The time when children leave home for college or careers can bring on feelings of sadness, loneliness, and grief in many parents. Coined “empty nest syndrome” by health professionals, this transition can lead some men and women to depression and even to turn to drugs or alcohol.
As a parent, the focus is on providing a loving, nurturing environment for children. When they begin to establish their independence, it can bring on a sense of loss and negative feelings that persist and lead to depression.
Although many “empty nesters” find freedom and a sense of relief in an empty house with more time for hobbies and interests, others find themselves emotionally vulnerable. Some even dwell on lost opportunities or begin to feel like they’re no longer needed.
Who Is At Risk Of Empty Nest Syndrome?
Those who have experienced depression in the past or who have a family history of the condition are more likely to develop empty nest syndrome. Major life changes such as a child leaving home can spawn negative feelings and the desire to self-medicate with alcohol, prescription pain medications, or other substances.
Factors That Can Cause Empty Nest Syndrome
There are often multiple contributing factors that cause this type of depression including:
Loss Of Identity – As a primary caregiver, it’s easy to become engrossed in the role of being a parent. When an adult child leaves home, there sometimes is a loss of an identity that has been present for 18 or more years.
Guilt – Many parents fear that they did not adequately do their job to prepare their children for the real world. This can spawn feelings of guilt and regret.
Financial Issues – Worries about college tuition and other college-related expenses can place many parents under a high level of stress.
Relationship Changes – Without the time-consuming task of raising children, many couples are unprepared for how to live life without having to manage the daily responsibilities of being a parent.
Getting Help For Depression And Addiction
For many parents struggling with empty nest syndrome, it’s wise to get help from an experienced mental health professional. If there is also a co-occurring addiction, a recovery program might be the right first step in recovery.
Summit Estate offers in-patient co-occurring disorders treatment in Los Gatos, CA for substance abuse and depression. If you need help for the feelings you’re experiencing since your children have left home, don’t delay in getting help.
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