Boyfriend Have Depression or Something Else?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hi, I have been in a relationship for 18 months with a man whom I believe may be suffering from depression. This started about a year ago and has gradually become more of an issue. The situation was exacerbated by the sudden death of his father 7 months ago. My boyfriend has beome more and more withdrawn, isolating himself from friends. He no longer socialises, has difficulty connecting with people, finds it difficult to deal with crowds and noise, reports being tired all of the time and sleeps a great deal. He works part time whilst persuing a part time training course but has pretty much dropped out of the course now. He has “black moods” where he becomes almost comatose for a few hours. On a couple of occassions these have involved a feeling of being in a “waking nightmare” with images and thoughts whirling round his head that he couldn’t control or escape. He also experiences very vivid dreams that are often distressing. I think that he is also becoming distant from me, often cancelling dates at the last minute, citing exhaustion or some other reason. I have tried to discuss this with him, persuade him to go to see a doctor or make other lifestyle changes like getting regular exercise but he refuses to recognise that there is a problem with his behaviour. Instead, he places the “blame” on the rest of the world, creating more and more outrageous and paranoid explanations for why he has failed at something or why his behaviour has changed, These often conflict with eath other but always paint him as very clever, talented and hardworking.

I am at the end of my tether but can’t work out how to make him aknowlege that there is a problem and get help. Or, am I just making excuses for him and he is actually just an arrogant idiot. I’m sorry that this sounds so uncaring but he absolutely refuses to recognise that anything he does or think is because of any mental problems.

I give some examples of his position in a number of areas.

For instance: He doesn’t sleep lots, he just has unusual sleep patterns. He’s someone who just naturally stays up late and sleeps late, he can’t get a full time job because his body just doesn’t wake up in the morning early enough and there is nothing he can do about it. If the work was from 11-7 rather than 9-5 there would be no problem.

He doesn’t have the spare energy to do exercise, he knows his own body and it makes no sense to expend energy in order to gain energy. That’s not how his body works. Anyway, because of his sleep patterns, he isn’t awake at the right time to go jogging. There’s no point in yoga because he already knows all about how to do yoga and there is therefore no point in payng money to attend a class.

There’s no point in seeing the doctor, doctors are idiots and have never helped him in the past.He is as able as they are to diagnose and fix problems with the assistance of the internet. Also, the doctor will just prescribe drugs. Talking therapies are useless because he has studied psychology and there is nothing that they could teach him about dealing with problems better than he already can. He is willing to see the doctor to make me happy but there are never any appointments available.

The reason he doesn’t want to see people is because they are boring and he has nothing in common with them. They talk rubbish. This is why he can’t connect with them. He has studied people’s behaviour and now he is so good at it that he can always predict what they will do and he therefore has no interest in them because they are so easy to predict. He doesn’t have a problem with noise and crowds, it’s just irritating and he doen’t want to spend time in such situations.

The reason why people don’t always respond well to him is because he is unwilling to engage in stupid small talk. Also, other men are threatened and competetive with him because he is intelligent and attractive and they are scared he will try to steal their girlfriends. When he says inappropriate or hurtful thing to people, he is purposefully messing with social conventions to demonstrate how silly they are. If they object it is because they are scared of not conforming.

The reason he is not doing well on the course is because the people running it did not design it well, it is really badly written. He learns very quickly and very well if things are written properly.

The reason he cannot get a job in his chosen field, despite his (self identified) talent, is because of positive discrimination which does not allow him, a white male, to compete on an equal footing. It is not in any way linked to his lack of experience or qualifications.

The reaon why he no longer wants to see films or attend exhibitions or go to gigs is because they are boring, uninventive, performed by untalented people and not worth his time/

A. If I had a chance to talk in person with you, I’d have several questions for you regarding your boyfriend. First I’d want to know whether your boyfriend always displayed the same type of attitudes regarding people, places and things. You mentioned that you have been seeing him for 18 months and noticed about a year ago that these issues started. You said that his symptoms were further exacerbated by the sudden death of his father seven months ago. Does this mean that he had none of the symptoms for the first six months of your relationship? At the time that you noticed the symptoms beginning to emerge was it precipitated by an event? We know that the death of his father seemed to make it worse but I’m wondering why it initially started. I also wonder whether he had some of the symptoms within the beginning of your relationship but you didn’t really begin to notice them until later.

Try to think back to the beginning of the relationship to see whether any of the symptoms were present then. I would be interested to know if he’s always held the opinion that doctors are “idiots.” Did he always believe, because he studied psychology, that there is nothing that they could teach him that he doesn’t already know? With regard to interacting with people has he always felt that they were “boring” and he has nothing in common with them? He says that he is so good that he can always predict what other people will do and because of this he has no interest in making friends. Is this how he explains why he doesn’t have friends? Is this new or has he always felt this way? I’m also curious about the idea that other men are threatened by him because he’s so intelligent and attractive that he might steal their girlfriends. Is this a new idea? You also wrote that he says inappropriate and hurtful things to people. The purpose for this is to prove how “silly” social conventions are. I’m interested to know what exactly he says to people that is hurtful. There’s also the idea that he’s not doing well in school because the people who are running the course essentially don’t know what they’re talking about. He also says they can’t get a job in his field even though he has talent because he is a white male. As you noted it’s not because he doesn’t have the experience or the proper qualifications, it’s that he’s a white male.

He may be dealing with several issues. It’s possible that he started to experience depression about a year ago when you started to notice him withdrawing and becoming distant. Then his father died and it’s possible that this event exacerbated his symptoms. It’s difficult to know if that is in fact what happened because you did not include any information about whether he was close to his father. Generally, losing a parent is very difficult for many people. If somebody is already depressed and then they lose an immediate family member it makes sense that it would intensify their symptoms. If he wasn’t close to his father then something else may be going on. Without more details it’s difficult to give you a specific answer.

I also suspect that he may have a personality disorder. It is difficult to know which personality disorder he may have. It may be several personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder or delusional or paranoid personality disorder. Individuals with personality disorders often act in the manner that you described above. Some common characteristics of individuals with personality disorders include blaming others, believing that they are very clever, talented or otherwise superior than other people. Many of the behaviors that your boyfriend exhibits are in line with how individuals with personality disorders behave.

In summation, it is possible that your boyfriend has a personality disorder and is suffering from some form of depression related to the passing of his father. It is not unusual for an individual with a personality disorder to also have depression. They commonly co-exist. The question remains not necessarily what disorder your boyfriend is suffering from but whether or not you should continue to engage in this relationship. In other words, is it healthy for you to be around an individual who blames others for his problems and constantly thinks that he’s superior to others? That is a personal decision that you will have to make. You said that he has been withdrawing from the relationship. Is this a relationship that you want to continue to pursue? On a positive note, despite the fact that your boyfriend doesn’t believe that he could be helped by a therapist, he is willing to attend counseling if you want him to. That is encouraging. It shows that he might be open to help. If you are interested in continuing the relationship then I would suggest that you ask him to go to counseling. Counseling may help him to deal with his problems. This might be a way to save the relationship, if it’s something you believe is worth saving.

You did not ask a specific question in your letter so I’m not sure if I sufficiently answered your inquiry. If you’d like to write back and ask more specific questions I’d be glad to give you an answer. I wish you luck and thank you for writing. Please take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Apr 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Boyfriend Have Depression or Something Else?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/04/27/boyfriend-have-depression-or-something-else/