Many adults in America find themselves struggling to engage in “adulthood” activities, such as moving away from their parents, maintaining stable employment, and managing their lives in general.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with multigenerational housing or other healthy forms of familial support. A recent study found that of young adults ages 25-34, 38.4% live in a shared household, and 17.8% live in their parents’ household. However, lack of independence can become a problem for the adult or their family. When this happens, the adult may be dealing with something called failure to launch syndrome.
Mental Disorders and Failure to Launch
Many mental illnesses are associated with failure to launch syndrome. After all, many disorders can make it incredibly difficult to leave home. Conversely, not feeling able to independently manage your own life can take a significant toll on your mental health. When issues exacerbate one another, it can be difficult to pinpoint which is the root cause. However, assigning blame is often much less productive than taking steps to address each issue and work toward a healthier mindset and lifestyle.
This article is not intended to make anyone feel inferior, unaccomplished, or “behind” in life. We each have our own life paths, and comparison is unhelpful. This article is meant to spread awareness about failure to launch syndrome and suggest ways that can make it easier to navigate life as an adult. When someone is struggling with a mental disorder, sometimes “simple” things like brushing their teeth can be incredibly taxing, and larger tasks can feel intimidating or even impossible.
What Is Failure to Launch Syndrome?
Failure to launch syndrome can appear in many different forms. However, it often involves young adults who still live at home and rely on their parents or caregivers for a significant amount of financial and practical support. Often, failure to launch syndrome includes a high level of dependency on others to manage daily-life tasks and provide support in a variety of domains. Typically, individuals with failure to launch feel like they are not able to function fully or face challenges by themselves.
In other words, adults with failure to launch syndrome find themselves struggling to transition from adolescence to adulthood. This can look like not moving up in terms of a career, education, and/or financial stability. People with failure to launch syndrome are also typically not seeking help to become more independent or improve their ability to manage their mental health conditions and other life responsibilities.
It can be easy for individuals to blame others for the expectations they have not met. This judgment can worsen isolation and hesitancy. It is unhelpful to put anyone down or make them feel bad about themselves. Rather than labeling individuals who are struggling as “lazy, pampered, and too indulgent,” we should approach failure to launch syndrome as an opportunity for intentional growth and progress. Professionals in the mental health field should never make clients feel like they are a failure, but they should express to them the positive aspects of directing the course of their lives as an adult.
Causes of Failure to Launch
Everyone’s story is unique and impacted by a variety of factors. However, it can be helpful to know some issues that can contribute to the lack of development in young adults. These include:
- untreated mental health disorders
- substance abuse
- societal issues and economics
- parenting and family factors
Feelings Associated With Failure to Launch
Individuals with failure to launch often feel shame, guilt, regret, and alienation. They may feel stuck, which can decrease motivation or interest in making significant life changes. Depression may appear or worsen, and the adult may struggle with overall discontentment with life.
Some people may feel a lack of confidence and a decrease in their self-esteem, and one of the most common co-occurring factors is anxiety. Not only can anxiety be a significant contributing factor to failure to launch, but it can also be a direct result. When people are not able to push themselves to do a certain task on their own, they may have developed severe anxiety.
Frustration is typically present because in most cases, people with failure to launch are not happy with the state of their lives, but they feel they lack the necessary skills, tools, and resources to change it. When a parent or other adult tries to make changes, the adult with failure to launch may experience a sharp increase in anxiety, which can manifest as feelings of betrayal, anger, and aggression.
Is There Treatment for Failure to Launch?
Clinicians working with people who struggle with failure to launch should be able to recognize the problem and provide tools to address it. Gradually increasing the individual’s independence can be done by decreasing accommodation by families and developing parent-based treatments. Parent-based treatments are effective because as the one struggling with FTL is learning to detach, the parent is being taught how to decrease their level of help while also learning to recognize what their child may be experiencing. Empathy is incredibly important during this process, and parents may need some coaching on this.
Life skills coaching is another important part of failure to launch interventions because it teaches adults the skills they need to function at a higher level. These skills include but are not limited to decision-making, problem-solving, healthy communicating, and coping. As they practice these skills, they can increase their self-esteem and motivation, which can serve them well in all areas of life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may also be used to create healthy thought patterns and change automatic negative responses to independence and personal responsibility. Biofeedback, career counseling, and mindfulness training are also excellent options for adults struggling to launch into adulthood.
If you or someone you know is struggling with failure to launch syndrome and would benefit from discussing treatment options, contact 449 Recovery. We help people struggling with transitioning into adulthood by helping them gain the necessary skills and confidence to move forward. Treatment isn’t about looking down on a client or making them feel as if they’re lazy or a failure. Not meeting specific societal expectations does not equate to failure as a person. There’s endless room for growth, and you deserve to take control of your life. Typically, treatment involves a team of professionals and multiple therapeutic approaches as there are a variety of aspects to work on. At 449 Recovery, we understand that clients need to be taught how to cope, communicate, and navigate their world on their own. We provide them with resources and support along the way. Call at (949) 435-7449 for more information.