"Failure To Launch Syndrome"

This is the term used to describe a phenomenon that is far more common than most folks think. This is the term that is used to describe those young adults, usually males, that seem unable to take the next step in their lives and move into increasing independence and employment. They often have a history of starting school or jobs and not following through and dropping out in more ways than one. They often have histories of substance abuse and addictive behaviors. By addictive behaviors we don't just mean the use of substances such as drugs and alcohol. We include in this area the over use of computer technology and video games and RPG (Role Playing Games). The World of Warcraft, Black Ops, Diablo 3, to name but a few. When the term Computer or Internet addiction is used, it usually refers to this type of behavior. Often the teen or young adult will require more and more time gaming in a subconscious attempt to balance their mood and anxiety. Another area that most parents are reluctant to talk about is when the computer isn't used for games, but they find that their son has been looking at Internet pornograpy to excess. This is very understandably disturbing for parents. We often find them sneaking online to view more and more hardcore sites, often staying up late until the wee hours to use the computer uninterrupted. This is far from the old sneak a peek at the Playboy Magazine at the barbershop, this is an inability to not look and fantasize, as this is a type of stimulation to feel balanced. Teens and young adults that are involved in this type of behavior need assistance, not moralizing as it has very little to do with conscious choice after a while. It becomes a driven, even obsessive need that negatively impacts such a large part of their life.

If their computer time is restricted in any manner, the teen or young adult may experience a deep melancholy and become angrey, irritable and even aggressive towards caregivers or parents. They often avoid social encounters, homework and other daily responsibilities that remind them of what they should be doing which raises their anxiety and plunges them back to the computer and the safety of the game and the fantasy world that is easier to content with than the real world and it's subsequent demands.

Some of the diagnostic areas that seem to contribute to this stuck life position are depression, usually reactive to their inability to move on. ADHD and the need for constant stimulation, and learning disabilities that not only effect schooling, but reading and its impact on educational progress. Young adults with Asperger's as well can be prone to this phenomenon as they can perseverate, meaning, get stuck on themes and ideas and not transition to what they need to be doing.

All of these things contribute to low self-esteem, academic under achievement and being unprepared for adulthood leaving them dependent on their families.

Most, if not all, of these teens and young adults have a great potential, even superior IQ's for developing the awareness needed to move confidently towards a life free of disempowering perspectives and negative behaviors and their self-imposed limitations. This is where it "takes a village" to get them back on the right track. Usually the more typical "how does that make you feel" therapy is a dead end. The village is the family, a guide or therapist/mentor to begin the transition to adulthood and a good and proper launch!

If anyone you know falls into this category, there are resources that address this issue and do it well. We will be more than happy to schedule a phone consultation time to point you in the correct direction.

Written by:
William Shryer, DCSW, LCSW, Clinical Director
Diablo Behavioral Healthcare

For more information on any behavioral or developmental concern, call our office at (925) 648-4800, and we will take time to answer your questions.