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High Stress Levels in Parents of Adult Children with Mental Illness


Any caregiver is likely to be vulnerable to stress. However, parents who care for a child with a serious mental illness (SMI) are at increased risk for adverse physical symptoms resulting from stress. Those who care for an adult child with SMI are even more likely to experience the negative effects of stress because of the length of time that they have had to cope with the difficult task of caring for a loved one with mental health issues. Although there is a vast amount of evidence showing how caring for a child with SMI can negatively impact a parent’s psychological health, there is scant clinical evidence highlighting the deleterious physiological effects to the caregiver. Erin T. Barker of the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison addressed this specific dynamic in a recent study by examining the cortisol levels in individuals charged with the care of adult children with SMI.

For her study, Barker asked 61 parents of adults with depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar to complete a stress diary and submit daily saliva samples over a period of several days. The cortisol levels of the participants were compared to the levels of 321 parents of adult children who had no mental health concerns. Barker discovered that the cortisol awakening response (CAR) of the parents of adult children with SMI increased less significantly half an hour after they arose in the morning than the control group. This suggests that the caregivers had a higher stress level upon waking than did the control group. Additionally, Barker found that the cortisol levels of the caregivers declined less throughout the day than did the cortisol levels found in the parents of adult children who did not have SMI.

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“The fact that a similar pattern of hypoactivated daily cortisol in response to stress has been found across studies of parents of individuals with different diagnoses (i.e., schizophrenia, autism, developmental disabilities, and in the present analysis, SMI) and that used different measures of stress (i.e., behavioral problems of the adult child with the diagnosis, time spent with the adult child, and in the present analysis, daily stress not necessarily associated with the adult child) provides strong converging evidence for this effect,” Barker said. She added that these findings underscore the importance of addressing the mental health, physiological health, and coping needs of aging parents who care for adult children with serious mental health issues.

Barker, E. T., Greenberg, J. S., Seltzer, M. M., Almeida, D. M. Daily Stress and Cortisol Patterns in Parents of Adult Children with a Serious Mental Illness. Health Psychology 31.1 (2012): 130-34. Print.

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  • erin n February 14th, 2012 at 5:24 AM #1

    There is no parent that should have to deal with something like this in their child, but there are those who do and some handle it well and others are filled with the stress and pressures of having a child with this kind of disability. This is not something that most of us would imagine parenthood being like, but for many parents this is the reality that they have been dealt. It does not make it easier but there are some very good support groups out there who can better help them deal and face the issues that are sure to come their way.

  • Mary Grayson February 14th, 2012 at 4:34 PM #2

    I feel so bad for these parents who have dedicated their whole lives to taking care of their children who have disabilities. That takes so much strength, something that I am not sure that I would have the endurance to do for the duration of their lives. It seems so bittersweet that they have to dedicate all of this to those kids- I know that the children cannot help it and the parents are dealing with the cards that they have been dealt, but it feels like such a shame that all of these lives get used up in this way.

  • Randye Kaye February 15th, 2012 at 12:58 PM #3

    I’m mother to a wonderful young man who has schizophrenia, author of the memoir about it (called Ben Behind His Voices), NAMI educator (Family to Family)and blogger…and the post I’m working on now is called Mental Illness and Families: the “Burden of Care”. This is a sensitive and important subject for us all, as we strive to balance our loved one’s independence with their needs, and our own lives with those of the people we love. Stress, indeed – I am not surprised. We do, like it or not, parent our children “for better or worse” – but I will say that education about mental illness saved our emotional lives. My family knows we take care of others when we can, but also must take care of ourselves or the results are not pretty.

  • Sam February 15th, 2012 at 1:54 PM #4

    I grew up with an uncle who had to live his whole life with my grandparents because he could not live on his own. They never once complained about the constant care and the sacrifices that they had to make because that was his child. Some people said it was a blessing when he died but my grandparentsgrieved and grieved because he was always their little boy and they loved him more than you could ever imagine. No matter the situation it is never easy to lose and bury your own child.

  • C n See February 15th, 2012 at 11:45 PM #5

    Parents may love the child and take care without a single complaint ever but it does take a tool on them.It snot easy caring for an individual with a health problem and is bound to have stressful and thereby making things even difficult :(

  • michelle June 25th, 2012 at 12:11 PM #6

    Then there are the added complications of legal problems some of these children experience. As a mother to an adult child who is bipolar, I was not prepared for him to also have to navigate legal troubles that resulted from his behavior. Truly, nobody I know can understand how terrifying this is. His birth mother is deceased so there’s no place to go for genetic history. And the courts don’t seem to care that the offenders have issues that incarceration alone cannot fix. It’s a very scary addition to an already stressful existence.

  • Angela January 16th, 2013 at 8:56 AM #7

    I have a son that suffers from a TBA from a MVA. He has the same things as schizophrenia. He also has so much anger. Me and his father are at a loss. He has tortured us now for the past 7 years. His dad has just had a break down. This can not go on forever, what can we do? We love him but he is not the son we raised.

  • Leslie Adamson May 6th, 2013 at 9:57 AM #8

    I am a mother of two schizophrenic daughters. I have been trying to care for them for 12 years. One lives with me and I cannot continue since my mental and physical health is now coming to an all time low. I have done this alone with the help of DMH. I know that I will have to find permanent housing for the one who has lived with me. This is an unbearable thought..it is like asking me whether I want to cut off my left hand or my right hand. I feel guilty that I am no longer able to bear it, but I am even more stressed not having her by my side. I simply can’t handle it anymore. I am working with DMH. Any words of encouragement or support out there?

  • Ingrid Brandao June 12th, 2013 at 5:31 PM #9

    Hello Leslie,
    It seems that we have much in common….I have two adult sons, age 27 with schizophrenia. Fortunately, I have my husband, but our lives are very painful and stressful, as you know.
    Maybe, we can help each other cope.

  • Loretto August 1st, 2013 at 10:30 PM #10

    I’m actually on the flip side of this situation. I’m disabled due to a mental illness (Bipolar Type II and Generalized Anxiety Disorder) living with my elderly mother. My illness is not so severe that my mother is caring for me, but I started looking for alternate housing last year, when I realized that my mother is actually contributing to my illness. This past spring, I started to pull out of a three-year major depression in which my major form of exercise consisted of turning over in bed to lie on my other side for a while. I begged my mother to push me assign me a few household chores, make plans for shopping trips the next day for me to go along on, and her attitude was, I’m an adult, if I want to lie in bed all day I should go ahead and do that. As I’ve become psychologically less depressed, I’ve developed a lot of physical problems and illness, which I think is at least partly depression related. I had started managing my anxiety by meditation and other holistic means. And my mother has become increasingly emotionally abusive- not yelling and screaming, but playing sick little mind games. I’ve applied for housing in several other buildings over the past several months, but waiting lists for low-income and disabled housing are years long. Things came to a head last week. I had just gotten a part-time job as a video chat hostess working over the internet, and so while I’m stressed over my new job (I really like the job, but the apartment is too small for me to have a permanent workspace, so setting up and tearing down is a lot of work) she has been laying additional obligations on me, leaving housework undone at about the time I would need to be setting up my workspace, and nagging, nagging, nagging. You’d think she would be glad that I have something that helps with my sense of self-worth and contributes to the household income and cut me a little slack until I get settled into the job and can get a routine going. I had to go back on my anti-anxiety medication largely due to her abuse. The other day, I reached a breaking point, and contacted my DMH worker and told her if I didn’t get into new housing soon, I’m either going to commit suicide or become violent toward my mother. My DMH worker told me my situation is actually common- elderly parents will emotionally abuse a mentally ill or disabled adult child to the point that they crack and either threaten violence or actually hit them, then cry “elder abuse”, and once that accusation has been made, you’re guilty even after proven innocent and will never be able to get into disabled housing where there are elderly people living in the building (which is the case in nearly all housing for the disabled). The stress and abuse has affected my physical health to the point I’ve had to take off work in order to recuperate. I’m an independent contractor, so I can do that, but it makes me look really unprofessional and the company I’m working for is not happy. My DMH worker may be able to get me into housing within the next couple of months, but the rent will be more than 80% of my SSDI income, so I need to get back online and working again so I can start making enough extra income that I can afford the rent and utilities. Meanwhile, over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be contacting the Housing Authority and see if I can get bumped up on the wait lists because I’m in a crisis situation, but for the time being, I just have to white-knuckle it.

  • Karen March 8th, 2014 at 5:11 PM #11

    I am having a really hard time. We have been parenting my son who struggles with depression, anxiety, mood disorder,ADHD, learning disabilities and now substance issues. He is 19 and we had to have him removed from our home. It is tearing out my heart and soul. I know that we have done all we can and will continue to support him as best we can. It’s hard to function like all is ok and to grieve for all of our suffering. It’s hard not to feel helpless as you watch things unfold. I look at other young men and wonder why.. It’s so sad.

  • Victoria April 16th, 2014 at 6:58 PM #12

    I have borne the brunt of my son’s bi polar outbursts and abuse of our entire family since he was a young boy. He is now 18 and we can’t really distinguish the mental illness from his abusive personality traits that smacks of his father’s behavior (which is why I divorced his father). I just can’t take anymore. My cortisol levels are through the roof, I hardly eat and yet am overweight, of course, it’s the cortisol, and my son’s revolting behavior towards my husband, his step-father, a man who has provided all a father could and more (his bio dad fled the country to get out of paying child support) has nearly destroyed our marriage. At what point, do I have the right to tell my son to just leave, get out and leave us alone. I have nursed him through two suicide attempts and now he uses the threat of suicide to coerce us into giving in to whatever he demands of us. I don’t even know who he is anymore, I mean, really, he bears no resemblance anymore to the sweet little boy I loved and tried as hard as I could to raise well and care for. Today he said something so cruel and vile to me that he finally crossed a line I cannot abide. My son has alianated his sister, his step-brothers and now finally me, his mother. He has been provided with all the medical care that can be offered, we have three mental health professionals on the payroll and yet nothing is working. I have paid thousands in co-pays, hospital bills and RXs and for nothing It’s like he doesn’t even want to try and cope with his illness, and we are all his victims…he has no care for the pain his reckless words and behavior causes us. I want out of this hell.

  • Kim May 24th, 2014 at 2:46 PM #13

    I came to this site because I felt like I was about to have a nervous breakdown over my adult son. He has been diagnosed with Bipolar I with psychosis. He is continually abusive to me when he is manic and says scary things. For example he calls himself lord Lucifer. He looses touch with reality during his manic times. I feel like I am watching a slow moving train wreck and worry about what he will do next. Will he end up in jail again or take another trip to the mental hospital? Will I survive this? Will he survive this? My son has been successful, owns his own business and performs comedy. He is able to keep it together for short stretches of time. But that’s it. Short stretches of time. Then the mania takes over and ruins his life and everyone around him that loves him. He is extremely abusive and dangerous. He stops showering, shaving and taking care of his house. I try to tell him to get help because he is on a downward spiral, but I’m speaking to deaf ears. He is in his own reality right now. I think this is going to kill me as his mother who loves him and worries daily. All I can do is to give myself some space from him and try to keep it together myself. But when I try to get space from his abuse he says that I’m not supporting him during his darkest times. Help! What have others done to get through this insanity and stay sane while trying to help them out of their trauma?

  • Cheryl July 12th, 2014 at 7:23 PM #14

    Funny how you kind of trip over things like this as you blindly search…..search…..search…..the Internet for anything to help: answers, information, support, empathy. And so I found this page — an interesting article, but more than that a collection of people whose stories are so much like my own.

    I am a single (divorced) mother whose husband washed his hands of parenthood a few years ago. My 24 year old son has suffered depression and anxiety since age 16, and is getting worse. He refuses treatment but continues sinking deeper into despair — becoming hostile and abusive (mainly toward me, but also to his sister and others), pushing people away, and having difficulty thriving and becoming self-sufficient in the world.

    I am perpetually holding my breath, living in fear that he will one day tire of the battle and take his own life.

    It’s sad to see the lack of responses to posters here who ask for coping tips…Maybe there are just no tips to be had. Maybe, like all of life’s tests, we simply survive it because we have no other choice.

    There’s a quote I’m reminded of: ‘I feel so much better now that I’ve given up hope.’ Maybe one key is to have low expectations: don’t even hope to be rescued. Once you resign yourself to it, there’s no more reason to think about it and you might find yourself feeling OK sometimes.

    I am in awe of the courage and strength I see here, and the infinite love of parents for their children. Godspeed to you all, and thank you for sharing your stories. I feel less alone.

  • Jacqueline July 16th, 2014 at 11:28 AM #15

    Cheryl, Thank you for your post it was insightful…letting go releases you as well as your love one.

  • Louise August 8th, 2014 at 10:53 AM #16

    I wish I had some encouraging words. I am currently dealing an with an adult daughter with bipolar disorder who can hold a job, she gets them but cant keep them. she should be on disability, but is in denial and gets more than angry when I make suggestions. there is a little boy involved here to that often is caught in the middle of her wrath when she is angry, and she doesn’t care. I am ready to cut her loose totally just to survive myself. I am home from work today because of so much stress from last night when she told me she was going to stop one of her meds. Any advice for support would be helpful

  • Nicole Mclaurin August 31st, 2014 at 12:31 AM #17

    My daughter is 26 years old. She was a pretty normal person most of her life. She had three little boys one after the other. Her mental illness getting worse after each pregnancy. She left her husband and came to leave with me. Leaving with her was very inpredictable. She attacked me twice, stole my car and broke my windows. I had to get a restraining order against just to protect myself. She went to jail twice because she does not show up in court when she supposed to. And today she’s coming out of jail. I love my daughter with all my heart. She’ll probably never know how much I love her but I have to let her go if I want to save myself. It is a heartbreaking situation and I feel for all the parents who are going through this.

  • Sheila September 3rd, 2014 at 11:11 AM #18

    My son is 26 and has been diagnosed as bi polar schizophrinic since 15. Son has been in and out of our home since he became an adult. My husband is beyond ready to have our home to ourselves. My son just got on Medicaid does not have Disability does not know if He wants it. My son just this pass week end slit both wrist and they sent him home. I didn’t even go to the hospital this time in hopes that if I didn’t show up to rescue him they would actually possibly see how much help he needs. Instead they released him to a have a therapist call him who my son has been listed under for over a year, but has never seen. Finally, today the therapist calls to make an appointment with my son and apologizes for calling late because he has been moving offices.
    My son slit his wrist while drinking. He did this in my basement. Stole money from my wallet to buy the alcohol. Then I wake to find my son slurring his words again last night. I slept with one eye open in a chair at the bottom of my stairs by the front door.
    Where does this madness end?? Where does his life begin??

  • Kim September 11th, 2014 at 6:48 PM #19

    That’s my question Victoria. Just when do we have permission to start recovery from verbal abuse, financial ruin, and not having a life so to speak. I, as the mother of a 21 year of daughter with bipolar disorder, PSTD, borderline personality disorder, and more, do not suffer from any diagnosed SMIs but sure think of a way out by just running away from it all some times…I have no help and I’m just worn out. To top that I have Addison’s Disease myself and can’t even process stress like a normal person. Almost killed me twice…:-(

  • Linda L. September 16th, 2014 at 10:55 PM #20

    Dear Sheila, I know how hard this is for. My son is 27 yrs d and he’s schizophrenia is driving a wedge between us. We also had our son in the hospital several times. We kept putting off SSI in hopes he would get “better”. He hasn’t but now we are getting some financial help. They also pay me the care giver. Its so hard to deal with a grown man. Especially when he drinks. I really think they need to be pro active about mental health. The police had to pick him up last time. After two days, my husband said ” you know, it’s kinda nice. No yelling, being bullied etc”. He called 5 minutes later a was released! He’s a adult now. So we have no privileged info because of hippa. We know nothing more than day he went in. Its sad. We only want the best for our kids. But at 18, we are no longer involved on his plan of care. Best wishes to you all

  • A patient and victim of denial like what I'm hearing, blah, blah, blah September 18th, 2014 at 9:19 PM #21

    I hate to say this–because I see so many other women here–WOMEN–the men walk off and leave the women, and refuse to take responsibility–like my own father did, and he managed to drain my trust fund and my mother’s too while he was at it. Someone like me who inherited stock from a privately held oil company that was founded by one of my great uncles never should have been on food stamps, working 3 jobs, beat up from work injuries by the time I was 36 years old no one would hire me so I started my own company. Yes I’m bipolar–and it was only 5 and a half months ago, when I was 50 years old that one of these doctors finally diagnosed me with ADD–after I had been beating the guy senseless and spoon feeding him with symptoms–I really love my therapist, don’t get me wrong. He’s old school, hard core, and doesn’t take any of the BS I’m seeing here. People don’t RECOVER until they WANT TO–no one can make them do it.
    And how on earth do you think these thongs happen anyway? Darwin baby, get a clue–if you’re one of those people who says “we don’t have mental illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, gays, etc, in our family” you’re smoking some great buds, I’d like to know where you’re collective is located–SMH

  • h September 24th, 2014 at 11:55 PM #22

    My adult child(bipolar, borderline personality disorder, anger/relationship issues) and grandchild want to live with me and my spouse immediately).We live in poverty and are both in failing health. My parent is terminally ill, and these are my last days with her. I don’t want to lose my grandchild (foster care twice already)by saying NO. We have offered to take him in while she tries to get on her feet(never been able to do),but she wants to stay with him. We have tried to help her for many years(and so have countless others).She is on meds, but no therapy. She has difficulty keeping jobs, keeping shelter, paying bills. We cannot afford to pay for two households. I am not safe if she lives with me. Don’t know what to do. Pray for us all.

  • GoodTherapyAdmin GoodTherapyAdmin September 25th, 2014 at 10:00 AM #23


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  • Vicki October 3rd, 2014 at 9:58 PM #24

    My family is in the same boat. My brother is mentally ill and has many struggles. He has punched holes in my parents walls and has even slapped my dad. He was recently baker acted. Five days later the mental facility contacted us and said to come get him because they needed the extra beds for new patients to come in. They basically we’re throwing him out without being stabilized. Here’s what we did. We made an immediate appointment with all his doctors with the entire family together. We discussed a plan and have stuck to it. We have no expectations and just keep pushing on. We decided that due to the violent behaviors perhaps my parents have worn out there welcome with my brother. Not to any fault of their own as they are the greatest parents ever. It simply had taken a toll on them and they were too tired to keep helping him at the capacity that they were at. So we looked into a mortgage that people who are rendered disabled to get him a home of his own. We moved him out and hired a life coach. The life coach goes to his house several times a week to help by groceries etc. when he is depressed we spend time at his house instead of bringing him to our house or we may even spend the night. We take him to his doctors appointments still but this is working great because we can be involved and still over see everything but we don’t have to deal with it 24 hours a day anymore and wear ourselves down. Utilizing the life coach prohibits us from micromanaging his life and doing things for him. It teaches him to do it for himself. It is natural that we wanted all these years to protect him and just do everything for him but it created a person who already has mental issues to now have resentment because he could read us like a book and manipulate. And when I say manipulate it is not intentional. When he doesn’t want to do something because it causes stress and anxiety he acts out causing us tons of stress and to just give in, he is only self protecting himself from anxiety. So with the life coach he is less likely to fight the battle with a stranger and more likely to cooperate out of fear of not really knowing that person. So far things are looking up. He will probably never hold a job or even have relationships outside our family but we have enough love to make up for all that. Best of luck to everyone but sometimes excepting and letting go and taking risks is the only salvation for a family dealing with a family member with mental illness.

  • Danielle Collins October 13th, 2014 at 5:58 PM #25

    Good day. I am 44 living and working in Texas and my sister who is 2years my senior, is l iving off of my aging mother, who is on a fixed income and i have to sometimes supplement her income. My mom has had some health issues in past (blood pressure, 2 hrt attks, blood clot to her left lung…that one was the scariest, high cholestrol…you get my point) she does not need any kind of stress in her life. That being said, my sister who is 46, has not worked in several years. She continues to hop from one person to the next, can never take responsibility for herself, tried for 2years to get on disability claiming mental issues…that didn’t work or so well and now she is back in Texas living off of my mother, making multiple trips to hospital claiming physically ill, 4 x’s in less than 6 weeks with all visits laying 5-7 days or more. All tests come back normal, nothing is found to be wrong…she she plays it up and insist she is ill. As i am sure there is a mental condition for that, so i do believe there is something wrong with her, how do i go about getting her the PROPER help that it’s needed and not this merry go round routine wearing down my mother (since i work and live in another town, i can’t be there to deal with my sister personally as much as is needed to remove the burden from my mother. I hope i am not coming off as harsh, as i have alot on my plate already deali b g with my godfather being resently diagnosed with stage 4 lung, liver and brain cancer, so please forgive me i seemingly have no smypathy for someone wanting to be sick when i have another wanting nothing more than be healthy.

  • Barbara October 14th, 2014 at 7:20 AM #26

    I stumbled upon this site by chance, and I’ve seen nothing like it anywhere on the ‘net’. I have a 29 year old son who’s had severe mental health problems since he was 17 years old. He has his own flat, but spends most of his time living with me. When he’s taking medication (aripiprazole) he’s fine, but he hates taking it and periodically stops, leading to a rapid downward spiral. I am, to put it mildly, totally and utterly exhausted by it. I feel as if I have been living in a nightmare for the past 12 years, with brief periods of respite when he’s taking medication. I hope this site will help me to feel less alone. I live in the UK and there don’t seem to be any appropriate support groups here.

  • l October 15th, 2014 at 10:21 AM #27

    Looks like Vikki comment #24 is the only one offering a solution, which requires extended family involvement. I had never thought of the life coach idea. My son is currently Baker acted. He is 31. He has had problems since he was 6. I ended up divorcing his father for substance/mental health issues. He (father) committed suicide after we were divorced. My son has been in and out of facilities since he was 12. He does well for awhile, especially in controlled environments, was in the military, has held jobs, but the addiction spirals out of control and we are back to square one. He is married, but I dont see how it will last. I think the hard thing is knowing how involved to be or not to be. He is my son, and I love him, but it takes a toll. I have to try to focus on keeping myself well too. My heart is with all you out there who are living this nightmare. We are not alone.

  • lizette A. October 15th, 2014 at 1:20 PM #28

    We are parents of South Africa our daughter is 10 and we had living hell from the time she was born. She has 10 different diseases , Addison, multiple personality disorder , depression,ostioporoses , hart problems , left hip problems ,third disorder,hormone divescincy ,epilepsy ,list goes on and on. we love her and do our best but can say with all our love this life is hard and it sometimes feel like now one out there know how you feel and what you have to do to keep going every day this is not a joke. She has so many mental problems and with that Addison’s her hart is giving problems and a whole lot more. We can’t remember when last we had a decent night of sleep or did not get up in the morning with body pain of being so tired working your self to the ground and still not be able to meet all the bills in a end of a month some time me as her mother just want to stand on a mountain top and scream HELP maybe some one will come and fix everything.

  • Linda C. October 16th, 2014 at 10:42 AM #29

    Hi Barbara,
    Comment # 26 I am in a very similar situation to you and have been trying to find a carers support group in London to no avail. If you do read this please get in touch and maybe we can support each other.

  • Barbara L. October 17th, 2014 at 4:46 PM #30

    Hi Linda, (#29)
    This is Barbara (#26). Thanks for replying to my comments. I live in London too! Maybe you could say a bit more about your situation? I wonder how many of us there are in London, looking for a support group! I would find it difficult attending a group, though, as I work afternoons and evenings. However, I would really appreciate being in touch with people who understand my situation. Hope to hear from you again.

  • Sue October 24th, 2014 at 4:31 AM #31

    To everyone who has shared their stories, wishing you strength. Mental illness runs in my family. There have been some very dark times but I still thank each day that my loved ones are still alive. One year my dad died of cancer and both my mother and brother both attempted suicide all within a week. Ever since I have decided that life is the most important thing even though at times it is hard to hope. For myself as the ‘well’ person, setting boundaries is very important. My love is endless but my money, time and sleep has to be protected or I can’t help anyone. I try to appreciate the small moments of calm and beauty like a sunset or the scent of jasmine. Probably sounds lame but it works for me. I am very lucky to have a good job and have developed the ability to switch my head into work mode instantly even after a stressful phone call or text conversation. Please everyone try to love yourselves and forgive yourselves when you reach your limits.

  • Matthew October 26th, 2014 at 7:40 AM #32

    I want to live full time with my Mom and Dad. I am autistic and I live in an apartment with supported living. I visit my Mom and Dad 2 times a Month and thay are 2 Day and 3 Day sleep over visits. Mom and Dad want to live their own life meanning thay don’et want me to live full time with my Mom and Dad and I don’et like that. Do you have any places where me and my Mom and Dad can go to or any suggestions?

  • Janet October 27th, 2014 at 5:16 PM #33

    Omg thank you for that. It gave me permission to protect my money, my sleep and myself. I had two bipolar adult kids. I now have one. My son died of a heroin overdose. Code for bipolar. My 38 year old daughter who is high functioning at work but not at all in her personal relationships to include ours. She says the most horrible cruel things to me and about me tho we are very close. She threatens suicide every month And attempts it often is shes a cutter. Her body is a chopped up mess. I just wait for that call again.

  • Deanna November 8th, 2014 at 9:00 PM #34

    I feel lost at times like life is leading me into a dead end never dreamed my life would be like this three beautiful kids and I am divorced and my ex suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar and is off in another state in his own world well I fight this battle alone with our kids. Two of my kids suffer from mental health issues my 13 year old suffers from sever depression and spends all day locked in his room and even skips school to stay in his room has suicidal thoughts and wont talk to no one not even me any more, my daughter my baby suffers from bipolar, anger issues, adjustment disorder,adhd and ocd I believe she has schizophrenia I see signs everyday is different with her, she has been institutionalized twice, all adults and kids are scared of her when she gets mad and she is only 9. I have a mental health social worker in home therapist psychiatrist, counselors, teachers and myself all working with my kids. Someday’s I feel like no one understand how can I be so alone in this big world helping to kids fight a battle within themselves. People tell me to lock my kids up realistically what kind of parent would do that a monster in my book that is always my last resort when the police have intervened and said it’s not safe for us to have her stay in the home anymore because of her outburst. I would never send my kids away turn my back on them because they have mental illness like my ex, yes some days are tough but I prey and I get threw it. I do feel like I am collapsing though not sure sometimes how much strength I have to do this alone anymore. I reach out to find anyone else who understand me and my situation.

  • Barbara L. November 11th, 2014 at 6:14 AM #35

    To Deanna, #34, I completely understand your pain and exhaustion. My son is 29, and has had issues with severe anger outbursts all his life. He had his first psychotic breakdown when he was 17, and has been in and out of hospitals many times. He showed signs of mental illness when he was a child but no-one picked up on it. He was my first child, so I had nothing to compare his behaviour with. He made the lives of his brother and sister hell, with his violent outbursts. I have been on my own with all three children since my eldest son was 7, my younger son 5 and my daughter 2. I am exhausted and full of grief that my son has no real chance of having a normal, happy life.I live in the UK. It is good to be in contact with people who understand.

  • Tina November 19th, 2014 at 9:49 PM #36

    When my son was about 14 I noticed something not quit right in his mental development. It was also about the same time he started sneaking out of house and using drugs. Before this he was doing great in school and in sports but then within a few months everything was upside down. I’ve raised him myself and have had no family around. It was difficult when he was young just trying to manage all the expenses and time to raise a child by myself but is almost unbearable as he is getting older. When he was 15 I moved to the other side of town hoping this would help. It didn’t. I found he was stealing from me and selling my things for drugs. The doctors said it is called self medicating. I started making police reports hoping the paperwork would lead to help. He was never charged- these were complaints. In many ways it did but it was a heartbreaking journey. I was missing a lot of work by trying to get him counseling and also the time chasing him down when he would disappear or not be in school. Since I was a single parent the state assisted by putting him into a forest care home which one parent was always supervising him. I request that the home be at least an hour away from Albuquerque due to my son going to local friends home that only embedded his behavior. He was with the other family for six months and while in the program the other family -along with myself and teachers agreed that if he stayed in high school that if may only make his behavior worse. So at 16 with only four credits of high school he went through the GED program. After the six months with the family he was released and had a probational officer assigned. However, the program was zero tolerance for drugs and he used pot on serval occasions. The state then siad they would either put him back into a two parent family so someone was always watching him or put him into a drug court program which was very intense. I chose the drug court program. It was a lot of work not only for my son but also for me. Almost daily we had to a counseling section or something with drug court. After a few months the counselor informed me he agreed with me that there was noticing something was off with my son but was not sure what it was and asked to run more testing. I agreed. This testing was done over a period of several months. The program was zero tolerance and if you messed up the Judge would put you into the juvenal center. A month before his 18th birthday he used pot and was being tested so instead he ran. He disappeared for a month. Two days before his 18th birthday he was picked up and once in juvenal center they did the last and final section of the full psychiatric test. He had going to spend a week in juvenal ,however, the test revealed that he had a developmental mental disorder which he no longer qualified to be in the drug court program but it was also very risky taking him out of juvenal center since his testing come back with multiple street drug in his system of a high volume. They keeper him in the center for five weeks to hopefully clean him up but this was the longer the Judge could hold him since he was also now 18. He was given medication which did help his behavior but after a few months he stopped taking. I couldn’t force him to take medication even with limiting what I would allow him to do. We applied for SS disability in NM in 2012 which we provided all the information and what he was diagnosed with and we went to their assigned doctor for the evaluation but have not heard back from SS. When he was 19 he did a semester of college. I though he was doing well. I took him and pick him up but at the end of semester he failed every class – he failed to do the work as assigned or instructions or had social fears which limited him. He is now 21 – no job- no school- odd sleeping patterns- outburst of behaviors- odd eating and very very thin- odd speech- very smart- a beautiful off mind. We have recently moved out of NM to MO and I just don’t know where to turn for help. He has no insurance and not a penny or asset to him name. Taking care of him is limiting me and we need help. I believe he needs to live in a group home that can help him with getting a job and on his feet. He is very bright but he can’t manage a bank account. I am at the point if something doesn’t change soon he may be out on the streets living because I need to survive and him continuing to live like a 10 year old I may be only abetting him if he doesn’t face hard reality . Him on the street maybe the only way to get government support but I don’t even know if that would be what it takes to get them to do something. If anyone knows of a program that can help support please let me know.

  • Pam November 24th, 2014 at 3:45 PM #37

    I hear your pain. It is lonely. The hardest part for me is I feel alone and no one understands or cares to understand. Some days I just want to stay in bed or end my life.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team The GoodTherapy.org Team November 24th, 2014 at 3:56 PM #38

    Hi Pam,

    We received the comment that you submitted on our blog earlier today. Thank you so much for visiting GoodTherapy.org. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, in danger of hurting yourself or others, feeling suicidal, overwhelmed, or in crisis, it’s very important that you get immediate help! You can do one of the following immediately:

    • Call your local law enforcement agency (911);
    • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room;
    • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY:1-800-799-4TTY)

    The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is equipped to take a wide range of calls, from immediate suicidal crisis to providing information about mental health. Some of the reasons to call are listed below: • Call to speak with someone who cares;
    • Call if you feel you might be in danger of hurting yourself;
    • Call to find referrals to mental health services in your area;
    • Call to speak to a crisis worker about someone you’re concerned about.

    If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can call your local hotline and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) (TTY 1−800−787−3224)

    RAINN provides support for sexual assault victims and their loved ones through two hotlines at 800.656.HOPE and Online.RAINN.org. Whether you are more comfortable on the telephone or online, RAINN has services that can guide you in your recovery.
    • The National Sexual Assault Hotline: If you need support, call 800.656.HOPE, and you will be directed to a rape crisis center near your area.
    • The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline: is the first secure web-based crisis hotline providing live and anonymous support through an interface as intuitive as instant messaging.
    • For more information visit http://rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-online-hotline.

    Warm regards,

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • LadyDi January 10th, 2015 at 1:52 PM #39

    To everyone who is suffering on this forum… I feel your pain. I understand how none of your family or friends know your pain because they have no idea the hell every second of every day is when a parent lives with a child, young or adult, with a mental illness.
    For ten years, my husband and I have done everything humanly possible to help our grown son. He is still not diagnosed correctly. He’s been to a dozen psychiatrists, been baker acted, gone to outpatient therapy, and he fools them all. We’ve been told he’s an alcoholic or he has ADHD, which he doesn’t… just so he can get on Adderal. He’s been prescribed that drug for almost 10 years.
    I look at my son and I see a little sweet boy, even though on the outside he is now a 30 year old angry lonely man searching for the normal life he should have had over a decade ago.
    He has many successes in school in terms of full scholarships and degrees. But he can’t get along nor socialize with others. He hasn’t had a friend in years. He was best all around as a Senior in highschool – athletic – popular – kind… then after going away to college something major changed in his personality.
    It’s gotten worse over the years and all the doctors say he’s normal.
    He’s been misdiagnosed and it’s like he’s still there trapped in his own body. He knows how to manipulate and work the system. He’s hurting inside, dying inside, all alone – a recluse for years.
    His thoughts are jumbled, he thinks he’s being followed or spied on, he blames everyone else for all the hell in his life. He talks to himself – his life is a sad miserable one and we don’t know how it got to this point. It is pure insanity. Everyone who knew and loved him are now afraid of him. He rants and raves and has huge anger problems. His father and I have planned an escape route incase he snaps – like the others on this site… only we know the pure hell of thinking night after night the baby you loved and nurtured might burst through your doors and end your life.
    Friends always give you advice, like stop paying for him and taking care of him, get him arrested, tough love… it’s easy to give advice when you are dealing with normal kids. If we stop helping him or anger him… he could kill us or himself.
    We all, parents with children with mental health issues live in a world of Insanity. We become insane because the insanity becomes a normal part of our daily life. We walk on eggshells and never know when the moods will change for no reason from one minute to the next.
    Our children have been in trouble with the law, other people, cannot hold jobs because of their strange behavior, do not understand what’s wrong with them, but know something is.
    They cry to us wanting to know why they’re not normal wanting so desperately to be. We see glimpses of our perfect sons and daughters and hope this time they will be the same… until the monster within them comes out again.
    When we try to explain to them they have a mental illness and need help they explode. If our children were diagnosed with diabetes and needed to go to a specialist, that is acceptable. But a child with mental illness getting help from a psychiatrist… they are labeled as “crazy” and resist because it’s a taboo. Mental Illness is an “ILLNESS” and the world needs to start treating it as such.
    It should not be a hush hush subject – just as any other diagnoses should not be. They did not ask to be born with a mental illness, just as a child with diabetes or asthma did not ask to be born like that. It’s an illness that needs to be treated without a stigma attached to it.
    When one has an adult child with mental illness – we cannot get or give any info to the psychiatrist UNLESS the patient with mental illness who cannot rationalize or make informed decisions for themselves, is the patient who has all the rights. We are left out of the helping and gaining and sharing pertinent info in helping our own children because they are over 18. This is ludacris and the HIPA laws do not work in these cases.
    I felt better having read your forums and don’t feel as alone as I have knowing others are going through my hell. I finally got my son admitted to a very expensive facility, but another problem is insurance helping defray the outrageous costs of getting help for a loved one with a mental illness. It’s not fair. All illnesses, no matter if they are in the brain, stomach, leg, etc… should be treated and considered equal. They are all an illness in the body.
    In closing, my husband has been asking me to “Pick One” either him or my son after the last few years of living this hell together. I could never pick between the man I love or son I love. He abandoned the family 3 months ago. I am all alone with my son dealing with the same hell by myself. He escaped. I wish I could. But I have a heart and am not a coward. I have a responsibility to those I love. We are all on this earth for a reason. Right now I’ve been wishing my life would end already. The stress and pain is too much for me to handle. I’m beyond depressed missing my husband yet having to keep my sanity in helping my son and aging parents everyday. Life can be hell.
    I can relate to you all.
    Good Luck.
    Keep the faith, I will try to do the same.

  • Irene w January 20th, 2015 at 3:40 AM #40

    Hi my son is 29 over the last 9years we have had diagnosis of anxiety depression bi polar2 adhd lots of meds and talking therapies to no avail. My son said he is depersonalised if you read about it it does make sense. He has been trying for the last 3 years to complete his 4th year of architecture in London He just doesn’t seem to be able to get himself together he says he can’t string sentences together or draw because he’s not a person and doesn’t exist. When he’s low he rings to say he wants to end his life as there is no hope or cure for him. I live in fear that one day he will do this I feel like I’m drowning in sorrow I don’t want to wake up in the mornings. At other times I’m so cross that most of our savings have gone to pay his rent and support him in London (we liveinthe north) there is a clinic at kings that deals with depersonalisation of course he says it’s no good and won’t even try to get referred. I’m at my wits end emotionally I’m of to the docs tomorrow for some pills that hopefully will help me to cope Sorry for the rant and after reading all the posts I know I’m not alone I just wish we where all in the same city so that we could support each other.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team The GoodTherapy.org Team January 20th, 2015 at 9:41 AM #41

    Thank you for your comment, Irene. If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage, http://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area. If you’re looking for a counselor that practices a specific type of therapy, or who deals with specific concerns, you can make an advanced search by clicking here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Barbara L February 4th, 2015 at 2:40 PM #42

    I wish there was some way in which I could meet up with other parents who are going through the hell of having an adult son or daughter with serious mental health problems.I live in London, and have a 29 year old son who has suffered from severe mental health problems since he was 17 years old. He will soon be 30, so his entire adult life has been ruined. The pain for me is almost too much to bear. People try to understand, and do what they can to support me, but the only people who could truly understand are the people who are experiencing it themselves. How I long for the companionship of such people, so that we could understand and support each other. If reading about such people can help, even a little, I know that actually being able to talk to them, face-to-face, would be immeasurably comforting and helpful. How do we get together to support each other? I live in London.

  • Jane February 5th, 2015 at 11:29 AM #43

    Hi Barbara
    My nephew done two and half years studying higher maths n science but they let him go as he was acting strangely. Still has not been diagnosed properly what kind of mental illness it is. He thinks he know everything, questions everything, is very rude but he thinks other people are not being fair,will only take tablets when HE thinks he needs it. Do not have friends. He will not accept that there is anything wrong. Will not sign in sickness benefit as he wants to work. But after couple of days employer lets him go.
    He wears you down after being in his company and I cannot stand his verbal abuse. So should I just tell him he is rude and stop his silliness..I know this is illness but this is no way to speak to people and get away with it.
    What do you think?

  • Jessica February 6th, 2015 at 8:19 AM #44

    My son just got out of the hospital last night. He will be 18 at the end of this month. He refuses to go to school, fights with my husband and me daily, and is cruel to his sisters. He doesn’t have a job, or any desire to find one, or so it seems. We feel so lost and alone. None of our friends or family knows what we are going through. My son has agreed to taking his meds, and outpatient treatment. Since we have been through this before, we know it will probably be short lived. The scary part now it that he will be an adult. I will have no control over his actions. My husband and I made a contract that he signed before being released from the hospital. It’s hard, but we have told him he will have to find another place to live if he breaks it. It basically says that he has to take his meds, go to outpatient therapy, and go to school or work at least 20 hours a week. I feel that I can’t expose his sisters to this behavior any longer. It is having a negative impact on them.

  • Jayne February 7th, 2015 at 2:18 PM #45

    Hi Barbara, I could have written your post myself.My son is 23 and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at 17. Funny how that one sentence seems so matter of fact. Only someone who lives the daily reality of this stinking filthy cruel disease could ever understand the chaos, pain and devastation it has on all our lives. My heart goes out to you Barbara. I’d love to hear from you

  • cassie February 9th, 2015 at 11:01 AM #46

    Not sure if this support group is in London but there is a group called N.A.M.I. The way it looks is the way to pronounce it Nami! My son has been diagnosed with schizophrenia about 1 year ago and it really is heart breaking! I walk around all day with this heavy weight on my chest of what if my son kills himself before his meds can be figured out! He constantly talks about doing it almost every other day! Yes we all need someone to share with!

  • cassie February 9th, 2015 at 11:12 AM #47

    I will pray for you and your family! Yes your husband is a coward! A man will never have the nurturing love of a mother no matter how old our children are.

  • tonya March 4th, 2015 at 9:45 PM #48

    Hello cassie, I’m in the US Illinois my son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2013 now he is twenty,he want take his meds or admit he has an m.I.,he had an psychotic break, attacked me went to jail and now has to get help in order too stay out,I feel like I’m grieving and I can’t shake it,the depression, the pain,guilt,resentment I feel daily has affected my life in so many ways,work,relationships,etc, the isolation,loneliness, we both feel,I feel like either checking my self in or death but then what will he do without or when I die,yes we need support. Hugs to everyone

  • tonya March 4th, 2015 at 9:56 PM #49

    They say its demon,drugs,poison or bad luck for his schizophrenia,what does it matter its hear and like many other illnesses,I don’t know what to do, but I just want to support him, no friends no girls,no normalcy I’m his only friend,some days are good some are bad,its like dementia,some days he is like his old self and other I don’t even know this person

  • Tamara March 5th, 2015 at 4:21 AM #50

    First of all, God bless each and every one of you for not giving up on your children. I too, am about at the end of my rope. My daughter just turned 18 last week, she’s been diagnosed Bi-polar II with Axis traits, Severe Anxiety Disorder, ADD and Depression. She has been in different treatment plans, hospitalized, etc. since 6th grade. She should now be a senior, but the school won’t upgrade her status because of her grades, even though she has 16.5 credits. The only thing that kept her going to school was Drama Club, and the Teacher of that cut her from the play citing grade issues. It’s really because he’s afraid to take her to State Conference (even though I would be there to help) because of her illness. She is very timid in school, she just melts down at home. She threatens suicide at every turn, has broken everything breakable in my house, says terrible things to me when she’s upset, blames me for not being able to do something about the school situation, etc. She refuses to do school work and by the time I find out she’s behind it’s too late for her to turn it in. I’m a single mother also, her biological father is just now coming around (now that she’s 18 and child support will stop). Her stepfather and I divorced over issues with her, and he basically supports us now because I can’t work, she can’t be left alone. We had a decent Psychiatrist for her meds, and a really good Therapist, and both of those women left their practices within a month of each other. Now back to square one and she just is stuck with the Dr. on staff that day, no one is taking an interest in helping her. My family is not supportive, they think I spoil her and she’s just doing it all for attention. I feel so incredibly alone all the time.

  • sally March 5th, 2015 at 11:57 PM #51

    I have a mentally I’ll daughter,age 32. I feel the exact same way. No one gets this or what it is like dealing with them and a system that does not help

  • sally March 6th, 2015 at 12:04 AM #52

    I have been through so much with my 32 year old daughter. She has been hospitilized more than 50 times over 12 years. It is so sad and no one understands.

  • Isabell N. March 6th, 2015 at 2:22 AM #53

    I have a son in his late 30s who has been seriously depressed for all of his adult life. He is even more dependant now, than he was as a child. I’m his only friend. All of my days off outworking are spent with him. Too much to go into and painful also. I’ll be 60 this year. I worry conconstantly. He is an only child of an only child. His father left when he was a toddler and has never been in touch. The worry of him committing suicide is constant. I’m at my wits end.

  • Manuel March 10th, 2015 at 2:40 AM #54


  • Julie March 13th, 2015 at 8:27 PM #55

    Hi Barbara, I am going through this with my 26yr old son. He also has ADHD. He won’t accept his fiancé breaking up with him. Threatening suicide, smashing things up. I am scared of him hurting himself. My mum and brother have schizophrenia and taken overdoses in the past. I moved away for my own sanity when my son was 11. Now I am going through IT all again. Here if you want to talk . I feel so scared and alone. He reads my texts thinking I am plotting against him so have to delete everything and guard my phone and IPad.

  • RescueRehome March 14th, 2015 at 11:21 PM #56

    Good Evening (Day) those parents and families who are trying as hard as I am, my name is Dori by the way, to hold tight by a fragmented thin thread of hope and of love… in the midst of a life that I know myself I couldn’t have ever fathomed having to actually live – with my beloved and absolutely gorgeous young adult son.

    My handsome and brave son has been diagnosed with first break schizophrenia. We have both known the meaning of fear and of confusion and of bewilderment since that diagnosis 3 yrs ago – beyond the depth of each of the meanings of those words. Those words however, scrape the surface yet describe perfectly these realities we are now faced with which we cannot wish away, and that is in every way, in all facets of life now, a mother and a son navigating a horrendous mental health system that adds more stress, heartache and full time energy, often than actual help! An endless list of case managers, psychologists, psychiatrists, treatment teams have replaced the everyday lives we thought we once had.

    I have been thru what seems like an endless nightmare-and I feel a hundred years old – and yes this has likely taken years off my life, I now worry about my son’s years ahead. I was a vibrant, beautiful woman fighting the aging thing well! In the 3 years since my son returned home from his first college year away- literally our lives have been ripped to shreds, torn inside out, glimmers of hope fading fast. That is with a relentless woman like me fighting every lying clinician, becoming an expert at the system itself and then trying to save my son his dignity all the while. Be relentless in your pursuit until your loved one is stable, when you have fought the abuse, pain, and every awful thing that accompanies parenting a suffering adult child-realize this: it is not a sprint, but a marathon with no finish line, if that makes sense.

    Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not here to vent and I am not a victim, neither is my precious son. We are however 3 years now fighting to get my son back, as much his surfing, riding, laughing and charming self as we can possibly grab a hold of – to a healthful life, a full and enriched life…a LIFE. A LIFE. This journey – this mental illness my beloved has is NOT going to run his life if I have a breath left – do NOT GIVE UP. That in a long way is what I say to me, and to all of you.

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