The Living-With-Parents Blues

Despite the general rise in economic indicators over the past year or two, there are still many young adults who, for economic reasons, have had to move back in with their parents.  A proportion of these people become depressed.

Depression is the normal human reaction to loss, disappointment, or a general sense of unfulfillment.  Viewed in this light, it is not surprising that young people who have to move back in with their parents might be depressed.

In our culture, a good deal of emphasis is placed on becoming emancipated from one’s parents on completion of one’s education. Successful transitioning to adulthood is defined in terms of starting a job/career, setting up one’s own living arrangements, and finding a partner.

Most of the individuals who “return to the nest” are usually having difficulty in all three areas.  They either haven’t been able to get a job, or if they have a job, their salaries are insufficient to enable them to live solo.  With regards to finding a partner, living with parents can have a cramping effect, at least for some people.

In addition, moving back in can place a strain on the parent-child relationship.  If the parents are invested in keeping the adult child dependent, then the return to the nest provides them opportunities to indulge this perspective.  Usually, this is to the detriment of all concerned.

If the parents are invested in seeing their adult child go out and succeed on his/her own, then the return home can introduce a high level of friction.

Either of these scenarios can be depressing for the adult child.  If there is a strong tradition of dialogue and open discussion in the family, then these problems can be aired and resolved, but often this is not the case.

If the returned child becomes noticeably depressed, sooner or later the suggestion is made, by parents or others, that he/she consult a doctor.  The outcome of the visit is an antidepressant, and often the long term result is a downward spiral into disempowerment, reduced expectations, and recurrent bouts of depression.  Antidepressants are not a path to a brighter future.

The truly sad part of all this is that it doesn’t have to end this way.  Returning to the nest doesn’t have to be a depressing experience, either for parents or for the adult child.  What’s needed is communication, conflict resolution skills, and some support and coaching for the adult child in the art of job-hunting.  This is the kind of help that should be available at a mental health center, but usually isn’t.  Over the past two or three decades, the centers have degenerated into marketing outlets for psycho-pharmaceutical products.

One of the great evils of psychiatry is that they have poisoned our culture and our society.  They have spread the false and destructive message that if a person is depressed, he must have a brain illness, and he must take pills.  And so the individual who lives with his parents because he can’t find a job, and subsequently becomes depressed, is sacrificed on the altar of psychiatric turf and pharmaceutical profits.

The system is working perfectly; but it’s not working for the people who need help.