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So, I’m at an impasse. My 14yo stopped going to school because of anxiety. He’s struggling with, what looks to me, like OCD as well. He refuses counselling, hates talking about issues. On good days he’s fine, add stress and he’s impossible to live with or reason with.

Any help would be appreciated.
 

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I am just reading Brain Lock by Jeffrey M Schwartz which is about OCD

There is newer book from the same author called You are not your brain which is generalizing their 4R method to general issues.

I am certain it can help your young one but he will have to do majority of work
 

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So, I’m at an impasse. My 14yo stopped going to school because of anxiety. He’s struggling with, what looks to me, like OCD as well. He refuses counselling, hates talking about issues. On good days he’s fine, add stress and he’s impossible to live with or reason with.

Any help would be appreciated.
It is so heartbreaking to read this. I mentioned your thread to my wife as she saw several teens in her private psychology practice.
She has been retired for several years but would offer some basic suggestions if you would like to PM me.
 

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It's the end of the school year, so if it's possible, maybe let him off the hook if it's stressing him out.

It may take him a while to come around to talking about it. But if he knows that you're there to listen when he's ready, that may help.

In the meantime, maybe give a place like CAMH a call to see what they recommend.

My wife often deals with anxiety and OCD. It peaked during and after her first pregnancy. I'm not an expert, but I have a pretty good idea of what you're going through. I know it's really hard, but be patient with him and yourselves.
 

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First off, set your mind into when you were 14 and transitioning from a child to an adult.
Discuss with him what got you through the pains of growing older.
Talk with him that you've been there too and that it's natural to question and challenge authority (parents).
Keep in mind that for the past few decades, schools have been indoctrinating, not educating.
He's obviously confused about his purpose in life. Be supportive, but also tell him what the realities of life really is.

The other alternative is to tell him that you'll slap him silly when he misbehaves and kick him out when he turns 18. :whistle:
 

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As mentioned above, therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist is a must. Sessions may be with or without parents but I believe it's a big help to have have a neutral, third party professional guiding the child through these waters. Your son may require certain accommodations to cope with school... more time, quiet space to work/test, oral presentations are done only with the teacher etc. To have the accommodations formalized may require a diagnosis of what actually ails him... be it OCD, autism spectrum, bi-polar or whatever. I wish you the best of luck... these things can be worked through.
 

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There are three major achievements to be accomplished during adolescence. In no particular order, they are forging a sense of identity, becoming capable of emotional intimacy with peers, and managing affect. The person who knows who they are, warts and all, is able to feel close to others who aren't their parents or siblings, and who is able to set aside emotion and see through the haze of emotion and size up problems clearly, is most of the way to being a grownup.

There is a myth that adolescents are intrinsically risk-takers. But truthfully, they are both risk-takers and risk-averse. Just as they can ignore risk because the anticipated fun distracts them from accurate risk assessment, they can also often overestimate the degree of peril in some action ("Gawd, my parents are gonna KILL me if I do that!", "If she doesn't wanna go out with me, I'll just die!", "Oral presentation in class? I can't, I just can't!"). What links the two is the inability (or more hopefully, slowly emerging ability) to set emotion aside for the moment and judge the facts of the situation objectively, rather than treating feelings as cogent information or some sort of "evidence". The teen who can say "You know, I really don't like the guy, but he makes a good point, there", or "Jeez, it sounds like it'd be fun, but I have an exam tomorrow that I really need to prepare for", is someone we consider to be somewhat "mature", largely because we equate "maturity" with the ability to set aside emotion when appropriate. Doesn't mean you stop feeling emotions, high or low, or become some kind of robot, but rather manage them strategically.

Of course, the challenge in adolescence for many is that they may feel strong emotions for the first time, and be easily persuaded by them. That can either lead to some harmful activities, but also lead to avoidant behaviours. Fundamentally, teens need to be encouraged to think about the role that feelings and emotions play in their lives, and how they see the world. Are they letting how they feel in their guts do the persuading, or are they thinking things through? Certainly, the smartest theories of stress note that people of all ages often fail to seek out the information and resources readily available that turn "stressors" into simple low hurdles to be cleared. And if there is anything that prompts tunnel vision, it's strong emotions. We also know that things like panic attacks often stem from a fear of fear; in a sense a desire to run away from the flood of emotion that feels like it's coming on. And some successful approaches to managing panic/anxiety attacks work on separating the feelings from the situation itself. Admittedly, some people are swimming against a stronger current in this process, while others have a temperament that makes strong emotions harder to elicit, and pass easily. Drives me nuts how easily those folks get so much done. That doesn't make the more feelings-directed kid weak or flawed in any way. It just means they have a little more work to do to get where they need to be.

Our younger son used to have emotional meltdowns in lower grades, hiding under his desk crying. His teachers were worried for him. Today, he's in a job where he meets with senior officials, secures federal and provincial grants, and has no issues arranging, convening, and leading town hall meetings, screening potential roommates, or appearing on camera.

I have no prescription for what the conversation should look like, or how easy it is to have, but if the teen is not taking on the challenge of managing emotions, it needs to happen. Folks who dig themselves into a hole, where they always let their emotions do the persuading, are headed to a lifetime of bad decisions. I won't medicalize anything here on the basis of what's been described. Sounds like a pretty average teen to me.

In some respects the three challenges/accomplishments I listed at the outset, are linked. It's a little easier to judge situations and problems objectively if you "know who you are". And knowing who you are often has a two-way relationship with emotional intimacy. Having close friendships reinforces sense of self, and having a solid sense of self often helps to make one a better friend. Certainly being unsure of self is a frequent barrier to close relationships with potential romantic partners. As you can see, there's a reason why I see these three challenges are the big ones in adolescence. Some folks master these three achievements, some get 2 out of 3, and some have a hard time with all of them. I won't say it's easy, but 14 is still young. Remind him that learning how to size up situations without being swept away by your emotions is precisely how and why all the people he admires, and who brought us all here to this point in human history, managed to get done what they did. Yes, they felt emotions, but to figure out what to do next required them to put those feelings in their back pocket for the moment, and then bring them out later. In short, they grew up.
 

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Good point about formalizing the accomodations for school. It does start with a diagnosis.
Some boards don’t require a diagnosis per se but it helps if the teacher(s) are in the loop (assuming we’re talking Ontario). In the past I, and many colleagues, have just treated accommodations as best practice and had the support of admin. A diagnosis can make it easier to have an IEP drawn up (though, again not necessary depending on the board) and that is extremely helpful as teachers are required to follow it.

Best of luck going forward. I’m sure the GC crowd is pulling for you and your son.
 

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I have a friend who has been dealing with a "lost" family member for years who always says, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink... but at least they know where the water is." Patience and unconditional love is all I can suggest.

In the meantime, you may want to consider leading by example and getting some counseling for yourself - lots of help out there for parents of kids who are struggling.
 

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Has he been hunting? Does he understand life and death? Kids that age are teriified of going to sleep and not waking up too. Fears about their parents relationship, fears of moving?
Just some things i recall from me youth.
 

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I had depression and anxiety when I was in high school. I got through it, but it was because I got through it, and wasn't forced in any way. My Dad was a school teacher, and later he would tell me when he saw I was having issues he stood back and let me do my own thing, but would make sure I didn't do anything I'd regret. Lots of kids struggle with it at that age. Unless he has a legitimate condition, he's likely going to find his way through it. I was given antidepressants for a while, but the problems with those is that it doesn't change anything. It won't help you find the source of the problem, but just makes you feel indifferent to the way things are.
One of the best ways to get through depression is to discover something you're passionate about. Maybe see if there's something he would like to try and encourage him to do it(but don't force him or push him too hard). Even if it's something that you may not be too thrilled about or interested in yourself, let him try it. A big part of depression is feeling as though you're missing out on something. It could be as simple as a having a crush on a girl who won't notice him, or feeling left out by friends.
 

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Also, if he is struggling scholastically, don't let the school push him through the system by giving him credits he didn't earn - that only makes it worse and sets him up for failure farther down the road.

Emma McAdam has an excellent YouTube channel that deals with anxiety and depression issues. It's no substitute for face-to-face counseling, but it might be a good place to start. https://www.youtube.com/c/TherapyinaNutshell
 
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