Adult Children Won’t Leave Home

Parents look forward to every milestone in their children’s lives. From the arrival of a child’s first tooth to their first and last days of school, children are moving closer towards independence with every passing day. Each phase is exciting, and maybe a bit somber, as they leave their childhood days behind. But when adult children won’t leave the house, that magical feeling is easily lost amongst the frustration of their failure to launch.

Because of unstable economic times, many young adults are staying home longer for financial reasons. When a child has gone through all the important childhood milestones and then says, “I can’t move out on my own,” many parents find themselves at a complete loss.

If there’s no other reasonable explanation, your child might be on the autism spectrum or have dependent personality disorder. Here’s how to know the difference.

Autism spectrum disorder has specific criteria and is characterized by the following:

  • Difficulty in social communication and social interaction including reciprocity, nonverbal communication, and maintaining relationships.
  • Restricted repetitive patterns of behaviors (e.g., repetition of movements or speech, insistence on sameness/inflexibility, abnormal fixation, hyper or hypo activity to sensory input)
  • Symptoms are present in early developmental stages.
  • Challenges cause significant disruption in social, work, and life activities.
  • Symptoms can’t be easily explained by intellectual or developmental delays.

Dependent Personality Disorder in Adult Children

Dependent personality disorder is a personality disorder that affects less than 1% of the population. A person with dependent personality disorder expresses inflexible, maladaptive behavior that is different from normal expectations. Dependent personality disorder can also cause difficulty in a young adult’s social, family, and work life. These symptoms cause young adults to be overly clingy and have trouble making everyday decisions like what to wear or what to eat.

You can often trace symptoms back to adolescence or early adulthood. People with dependent personality disorder often have difficulty with:

  • Preoccupations and thoughts of abandonment
  • Affectivity/expressing emotions
  • Interpersonal functioning
  • Impulse control
  • Extreme passivity
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse

Recognizing the differences between autism and dependent personality disorder will help you find the right treatment for your adult child. Young adults with either type of disorder are capable of leading an independent life when they have the right treatment and support.

Paradox Psychological Services is a child and teen therapy center located in Carlsbad at Bressi Ranch and Aviara Parkway. We serve adult children and teens. Our child therapists at Bressi Ranch are also near San Marcos. We offer an action and goal-oriented approach to child and teen therapy. To learn more about our services, contact us today for a free phone consultation.

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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