Below are a number of frequently asked questions from people just like you.


How do I know if my child needs help?

Often it is difficult to recognize whether or not your child is struggling with typical, age-appropriate anxieties or academic issues that will correct themselves over time. If you see major changes in your child’s behavior, sleep habits, grades, or social interactions, it is always a good idea to consult with a mental health or education professional to assess whether intervention is needed.

What if I know my child is struggling, but I don’t want to send my child away for treatment?

It is very important that you understand all of the possible treatment modalities and alternatives so that you can make a decision for treatment that does not cause further harm and yet provides the level of care your child needs to heal and move forward. Having to leave home and enter a residential treatment program can be a scary experience for an emerging adult. Sometimes, going away to a treatment program is absolutely needed in order to fully meet the support needs of a struggling student, but many times it is not.

At Connected Directions, we are committed to finding the least restrictive treatment environment for your child. Often, students can heal and move forward with intensive outpatient therapy and coaching either at home or on campus. The assessment phase is a necessary piece of the puzzle in order to properly identify the supports your child needs.

What is the typical length of treatment for a struggling young adult?

People are complex, and their struggles are too. It is difficult to give a general answer about how long a struggling emerging adult will need therapeutic support. However, it can be helpful to know that if an emerging adult goes away to a wilderness treatment program, it is typical for them to stay for 2 to 3 months. Residential treatment stays my last a little longer, 3 to 6 months. In either case, after a student returns home from treatment, they will need outpatient support for at least a year and possibly up to 5 years after treatment. For children who need less support, outpatient treatment alone, which means seeing a therapist, psychiatrist and/or coach while still living at home, can last from 8 months to five years or more.

Will my child have to take psychiatric medication?

Often, psychiatric evaluation and possible medication, at least temporarily, is part of the picture for an emerging adult who reaches a crisis point. That said, there are many cases in which psychiatric medication is not needed. The best treatment approach is always a holistic one, which will take into account life-skills, talk therapies, and experiential therapies that can help young adults learn to self-regulate and work with their emotions in healthy ways regardless of whether psychiatric medication is also part of the full treatment plan.


What are the signs that my child has depression?

Shared from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Common symptoms of depression in children and adolescents include those listed below. In “major depression,” five or more of these symptoms last for over two weeks, and cause difficulty in everyday life. In a less severe but longer lasting condition called “persistent depressive disorder” (formerly “dysthymia”), two or more of these symptoms are present, more often than not, for a year.

  • Feeling or appearing depressed, sad, tearful or irritable
  • Decreased interest in or pleasure from activities, which may lead to withdrawal from friends or after-school activities
  • Change in appetite, with associated weight
  • Major changes in sleeping patterns, such as sleeping much more or less than normal
  • Appearing to be physically sped up or slowed down
  • Increase in tiredness and fatigue, or decrease in energy
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating, which may correlated with worsening school performance
  • Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self destructive behavior

In children it is important to keep in mind that an increase in irritability or even complaints of boredom may be more noticeable than sadness. Children also may have more physical complaints, particularly if the child does not have the habit of talking about how he or she feels. Talk of suicide or not wanting to be alive can be difficult to interpret, so it must be take seriously and brought immediately to a mental health professional’s attention.

What are the signs that my child has anxiety?

Shared from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Children and adolescents with anxiety generally voice a specific worry or fear, which they may not realize is excessive or unreasonable. They can also present with a physical complaint, such as stomachache or headache. Clinicians diagnose specific anxiety disorders by examining the context in which a child’s anxiety symptoms occur:

  • Children with Generalized Anxiety Disorder experience chronic, excessive anxiety about multiple areas of their lives (e.g., family, school, social situations, health, natural disasters)
  • Children with Separation Anxiety experience excessive fear of being separated from their home or caretakers
  • Children with Specific Phobia fear a specific object or situation (e.g., spiders, needles, riding in elevators)
  • Children with Social Phobia experience anxiety in social settings or performance situations
  • Children with Panic Disorder experience unexpected, brief episodes of intense anxiety without an apparent trigger, characterized by multiple physical symptoms (e.g., shortness of breath, increased heart rate, sweating)
  • Children with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder perform repetitive mental acts or behaviors (“compulsions”) to alleviate anxiety caused by disturbing thoughts, impulses, or images (“obsessions”)
  • Children with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder experience anxiety symptoms (e.g. nightmares, feelings of detachment from others, increased startle) following exposure to a traumatic event
What are the signs that my child has a substance abuse problem?

Shared from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Parents should consider substance use or abuse when they notice changes in their adolescent’s behavior. Changes that might be a sign of substance abuse include increased moodiness or sudden changes in mood, getting into fights, secretiveness, and associating with friends who are getting into trouble. Signs of substance use can also include doing worse in school, cutting classes, dropping out of activities or getting into more arguments. Parents can be alert to noticing more direct signs such as missing pills, unexplained over-the-counter medications in the house, cigarettes or rolling paper in the laundry, or smells of alcohol or smoke.

Adolescents with substance use disorders are more likely to have a psychiatric disorder, including depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder. In some cases, the psychiatric disorder starts before the substance use, but in other cases, it starts after substance abuse has become a problem. Additionally, substance abuse is more likely to continue in adolescents who also have a psychiatric disorder. Treatment is more difficult for adolescents who have both problems. Both conditions should be treated at the same time, with an integrated care plan.

Use and abuse of drugs and alcohol by teens is very common and can have serious consequences. Recurrent adolescent substance use contributes to personal distress, poor school performance, short and long term health problems, relationship difficulties, and involvement in antisocial activities.

Some teenagers will become dependent or “addicted.” They can use more than they planned, struggle with cutting down or stopping use, or give up important activities in their lives. Some may even become tolerant (needing more of the substance to achieve the same effect) and experience withdrawal when they stop use.

Teenagers who are simply experimenting with alcohol or drugs can die or suffer severe injuries, or acquire HIV or other infections, or become pregnant due to engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of the substance.

What are the signs that my child has an eating disorder?

Shared from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Disordered eating related to stress, poor nutritional habits, and food fads are relatively common problems for youth. In addition, two psychiatric eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia, are on the increase among teenage girls and young women and often run in families. These two eating disorders also occur in boys, but less often.

Parents frequently wonder how to identify symptoms of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. These disorders are characterized by a preoccupation with food and a distortion of body image. Unfortunately, many teenagers hide these serious and sometimes fatal disorders from their families and friends.

Symptoms and warning signs of anorexia nervosa and bulimia include the following:

  • A teenager with anorexia nervosa is typically female, and a perfectionist and a high achiever in school. At the same time, she suffers from low self-esteem, irrationally believing she is fat regardless of how thin she becomes. Desperately needing a feeling of mastery over her life, the teenager with anorexia nervosa experiences a sense of control only when she says “no” to the normal food demands of her body. In a relentless pursuit to be thin, the girl starves herself. This often reaches the point of serious damage to the body, and in a small number of cases may lead to death.
  • The symptoms of bulimia are usually different from those of anorexia nervosa. The patient binges on large quantities of high-caloric food and/or purges her body of dreaded calories by self-induced vomiting, extreme exercise, or laxatives. The binges may alternate with severe diets, resulting in dramatic weight fluctuations. Teenagers may try to hide the signs of throwing up by running water while spending long periods of time in the bathroom. Frequent vomiting can cause a serious threat to the patient’s physical health, including dehydration, hormonal imbalance, the depletion of important minerals, and damage to vital organs.

Binge eating can also occur on its own without the purging of bulimia and can lead to eventual purging. Children with binge eating disorder also require treatment from a mental health professional.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (or ARFID) is another eating disorder which can occur in younger children or adolescents. It involves a disturbance in eating or feeding which includes substantial weight loss or a lack of expected weight gain, and nutritional deficiencies. ARFID can lead to dependence on a feeding tube or dietary supplements.

How do I know if my child has an internet or technology addiction?

Internet and Technology overuse is a growing problem for both youth and adults.Because our modern lives are so dependent on technology, it can be very difficult to know if your child is becoming addicted to the internet and technology or is simply a typical generation Z-er.Although technology addiction is not listed as an official diagnoses in the DSM-V psychiatric diagnostic manual, we can look at the symptoms for other disorders, like gambling and process addictions, to gauge whether or not your child’s internet and technology use is a problem that needs to be addressed.

In general, clinicians would report that you child has an internet or technology problem if their use is causing a disruption to a typically healthy life routine.If internet and technology use is interfering with your child’s ability to handle their real-world responsibilities such as school participation, homework, and housework; or if their use of technology and the internet keeps them completely isolated from social interaction to the point that typical social milestones, like making friends, is stunted; then you should see a mental health professional to have your child assessed.