What’s wrong with me?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I am not sure what’s wrong with me. I feel like I’m not able to cope with things…I am easily angered, lose my patience and “snap” at my husband and kids often. I have mood swings that are uncontrollable. At the time of my outbursts and negativity (usually over small things), I feel justified in my behavior (that I have a right to feel and act the way I am). But afterwards, I feel regretful and remorseful, for hurting those I love most.

My husband’s not tolerating my behavior as much as he used to (which is leading to many arguments between us). He says that we cannot “go on” like this much longer. We have two small children (2 1/2 years and 1 year) and I want them to grow up in a loving and safe environment (which they do, for the most part), but I’m concerned about how all this has been negatively affecting them.

I am worried that I might have a personality disorder, because I try so hard to not act the way I do, but I feel helpless to change my behavior. When I’m in a stressful situation, I feel completely controlled by it…unable to step back and respond in an appropriate manner. I act on emotion, and usually overreact or freak-out unnecessarily.

And I’m not able to evaluate how I’m acting until I’m removed from the stressful situation. If my husband tells me I’m overreacting at the time, this just angers me more. He says I’m unapproachable when I’m in “one of these moods” (which are occurring more and more), and that there’s no talking to me.

I feel like I’m losing it…like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster. One minute I feel like my husband’s the enemy, that he doesn’t care about or love me, and that I want to leave him. The next moment, I love him more than anything and feel sorry for him, for having to put up with me.

What is wrong with me? Please HELP!!! Thanks!

A: I doubt very much that you have a personality disorder. Since you are mystified and upset, I’m guessing that this is relatively new behavior. If that is the case, I think the first thing you should do is make an appointment to see your doctor for a complete physical. You have had two babies in 2 1/2 years. It’s very possible that your body hasn’t adjusted back to your usual normal self. It’s possible that you are experiencing some version of a postpartum depression that needs to be treated.

If you were seeing me in my office, I would also want to check on your sleep. Are you getting at least 8 hours? Are you getting several 90 minute uninterrupted periods of sleep each night? Sleep deprivation can make people irritable and moody.

If you aren’t getting a balanced diet, that could be a contributing factor too. If you check out medically and you are sleeping well and eating right, then, and only then, would we start exploring whether you are struggling with a mental health issue.

I’m very glad you wrote. The fact that you don’t like how you are behaving signals to me that something is wrong. The fact that you want to fix it tells me that you are doing your best to take responsibility for yourself. Please tell your husband that I sympathize with his impatience but he needs to hang in there and support you in getting the help you need. You’re trying to be a good wife and mother. The two of you need to be on the same team, being angry at the situation, not on opposite sides being angry at each other. I’m reasonably certain that with some appropriate professional help, you can get back to being your old self.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). What’s wrong with me?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/06/23/whats-wrong-with-me-4/

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