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Ask the Experts


My daughter is 18 and has been dealing with depression and anxiety since her father's unexpected death 2 years ago. She was receiving psychotherapy but declined to continue after 3 sessions. She has been on Celexa and Buspar which seems to be effective except when she is under a great deal of stress. She has just started college and is away from home for the first time.

I am trying to offer advice but it is almost impossible to get her to calm down if she's anxious about something.

I work in the mental health field and in discussing her behavior with my colleagues, it was decided that I am a bit of an enabler.

How do I handle her episodes of high anxiety without enabling or being cold? I am always afraid that she is one piece of bad news away from not being able to do what she needs to in order to feel successful. The inability to control her stressors is impacting my ability to function.

Answered by: Franklin Schneier

You describe a situation in which your daughter is having episodes of intense anxiety, and her reliance on advice from you is not effective. Additionally you are concerned that your advice may be "enabling" her helplessness, and also taking a toll on your own functioning. So it seems that there are problems residing in her, in your interactions with her, and in your own coping with the stressful situation.

My impression is that first of all her own treatment is less than adequate. Perhaps she would reconsider another trial of psychotherapy, or at least discuss with her medicating doctor whether there is more that could be done to address the problem with ongoing anxiety.

If improving her treatment is not possible, sometimes it can help to, with your daughter's permission, contact her treating doctor to discuss ideas for improving the way you interact with your daughter when she is anxious.

Finally, if the above are not possible, it could be worthwhile for you to independently consult with a therapist to consider ways to improve your approach to effectively supporting your daughter, and to manage your own stress about the situation.