What’s My Diagnosis?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I’m not really sure to begin with this. I guess the beginning is as good as any. My mother is Bi-polar but never took medication for it. So growing up was no walk in the park. She was very mentally abusive. I don’t remember much detail it’s all kind of hazy. I was very “rebellious” as a teen(smoking weed, drinking,guys) Looking back it was only for two things. Escape and attention.

My Parents split when i was between 2-4. My father was the only good thing in my life. He died when i was 16. I was pretty emotionless through it all. I have great difficulty experiencing emotions. Most of the time I’m very numb.I don’t cut(self-harm)because it’s against my beliefs, Though i must admit sometimes the feelings are extremely overwhelming to the point where i have scratched myself and punched things.( walls and doors etc.)

My relationship with my husband is rocky. I’m VERY critical of him.(he doesn’t deserve it) It’s only arguments with him that lead to any self harm. I get so frustrated feeling as if he doesn’t understand me. Sometimes I talk to him as if I’m a little kid talking to a parent. Is that ok? I’m very dissociated from the world in general. Sometimes i don’t even recognize my own arm/hand…even though i know(in my head) it’s mine.

I’ve grown increasingly depressed over the past two years i would say. I have difficulty simply keeping up with my own appearance most days. The more I read about mental health the more i feel i have a bunch of different issues rolled into one. BPD stood out the most to me but i could really use a professional opinion. Sorry if none of this made sense. It doesn’t to me half the time. Thanks for your time.

A. I do not know your diagnosis but I would highly recommend therapy. Your inappropriate behavior toward your husband will cause the relationship major problems. It is not okay to be critical of him or to talk to him as though you are a child and he is your parent. You are not parent and child; you are husband and wife and any other type of interaction is clearly out of place.

You experienced a traumatic childhood. Your mother was sick with untreated bipolar disorder. She was also abusive toward you. For a child, this experience can be chaotic and is often damaging.

If your mother was emotionally and psychologically unstable it would have been difficult for you to learn how to properly regulate your emotions and behaviors; you probably did not have a healthy role model in your mother. When children witness their parents behaving in an unstable manner, it is possible that the children will emulate what they see. Children are heavily influenced by how their parents think and act.

You also had the traumatic experience of losing your father. Losing a parent can be devastating at any age but especially as a teenager. After his death, you mentioned that you felt numb. What does being numb mean? It means that you did not and could not feel anything regarding his death – good or bad. It seems that you may have never dealt properly with this horrifying event.

Your reaction (feeling numb) was probably not a conscious choice but rather an unconscious psychological defense mechanism. There are times when an event is so traumatic that psychologically we are not ready or able to cope. Defense mechanisms protect us from thoughts, feelings or experiences that psychologically, for various reasons, are too difficult to handle. This may be what happened to you.

With regard to your dissociation and depression, these may both be related to the traumatic events of your childhood. The numbness that you feel is a sort of dissociation. Depression may also be the result of many issues, both past and present. Your current marital troubles are probably one of the biggest contributors to your current feelings of depression.

As I said in the beginning of my response, I do think that you need to see a mental health professional. It would be helpful for you to examine some of the events of your childhood with a therapist but most importantly, you need help dealing with your current issues. The way in which you treat your husband is inappropriate and unfair. A therapist can help you learn more appropriate ways to interact with your husband that are more fair and balanced. A therapist can also help you communicate with your husband more effectively. Learning how to be a better communicator may help him to better understand you.

Your depression and tendency to self-harm also needs to be treated. A good mental health professional can teach you how to find alternative and non-maladaptive ways to deal with life stressors. It’s time to get help and put a stop to feeling miserable, depressed and numb. I hope this answers your question. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Mar 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). What’s My Diagnosis?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/03/23/whats-my-diagnosis/