By Ashley Chesky, MA, LAC and Patricia Plum, MSW, LMSW
Do you sometimes feel that you no longer recognize the child that you raised? When you look at your young adult, do you find yourself asking, “Who is this person?” Do you feel “crazy,” “lost,” or “at your wits end?” Have you lost all hope?
Maybe this is where hope begins.
Dramatic personality changes often occur due to trauma, addiction, mental health issues, or some combination. Oftentimes, as families, we struggle to identify what is “normal” and what are red flags.
Here are some warning signs, questions you should ask yourself, and questions you may already be asking yourself that might help you to decide whether or not to get help. The more red flags you identify the greater the urgency…
1. Emotional Extremes
Ask yourself, “Am I walking on egg shells?”
Has your young adult begun showing extreme emotions in any of the following areas?
• Extreme Anger
Raging or fighting. Reactivity when they are told “no.”
• Extreme Anxiety
Especially during everyday activities that once brought about no fear.
• Extreme Euphoria
Laughing for no apparent reason, or at inappropriate times.
• Extreme Lack of Emotion
Or, a vacillation between emotional extremes.
2. Physical Change
Are you saying to yourself, “They look different?”
• Sudden weight loss or weight gain
Have you noticed a lack of appetite, them showing little no interest in food or restricting themselves from eating? Have they begun to overeat or eat in response to emotion and not from actual hunger?
• Changes in personal hygiene
Has the young adult lost interest in their personal appearance, stopped bathing, stopped brushing his or her teeth, or failed to seek medical assistance when needed? Do they no longer clean their clothes or keep a clean living space? Or, to the opposite extreme, have they become obsessive about cleanliness or about looking and being perfect?
3. Withdrawing or isolation:
Are you asking yourself, “What are they up to?”
• Have they begun to disregard family time, no longer showing up to dinners, holidays, or special events?
• Have you begun to notice excessive time in their room, with “friends”, on their phone, or other technology?
• Do they not answer when you call or “never see” the text message?
Ask yourself, “Can I trust them?”
• Do you get the sense that you are being manipulated, lied to, or deceived?
• Do you feel they contact you only to get something?
• Do they answer every question with a question, biding their time?
• Do they appear to have an excuse for everything?
• Are they using phrases like, “I am fine,” “It’s ok,” when it is obvious they are not?
5. Poor work or school performance
Are you saying to yourself, “Has there been any progression?”
• Is the young adult constantly blaming coworkers, teachers or others for their own short comings?
• Has the individual been unable to hold a job for more than six months?
• Has the young adult dropped classes or been placed on academic probation?
• Have they been suspended or expelled for dysfunctional behavior?
6. Legal problems
Have you had to ask, “Do we need to get a lawyer?”
• Has the young adult found him or herself in the jail system due to DUI, fighting, theft, minor in possession, drugs, or paraphernalia?
• Have allegations of sexual or physical assault been discussed?
7. Self Harm
Have you ever thought to yourself, “How did that happen?”
• Does the person in question have unexplained cuts, scratches, bruises, or abrasions?
• Are they wearing clothing that appears inappropriate to the season, perhaps to cover markings?
• Do they explain away cuts bruises or burns that appear in inappropriate places or in distinct patterns?
8. Suicidal or Homicidal Threats or Behaviors
Have you asked yourself, “Are they serious?”
• Does the young adult make threats of harm to themselves or others?
• Do they talk about having a fantasy of harming to others?
• Have you found violent materials in their room, or on their computer, phone, etc?
• Do they have a fascination with weapons or death?
• Have they harmed animals?
• Do they struggle with self harm?
Have you ever asked, “What is this?”
• Have you recently found sexual paraphernalia such as pornography, condoms, or fetish objects?
• Do they have applications on their phone for “hooking up”?
• Do they have drug paraphernalia such as pipes, needles, or pill bottles?
• Are you discovering items out of place or in excess, such as tin foil, spoons, or baggies?
• Have you noticed household items gone missing or being purchased in excess such aerosol cans or over-the-counter medications?
10. Social Change
Have you looked at your young adult and asked, “What are you doing?”
• Have they changed their group of friends? Perhaps begun a romantic relationship and left their friends behind?
• Do they no longer find pleasure in the things they once enjoyed?
• Are they acting chronically younger than their actual age?
• Have they failed to “grow up”?
11. Financial Instability
Are you asking, “Where did all the money go?”
• Do they have creditors calling?
• Are they always asking for more money? Do they offer vague explanations on why?
• Have they taken money without asking?
• Is there entitlement to spending money?
• Do they appear to always need more?
Help Is Available
We encourage you as parents and loved ones to trust you instinct. Even if you are uncertain about red flags, but you know something is wrong, seek help.
It can never be too soon, but it can be too late.
You can speak with an Intake coordinator at The Claudia Black Center on the phone or online anytime. Call 855.333.6075 or Chat Live online.