Q. I’m currently a 3rd year college student, at 22 years of age. I’ve always had emotional problems throughout my childhood, although nothing so serious that would cause depression at the time. It was not until my junior high and high school years, where I actually began to suffer from depression, due to being picked on, spit on, and some cases, beaten up, in and sometimes out of school at the time. Eventually I was prescribed with antidepressants, which occasionally worked, although sometimes made little difference.

My high school years were a bit better, in that I was not picked on so much, or beaten up, but I did have the problem of being very shy, and having virtually only 1 friend throughout my high school years, so much so, that I had problems meeting people, girls, anyone, and mostly outside of school kept to myself. Again, I was taking antidepressants in my high school years as well, but never really got the feeling that it helped much. To be honest, things in terms of my personal life did not get so bad till I entered college, from there, shyness, lack of friends continued, this despite enrolling in my local ROTC officers training program, in order to try and combat this. Eventually after a year of being in it, and at this particularly university, I had felt that things were bad enough, and dropped out, and immediately made plans to join the Air Force, as at the time, a few of my friends were all planning on joining up.

My experience in the Air Force turned into a disaster however, for a variety of reasons. I suffered panic attacks often, as well as depression, while in training (and at the time of joining, i was not prescribed with antidepressants), eventually to the point where I could no longer mentally handle myself in the environment, and requested that I be relieved of training, due to suicidal thoughts, if I were to stay. I was then granted a transfer to a temporary training squadron, which was for those whom wished to leave the military. My problem however was that this of course took time, over 2 months processing, and my times there were as bad, if not worse than my regular training was, and again, I had depression and suicidal thoughts, I’ve more or less been emotionally scarred due to the events I went through in my few months in the military, specifically from two particular events, one of which I was violated by another recruit in the middle of the night, whom threw his feces in my face as I tried to sleep, an event that I did not report, due to fear of reprisal or trouble from chain of command. The 2nd event however, I felt was much worse, which occurred when I was removed from my training squadron, after suicidal thoughts, and put in the back of an ambulance, where I was confronted with two military ambulance crew, whom went on and on, insulting me, saying I was scum, that I deserved to just “off” myself, etc, refusing to let me out of the ambulance and into the Psych Ward of the hospital till I “acknowledged” what they were saying to me.

Flash forward to almost 2 years later, and I still suffer from depression, though now I am on antidepressants once again. I do however suffer from what I believe is PTSD, due to past events, and often feel like crying or screaming for no reason, get headaches often, have extreme shyness, and often think of my past difficult events with regret, wondering if I should of changed my actions, and mostly prefer to be left alone. I did speak with a Psych immediately after being discharged from the military, but found myself with little to say at the time (although to be honest, my problems seemed to of gotten much worse in the 2 years since then). I’ve yet to speak to a counselor or Psych, or friends, in the 2 years since then about my depression, for fear of being ridiculed (which, I have been from some family and friends, which has only made things worse for me). I’ve already taken a semester off from school, to take time off, a while back, but it seems every time I go back to school, my depression and PTSD seems to only get worse, and I am left wondering If I should seek hospitalization, for fear of possibly having suicidal thoughts at some point, or not being able to continue my studies in my school environment.

A. I am not sure what your precise question is so I will offer general advice based on the description of your situation.

Beginning in junior high and then into high school, you suffered from depression largely as a result of bullying, shyness, social isolation, anxiety and low self-esteem. You said that for a very short period of time you were placed on antidepressants. This meant that you had to have revealed your depression to your parents or a caregiver at some point and they probably took you to a doctor who then prescribed you medication. The medication, as you said, was unhelpful.

Then you began college and many of the same issues reemerged and seemed to get worse. Things were so unpleasant for you that you dropped out of college and joined the Air Force. Your experiences in the Air Force were not much better than college or high school and in many respects were worse due to two negative and psychologically damaging incidents. At this juncture, you again were treated with antidepressants, a treatment regimen that by your own admission did not help.

Currently, you’re back at college and struggling with the same issues that have followed you since junior high, except they are seemingly more severe and life-crippling.

What is missing from your treatment history is counseling. You have never addressed the real issues that have been plaguing you for years. You continually experience the same problems and each time they resurface you seek the same ineffective treatment of antidepressants. This needs to change.

Antidepressants do not seem to be working for you. This is not to say that antidepressants could not benefit you; they might benefit you but without counseling they will probably not be very effective. Taking medication alone is usually not an effective psychological treatment.

You mentioned that part of the reason you may have never sought counseling is your fear of being ridiculed. Maybe you feel shame for not being able to “fix” your own problems or perhaps you feel that the therapist will judge you. If you believe these things you’d be wrong. I can assure you that it is highly unlikely that a therapist would ridicule you for seeking treatment. Their job is to help individuals who are experiencing situations like yours, not to shame them for their decision to seek help.

There is nothing negative or shameful about receiving counseling. Counseling may help you gain the skills you need to finally combat your depression and other issues that have been crippling your life since junior high. It is possible that you were never taught by your caregivers how to effectively deal with stress or life’s problems. Instead of antidepressants for the problems you experienced in junior high it would have been useful for your caregivers to have offered you comfort, support, strategies or advice on how to help you solve your problems. Maybe if you had received this sort of help early on, the problems would not have followed you to college and beyond.

It is not too late to correct the issues that you have struggled with for years. Now is the time to seek treatment and not just antidepressants. Try counseling and don’t worry about what your friends or family think. Your life has been stifled for too long with the same issues that have only grown worse. Consider therapy and decide that it’s time to live without depression, fear, isolation and anxiety. Please consider writing back to let me know how therapy goes if you decide to take my advice. I wish you luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Nov 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Depression, PTSD from Military and High School Years: Please Help.. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/11/10/depression-ptsd-from-military-and-high-school-years-please-help/