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My Son Wants to Quit College and Become a Total Recluse

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Less than a month ago my son was enrolled in a medical college. The fees for the entire course, secured by a bank guarantee, is exorbitant by Indian standards. Now after less than a month into the college, when the orientation program is still ongoing and regular classes have not yet started, he wants to quit the college. And he says that since he cannot get over the guilt of causing such a huge monetary loss, he would not be able to face anybody. Basically, just drop out and become a total recluse.

Some background- He considers himself socially inept. He was bullied in school but didn’t tell me then. He is able to make friends but what he really likes is to be popular and fit in. He avoids and hates doctor-patient role-play sessions and he is most pessimistic about continuing on such days. He says that he has never been able to fulfill his dreams. He didn’t become popular, could not become a good soccer player, couldn’t become a fast sprinter, could not build muscles. Part of the reason is that he sets unrealistic goals and then he takes failures at these attempts very hard.

He feels that the time to achieve his dreams is running out fast and he cannot tolerate the thought of doing a course he hates for 6 years. He feels that he let a better life slip out of his hands by not choosing the path to an engineering career and now feels lost and hopeless.

What I’m most worried about is how he will cope up with the feeling of guilt after quitting college. I’m also worried that his feeling of being a failure will not go away and may even worsen. Also, even at home, away from social situations he shows signs like idiopathic muscle twitching (for 3 years), frequent urination in very small quantities (for 4 years), sweaty palms. (From India)

My Son Wants to Quit College and Become a Total Recluse

Answered by on -

A.

I am sorry you are having so much difficulty with your son and that he is struggling with his decisions. It seems like he is experiencing a great deal of anxiety, and the fact that he wants to become a recluse may be a symptom of social anxiety, but there are many other possibilities and overlapping concerns. Because of this, I would, first and foremost, I would encourage your son to go to the university counseling center. Medical colleges know how stressful and difficult the course of study can be and having your son talk about his desire to leave with them would be a very good first stop. It will also help to have him talk about the potential guilt feelings he might have about the tuition payment. The universities are typically very familiar with the needs and issues with the students and they are often in the very best position to help him.

In addition, it may be important for you and him to investigate social anxiety. While I am not trying to diagnose your son in any way, many of the things you’ve mentioned point to his need to be isolated and difficulty with social situations as a type of social anxiety.

There is some excellent information here about social anxiety that you may want to consider.

At the core of my thinking about your son understanding more about social anxiety is that you mentioned the role-playing of Doctor-patient is such a huge trigger for him. This is actually a performance issue and the specifics of that can give us a clue about the social anxiety component, Your son can make friends, but this part of his education—the performance and evaluation part is actually a specifically named component of social anxiety. If he wasn’t able to make friends this would be viewed differently, but since it is so specific it can be classified another way.

This is why I am highly recommending he speak to a counselor on campus. The avoidance of a performance-based evaluation condition can become so severe it can, indeed, cause something like what your son is experiencing.

The reason I am encouraging you to help your son see a counselor is because if it turns out it is social anxiety there are very successful treatment options. This article will outline the psychotherapy, medical, and self-help options that are available
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Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

My Son Wants to Quit College and Become a Total Recluse

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). My Son Wants to Quit College and Become a Total Recluse. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/10/02/my-son-wants-to-quit-college-and-become-a-total-recluse/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Oct 2019 (Originally: 2 Oct 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Oct 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.