Oh my gosh. I feel for you. I have a son with significant anxiety myself. He's a high achiever in many ways. Outstanding grades, school athlete and leader . . . but has had anxiety since he was in elementary school. He's now 15.5. It's so difficult to parent through these times. Here is my take on it having had two teens commit suicide in our school this past year. YOU are a safe place and person. You need to make sure he is okay. He probably needs to check back in with his psychiatrist and make sure his meds are at the right dose and working properly. First and foremost is his safety. I'm not trying to be dramatic but as a parent of a child with mental health challenges myself, I don't take how low someone can go lightly. You also don't want him to drift to self medicating in harmful ways which college has great access to for everyone but particularly vulnerable, suffering individuals.
And I know, this is also a time in which MOST kids or at least a lot really are challenged. Many are home sick, many struggle and after their freshman year it gets better. Can he come home on weekends for the time being? Then he just has to get through the week. And then perhaps he can sustain the situation without imploding to see if it gets better or if he indeed needs to transfer for his own mental well being. I understand the finances of it! I understand not wanting to make a rash decision! So, slow it down. Don't make his coming back out of the question but just not yet.
Does his campus have any services? I'd get this sorted out and him signed up! Counselor, mentors, anyone that can help in this situation affiliated with the school. There is a recent statistic that up to 35% of all college freshman struggle with mental health issues. Your son is not alone and the school SHOULD have resources to help.
What medication is your son on if I may ask?
This is a bit confusing. You say your son has GAD, but the meds he's taking aren't for anxiety. One is for ADHD, which means it's a stimulating drug that can make anxiety worse, though as an SNRI it also targets serotonin which can help with anxiety. But if he's this agitated, this probably wouldn't be the first drug a psychiatrist would choose -- or the second. The other drug is for psychosis such as bipolar, again, not for GAD. So either he's getting some odd treatments because the usual suspects didn't work or there's a lot more going on here than an anxiety problem or he's just not getting the right treatments. Assuming GAD is his only diagnosis, the usual suspects would be the use of something like Xanax when needed but the main drug would usually either be an ssri such as Zoloft or a tricyclic or possibly for some Effexor, though again, that wouldn't probably be the first choice. It's hard to answer your question because if these drugs are properly prescribed his diagnosis is much more complex than just having GAD. If he does suffer mainly from an anxiety disorder, other meds would be more likely to work, and therapy would have to be part of the picture if he ever wanted to not take medication. If he has indeed been diagnosed with something like bipolar, therapy, while it might help him cope, couldn't cure him and he would have to be on medication. It's a very different picture. If this were just an anxiety problem, I would guess it's possible he gets used to his college and settles in. With an anxiety problem like his he won't have the usual college experience, but if he's doing well on grades and that committed to going to work, it sounds like he's trying to handle this and perhaps might in time with the right therapy. But that's only if it's only an anxiety problem. Before I got my chronic anxiety problem, I always had trouble acclimating to a new school for the first few weeks. Then I settled in and was fine. This can happen. You do need to talk to his brother and explain the difference between a disease and a personality trait -- your son has a disease that needs treatment just as a heart patient would. Unfortunately, there isn't a right or a wrong answer here. It would be better in the long run for your son's life if he sticks it out and overcomes this early anxiety, but probably won't be better for him if that doesn't happen, and none of us can predict which outcome it will be. Dropping out and taking time off would be practicing avoidance, which breeds more avoidance, because in the short term it does work. But it make it worse in the long term. For chronic sufferers, sometimes when neither therapy nor meds work very well avoidance can be the best course, but nobody gets better avoiding. The therapy that is said to work best forces us to face the things that cause us anxiety so we can get over them, but first they teach us a whole lot of relaxation techniques and explain how our brains are working. Even then, it very often doesn't work. It won't be easy, but hard work and his young age and adaptability are his allies. But this again only pertains to an anxiety problem, and again, the meds he's on suggest something far more complex than that. Peace.