our son has developed a distrust of his current one. On a good note, he does realize that he needs a therapist, and he does agree that he is better on his anti-depressants, but does not make the effort to take them consistently.

    We need help so that we aren’t experiencing this 5 years from now – same song, different verse. We are in the D/FW area about 40 miles north of Dallas.

  63. Joy says:

    Our son is almost 19 and Has had difficulties his entire life. He fell apart in HS and stopped going to school for 6 months citing depression and anxiety. He was also addicted to marijuana and took other drugs too, stole from us, lied a lot, etc. He had 2 inpatient stays and 2 partial programs, was placed on an IEP, saw psychiatrist and had therapy but nothing helped and we Finally took him to a wilderness program followed by a therapeutic boarding school where he did well and graduated from HS 18 months later. He has Been home for 6 months and spiraled down. He is now exactly as he was before: sleeps all day, gave up his PT job (stopped showing up), backed out of community college, stopped working out, stopped seeing his therapist: he does literally nothing other than see his friend (who gives him marijuana), go on his phone and sleep. He did so well while away and the family relationships and it kills me to see this total and utter regression. He does still see his psychiatrist but a recent med change hasn’t helped. He doesn’t use any of the tools that he learned. He has zero motivation. My husband lets him use the car and pays for his phone and I think we should stop doing those things. Our son rarely talks to us and I feel angry and sad all the time. My husband and I argue constantly about him as I don’t want to enable our son to keep doing this. He got accepted to college but I think it would be a waste sending him if he can’t function on a basic level now. We don’t have the money for expensive Community programs for him – we spent it on wilderness and so on. What can we do? Interestingly while he was away for 18 months he functioned well, didn’t have the deep depression, so why is he only like this at home? I can’t handle this for infinity. Given that I have been dealing with him for 18 years (with an 18-month respite while away), I am reaching the point where either I move out or he does. Sometimes he sleeps 18 hours at a time but then is awake at night probably avoiding us. We are in SE Massachusetts. Thank you

  64. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    Thank you for sharing your story. I have been there, too, as have so many others who have commented on this page. It may seem like the situation at home will go on forever, but there are steps you can take to help your son get on a better path.

    One of our Resource Specialists will reach out to you privately to offer assistance and some suggestions.

    Thanks for reaching out – Jay

  65. Regina says:

    Our story is similar to Ann’s and Joy’s above. Our daughter is a little older and has two years of college. I have been looking for resources. We want to be encouraging. She just recently moved back home after being out of our house for a year. She was not able to stay in school or keep a job. She can sleep 14 hours at a time. She has seen therapists and is currently seeing a NP. She’s on medication for anxiety/depression. My husband and I are on the same page, but we struggle with what to do/say. Right now I say very little for fear of an argument. We know short term goals are important, but we need help deciding on goals and even what to say. Please help.

  66. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    Sorry for not responding sooner. I will ask one of our Resource Specialists to contact you in private to offer assistance with your daughter.

    Thank you for reading the blog and reaching out.


  67. Carol says:

    This is an interesting article. My boyfriend’s daughter is 20 and she still leaves at home , she suffers from depression and anxiety And she does not go to school or works. She is also Non-binary and although she has a therapist we don’t think therapy is helping her much. She does not find any motivation to be Independent . Can you please offer some advice ?

  68. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief says:


    This is a common situation for many families, as you can see from all the other comments on this blog post. I will ask one of our Resource Specialists to reach out to you to offer some guidance.

    Thank you for contacting us.


  69. Patricia says:

    I have a 38 year old son with severe anxiety issues. He had a job but lived with me for ten years from when he left college so until he was late 20s. He finally moved in with his cousin and paid her rent and was working. He moved in with his older brother for a spell and then met a girl who was from S Korea who overstayed her visa. he lost his job with the state while he was living with this girl. He decided to walk the AT a couple of years ago. When he got back he didn’t look for job, didn’t;t know what he wanted to do. He and and the girl broke up and he came back here to live. He decided to see a therapist who was great and he finally got a job working on the AT. he was on his way to training in Maryland, so excited and happy he was going to be working where his passion lies. Covid 19 happened right at the time he was about to leave. They weren’t going to have training and they basically closed the trail. he had to come back in here. Now we are still dealing with covid and things are opening up a little. He has some money ( he got some money from the government). He has been fine living here he buys his own food does his own laundry cleans up does our yard work and works small jobs for neighbors. But my husband ( not his father) is upset because he thinks he should try to get a job while he is waiting to go back to the AT to work. He still has the job probably next season. I guess you can call me an enabler. I hate to talk about it and I know he has anxiety. I feel backed into a corner by my husband and my son. I just don’t know how to deal with it. There is a possibility to can work at the new Amazon that opened up in town. I don’t want to give him an ultimatum ( I read the article). Should I let my husband deal with it? Someone I spoke to said : ” what if you (me, his mother.) weren’t around. I feel like I am in the way of his progress. I just don’t know how to approach it. He has done the work and gone out but now because of cover things have gone south. Thanks

  70. Jay Boll, Editor in Chief www.rtor.org says:


    The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of so many people, especially those who live with anxiety and other mental health disorders. How unfortunate that it happened just as your son was about to start a new job.

    I have asked one of our Resource Specialists to reach out to you in private to offer assistance.

    Thank you for reading the blog and commenting.


  71. Amy says:

    This article really resonates with my situation as well. My 24 year old son has been paralysed with anxieties. He lives with me and doesn’t do anything at all. He doesn’t talk very much and has tried to take his life twice already. I really need help for him and he is not very responsive. Talking is one of his weaknesses. I would love to find more ways to help him. To make matters more complicated, he came out and said he is transgender about a year ago. Can someone please provide some additional resources for us?

  72. Sudhir Varma says:

    Needs your help to handle my adult son of 35 years ,who does not want to work outside independently,no friends. Lacks self confidence & does not want to meet psychiatrists.His condition meets as described as FTL.

  73. Susan says:

    Would love a referral for help. My son has ftl. He is a good person but refuses to make a plan for his life. I know we do enable him but not purposely and dont realize it until after the fact. He is 20, not in school with no job. He stays up all night and sleeps all day. He is addicted to video games. He acts out when we try and leave begging us to stay saying he is feeling well, ect. This is the very short version but we are very scared for him and scared for our relationship which has been strained to the max by the household anxiety this is creating. I read Anne’s comments above (2017) and I could have written that. Is there help anywhere because I have looked and found none. I am in WNY.

  74. Jackie says:

    My story is so similar to so many here. My son is 20 yrs old and refuses to make a plan. Spends all his time in his room playing video games with friends. He has tried going to school 3 times but ends up failing or dropping out. After the last time he said school was not for him. We told him it was okay but maybe he should try some certificated program to get a better job. He never comes up with anything. He has had 3 jobs hates them all and ends up quitting. Now he is working at a fast-food place and we have told him he needs to start paying some of his bills. Last year he agreed to go to a psychiatrist. He was with him about 40 min and said he had ADHD and was given a prescrition. He did not take them or go to the followup. Later I had him tested by a psychologist that administered some online tests and interviewed and the results correlated although hse is also depressed. I would like him to address the ADHD issue and he has agree to go but I am having trouble finding a psychiatrist I trust. I also think he needs to go see a therapist. He saw one last year but told me it didn’t help. He tends to tell people what they want to hear and I think that one of the issues we have is not being involved as part of his therapy. I’ve been looking for a family therapist but when I mentioned it to him he was not keen on the idea. Navigating thru the mental health providers is a nightmare with so many different types of practitioners. Also, given that in most of these cases it is the parents that are still bringing the adults to the doctors and they are not necessarily bringing themselves it is hard to figure out if any progress is made. Meanwhile we the parents are spending a lot of money on the therapy sessions. I need help understanding who can help.

  75. Sharon says:

    I have a 31 year old son still living at home. He has ADHD and low self esteem, no friends apart from one person he talks to online. Never had a girlfriend and only had one job as a trainee engineer but he struggled with the coursework deadlines and finished after a year and a half. He stays in his room most of the time and sleeps or goes on the computer. He is very intelligent and can build computers and fix things. He wants to leave home but has no money and doesn’t speak the language where we moved to live in Spain from England. It breaks my heart to see him so depressed when he should be living his life with a job, his own place and a girlfriend. He gets angry and frustrated but has lost all confidence. I don’t know how things can change and how he can leave home because he has nothing. My husband has had it with him they ended up fighting in the garden a few months ago because my husband was making fun of him through anger and frustration but he isn’t helping. His dad lives in Australia and won’t help. I don’t what to do but my health has suffered. I had a stroke and suffer from fibromyalgia and had to retire early so money is tight.

  76. Danielle Leblanc says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I know how difficult this can be for the family especially your son. It is not uncommon for individuals to struggle with adjusting to a new country especially when there is mental health concerns. This is why, it is important for your son to engage in therapy so he can work on the steps towards independence and happiness. I will contact you privately for more information.


  77. Gertrude says:

    Like many who have posted here, we have a 25yo son who dropped out of college at 20 because he thought it was ridiculous to pay so much when he could learn “everything” from the Internet. We suspected he’d had difficulty finding close friends and he felt lonely, and suspected that he was trying to avoid stress. His dad and I sought counseling when he moved home to be sure we presented a united front, and asked him to sign a contract agreeing to pay rent, get a job or go back to school, do a fair share of chores, etc. and initially he complied. We strongly encouraged it but he said he didn’t need therapy. He acknowledges that he has some anxiety issues. He endured a traumatic diagnosis and month-long hospital stay after surgery for Crohn’s disease as a freshman in high school–a disease he seems to have grown out of, thankfully, but the avoidance of stress in college may have been him trying to avoid Crohn’s rearing its head again. Since he’s been home, we found another therapist for his dad and I who helped us craft a 2-year agreement to pay an increasing amount of rent until he was paying us what he’d pay to live in a local rental, with the deal being that he’d move out at that time. But when the time came, he said he wasn’t ready, that we could kick him out and he’d live on the street. We were stunned, having believed he’d stick to his word to comply. A family member died that week, and months later we hadn’t addressed this failed plan. He got another job but quit that one a year or so later as well. This time he’d saved enough $ to pay rent for another year and a half, up until a year ago when his funds ran out. We used to make him pay for his own food to build up his sense of responsibility over his self care, now he can’t afford that so he is living at home, not working, likely not feeling good about himself, but used to being alone in his room, in his own head, not responsible for more than occasionally walking the dog. He continues to reject the idea of getting therapy. He’s at least still talking openly and frequently to his dad. We’ve read Mark McConville’s remarkably helpful book “Failure to Launch” and reduced our accommodations as best we can. But we’re stuck: he won’t get a job, believing a life of study is a noble thing. He doesn’t engage with friends although he’s delighted if any reach out to him. He’s entertained conspiracy theorists that his dad patiently talks him through, not mocking him but listening carefully. He’s mad at me and barely speaks to me, feeling like I interrogate him when I ask about his feelings. I’m resentful and feeling hopeless that he’ll never kick into gear and we don’t have the right tools to make him get a job, much less move out. My current idea is that I’d like to stop paying for his phone to see if he’d be incentivized to get a job, but his dad doesn’t agree. We’ve severely restricted his access to the Internet, watching to see if this motivates him to work. We’ve been encouraged to rent him a place and move him into it and slowly start paying less and less of the costs until he’s doing it alone, but my husband is too afraid to initiate that. I feel helpless. I desperately wish for a support group of other parents in similar situations, and mentoring offers for our son to avail himself of, but can’t seem to find either. We live in the SF Bay Area. If you have ANY resources to share we’d so appreciate it!

  78. Danielle Leblanc, RtoR.Org Resource Specialist says:

    Hi Gertrude,

    Thank you so much for sharing, I can imagine that it took a lot of courage.

    Unfortunately, this is not uncommon for a young adult male to avoid therapy as there is still a stigma associated with mental health. There are wonderful treatments/supports and most people with mental health condition(s) can lead very fulfilling lives if they have acceptance and are a receiver of treatment.

    Based on your comment, you and your husband are making great steps towards encouraging his independence i.e going to your own therapy, setting expectations, and speaking openly with him.

    I will email you directly with additional information/resources.


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