Troubled, Troublesome Teen

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I want to help my 15 yr daughter figure out what is wrong with her. I’m out of money. How do I get her a diagnosis? For 10 yrs I’ve taken my daughter to professionals to understand what makes her different so we can address and help her. She’s been diagnosed at separate times of ADD, ODD, potential BPD, depression and on and on. No one agrees. She struggles socially and acedemically. She’s taken a slew of tests. Her IQ is high and attention is average. Socially she misses queues and can talk excessively. She can be super sweet and super difficult. She complains about not having any friends but yet I know there are some. however they aren’t knocking down our door to hang out with her. She makes friends with people further away via internet and phone. She is failing classes right and left as she forgets or loses assignments constantly. Many times she does them multiple times. I’m out of money and not sure where to turn to seek treatment to help her. She struggles so much and has for years. What can I do for her?

A: Your daughter is fortunate indeed to have such a concerned mom. I can’t tell you what’s wrong on the basis of a letter. Although different professionals have come up with different labels, it seems they do agree that something is amiss.

But, truly, I’m not sure it matters what the diagnosis may be. Your daughter is troubled and troublesome. I suggest you stop looking for a mental health diagnosis and take a more holistic approach. First, if you haven’t already, take her to her doctor for a complete physical exam. That should include blood tests to make sure there isn’t a thyroid problem that is contributing to her difficulties. If so, start treatment. If everything checks out medically, then have her evaluated for a learning disability. Sometimes kids with learning differences miss important social and emotional cues and this causes erratic behavior.

While you pursue appointments, make sure you are taking care of the basics. That means encouraging her to get enough sleep and good nutrition. Finally, seek out a therapist. At 15, she is old enough to benefit from some individual therapy, regardless of what is at the root of her problems. I encourage you to find a therapist who works with teens and their families. The whole family has undoubtedly been affected by your daughter’s behavior. Good therapy will include regular whole-family sessions as well as individual treatment for her.

I hope that taking a slightly different path will help your daughter get unstuck. I’m sure the last few years have been terribly frustrating to you both.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Mar 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Troubled, Troublesome Teen. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/03/13/troubled-troublesome-teen/