Emotional Instability

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I was a strong, athletic, patient, confident, intelligent 20 year old with the potential to achieve greatness. I had the ability to talk to anyone, confront any adversity, I was optimistic and more importantly, I was a fearless alpha male type.

5 years later & I hate myself. I’m now 25. I have lost all my patience, I am almost always nervous. I get panic attacks on a regular basis. I am severely overweight, suffer from insomnia and sleep deprivation, get chest pains, stomach and headaches daily. I don’t like my friends or family and rarely spend any real time with anyone.

I have gone from being a highly focussed and decisive individual to something of a frightened grasshopper. I cower from decisions and hop haphazardly even in the simplest of tasks like for eg, organising the garage or tidying my office. I cannot visualise the solution anymore, my mind has a fuzzy idea of all things involved and it jumps between them starting all of them and completing none.

I feel like I have become agoraphobic, constantly afraid that people around me are dangerous and may hurt me at any moment. I take every incident so harshly that I cannot accomplish anything sometimes; just the other day I had a credit card application rejected and I began to cry believing that it had to have been personal. I can no longer handle simple situations in the workplace or at home, I lose control and begin to sweat. I feel my heart beat speed up and my head starts pounding. I become mute, so fearful that at any moment I will start to hyperventilate or cry, as is often the outcome.

Overall I am exhausted. I cannot take criticism, I am often suspicious and paranoid. I have issues communicating with everyone and I constantly attribute blame to the other party. I snap and yell at my wife and parents. I feel so afraid speaking to people in the wrong way that I take my leave regularly just to avoid it.

I saw a psychiatrist a couple of years ago for these issues, he diagnosed me with depression and anxiety and proscribed two different meds. Medication and therapy did not help me at all and after 9 months I quit them both.

I had bad reactions to the drugs and my Doctor, whom I believe to be very well qualified and experienced and was easy to talk to, did not help. I was an active patient and having also spoken to two other therapists, I don’t know who I can consult to feel better. Am I doomed to spiral further out of control? I just want to be healthy, to deal and express with my emotions in a positive way, to not be terrified of strangers and criticism and decision making.

I don’t allow myself to wallow in self pity for too long but I have noone that I can talk to and nothing that I feel I can do. Please give me some real practical advice.

A: What an honest and heartfelt letter. Please go back to the doctor you trust. Take your letter with you and show it to him. You wrote an articulate description of your feelings. There are a number of mental illnesses that show up between the ages of 20 – 25. Without talking to you personally, I can’t hazard a guess. But your doctor certainly can.

You probably need a combination of medication and some talk therapy to help you get back into balance. Please don’t write off taking medicine because you had a bad reaction to some. We are very fortunate these days to have quite a few to choose from. While you may have negative side effects to some, you may well respond favorably to others. In addition, you need to take charge of yourself and start eating right and getting some physical exercise each day, even if it is only a long walk. A healthy body can help you have a healthy mind.

You took an important first step toward better health by writing to us. Now take the next one. Call your doctor for an appointment.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Mar 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Emotional Instability. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/03/01/emotional-instability/

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