Not Sure What to Do About My 19 Year Old Son

Our son is actually very loving, bright, articulate & wonderful, but he's been so down the last several years we don't know what to do. As a kid he loved swimming, beach, cooking, biking, games etc. but now does nothing but use computer & sleep. Some years ago he was victim of violent crime and never has cried it out.  Thus he's stuck emotionally, PTSD in my opinion, and goes months without speaking to us at all. This has gone on for years.

None of the colleges he applied for took him (grades not high enough). He was in a computer training program where he left house daily at 7am in tie & dress clothes but got kicked out due to 4 undone homework assignments.  He was told he could reapply next time. Now he's back to his shell, up all night on computer, in bed all day since January. Computer is his forte, and he's worked fixing and installing them as first job. He could easily get a high tech job, even work at the Apple Store, but won't apply or do anything but stare at the screen, eat minimally and sleep all day.  He did go off with suitcase recently.  I was up at 6am Thur. and he'd texted me "I'm out of town till Tues. evening.  Don't worry I'll be fine"  He wouldn't answer calls or texts and had me so worried.  Well he got back OK. I woke up and he was in bed Wed. am, but never did tell me where he went/what he did.  Last time he spoke to us was 1/24.

My husband says stop babying him (cooking favorite food, buying treats like icecream, etc.) since he won't say thank you, wash dishes, clean up his mess or help in any way. I do it to show my love, since I can't hug him or have a conversation. Also he's awfully thin (malnourshed, eating hardly anything) and I want him to eat well. Ice cream has calcium, iron &protein. We both tell him to get a job, even minimum wagejob like his friend, but for what we can see he's not trying. 

We're planning a trip we want to include him in but are sure he won't go. If he won't he'll be alone for first time 4 weeks.  We'll leave him $ but I'm worried he'll simply run out of food & not go shopping. The computer reigns supreme for him and he hates doing anything that takes him away from the screen more than 5 mintues. My husband says he has to sink or swim, this is good for him, force him out of his shell into the world.  I don't know. I guess that's true, but I'm so worried. 

I'd like to find support group for parents of computer addicted kids. Maybe we can start it here?  Anyone interested?  I'm in Berkeley. There has to be some way to get through to him. I've seen many therapists but haven't been able to solve this. He won't see therapists for last 3 years or more.  He won't even go to the dentist. It makes me cry to write this.

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I don’t have any great answers for you, but I want to let you know that your post really touched my heart. This must be so difficult, and hugs to you as you navigate this situation with your son. Would he be willing to perhaps see a psychiatrist and see if medication might help? Best wishes to you.

My son has very good experience with DeAnza and Foothill Colleges.  They have good computer classes and some classes are online.  Spring classes start April 9.  Perhaps, a change of environment may help your son ...

I'm so sorry for you and your son and the rest of your family.  I went through this with my oldest son.  It's very heart wrenching.  I truly believe that if you just continue to support him and let him know that you are there for him he will eventually get better.  (It might take a few years and many ups and downs) but that is the nature of mental illness.  It's not his fault and no one wants to be alone like that.  Teenage years are so difficult and now a days with all the social media showing everyone else being happy makes things even worse for someone who doesn't feel good.  You can't force him into therapy, (and really the therapists and psychiatrists are not that great here).  I think the trip is a good idea because it will give him some independence and he won't starve even if he eats only a little.  It will also be good for you to get away for some additional perspective.  Let him know that you will continue to support him financially as long as he needs it in his life.  I think this assurance gives him a foundation that will eventually lead him to start doing things for himself.  It may take a few years but he will get there eventually.  Try to be happy in your own life even though I know it is difficult living with someone like that.  Again, please also remember that it is not his fault that he feels this way and he's not doing it on purpose.  It will get better.  P.S.  I'm saying all this as a single mother.  I did not have to deal with his father telling me otherwise.

Please keep me posted on what you decide to do as a group.  I am in somewhat similar situation with my just turned 19 year old son.  Kimwirtz [at] comcast.net

 I logged in today after I read this article just to respond to you in case it may be helpful.  The article is about a group living home for young adults with anxiety, depression, on the spectrum etc that provides some structure and support/encouragement.  It states they are opening a second home.  Maybe they have some kind of info that would be helpful.   http://lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1202/Team-living-PODs-provide-yo...

This sounds difficult. Sometimes the best way to get out of a funk is to work. He doesn't have to find a "great" job, but he needs to find a job he enjoys. Once he clears out the cobwebs, I'd encourage him to enroll in 2-3 community college classes (focusing on classes he would enjoy). Would he speak with/work with a life coach? What would happen if you turned off the internet?  

Computer addiction often just gets worse and worse. If allowed to veg out on the computer, his depression and addiction will likely grow. A change of environment would definitely help.

Some kids are late bloomers, and among them many boys get sucked into spending time on the computer or gaming. My gut told me that tough love would not have helped my son, that he needed support and more time to grow. So we tried to support him in our home with steadily, but gently, increasing expectations towards independence. We emphasized activities where he could experience success and enjoyment -- high interest volunteer work (starting with one, four-hour shift a week), cooking and cleaning up his mess, laundry. It worked for him. As his confidence and experience grew, he was more attracted to spending time away from the computer. By the age of 24 he was self-supporting, having moved to an area with cheaper rents than here, and by 27 he was a homeowner with a solid work history and a life outside of work. One thing we did right was to pay not only for necessities but also for him to follow some interests, such as staying in sports -- that led to a volunteer gig, which in turn gave him the background needed for his first full-time job. He knew we'd keep paying only as long as he kept up his part and showed up on time, etc. It's been a while, so I have no recommendations for a parents' support group, but I think you're on the right track with that. The advice of people who haven't been there isn't often worth much.