Psych Central

Should I See a Specialist?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Okay, I’ve been pretty sure that I’ve had some kind of psychological disorder for almost three years now, since I was 16. I haven’t been to a specialist as such because mental disorders aren’t something I can explain to my parents. Although now, I am looking at visiting one just to be sure. I just want to know what you guys think.

I have frequent feelings of euphoria and depression. These have varied extremely over the years. When I was around 16, they were incredible and unbearable, almost always following each other. At that point in my life, I was also very depressed and felt caged, thought I was bipolar. As I grew, they became more tangible and I was able to deal with them better after I’d left home and gone to college at the age of 18. I still feel them, and I feel as though I have no control over them, even as I try to emotionally streamline myself now. I used to feel desperation but lately I’ve grown very numb and my states oscillate between being incredibly euphoric or into plain nothingness, or pointlessness. My drive for life constantly fluctuates.

I have self harmed in the past, and had suicidal tendencies, that are recurrent even now. These tendencies however are mostly passive and I wouldn’t act on them. The need to self harm varies on the level of depression I feel.

I’ve greatly numbed myself and do not feel pain as vividly as I used to. Nothingness defines my depression. I feel alone and helpless and sometimes wake up in panic in the middle of the night unable to control it.

I have varied states of over-eating/sleeping and lack of sleep/appetite which are recurrent throughout ever 2 months nearly also accompanied by complete normal states

My states of high and low can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a few weeks. I do feel normal for periods in between, which can last even up to a couple weeks. When I feel normal, I feel fine and wonderful (not euphoric)

I used to have very low self esteem and my views of myself changed rapidly according to how I felt. I could feel worthless and dejected and then bounce to feeling invincible and wonderful. These feelings of low self worth have changed over the last month after I confronted my father about some underlying issues, and discovered the meaninglessness of life. I don’t think they are gone but rather that they are deeply imbedded but I don’t care about them anymore

I have used to have severe abandonment issues, but they have also changed over the course of the last 2 months, but this may also be due to the numbness I feel towards these issues. I have recently gone through some relationship troubles. I have very evident trust issues and do not trust nearly anyone.

Despite all of this, most days I am able to function properly and I am actually quite happy. I tend to become socially reclusive at times and this leads to either peaceful solitude or depression. At college, I have a bit of a reputation to be crazy and insane.

I feel reckless and impulsive at times. It makes me feel alive. I crave this feeling.

I have a horrible attention span. I can’t watch television shows and until recently found it really hard to finish a book (I used to be an avid reader when I was younger). I feel as though my thoughts are racing at times.

The mood swings tend to leave me quite exhausted. I do not let myself get close to people often, I think it may be because of abandonment fears. My relationships are quite stable even if my feelings towards a person may change continuously.

I develop very strong emotional relationships with people as compared to the norm, people trust me easily. I have been told continuously that I have a talent for empathy and understanding. I am aware of my emotional power over people and know I can get what I want out of them, but sometimes it happens unconsciously. Regardless, I actually do care about these people and have very strong morals when it comes to keeping their secrets. I do not use them.

I do not feel needy and clingy most of the time, but there are moments in between. I used to feel empty a lot. Now, I feel nothing or empowered.

I have a family history of depression, my cousin is diagnosed with it, and my aunt was.

There are times when I am very irritable and other times when my love for people and the world in general is undoubtable.

I felt unloved and neglected by my parents for the longest time. I got over it almost completely during the last 2 months. I also think I am numb to feeling that way now, I can’t even imagine it.

I deal with being alone really well. Most of the time I enjoy being alone, I enjoy solitude. Now and then, usually after some kind of trigger, I feel dejected.

I do not crave love or worldly attachments as far as I can understand. I crave passion and my common state is being fine and in love with the world and all of its mysteries

I used to be very sure this was borderline PD, but after looking through cyclothymia, I feel like this could be more apt as I do not feel empty or unloved or needy anymore and have states of being normal in between. Your thoughts?

A: I think you should go see that specialist. From your letter, I can’t tell if you are just a very passionate, sensitive teen who has been learning to manage her own feelings over the last few years or if there is something amiss.

People normally have highs and lows. The greatest artists and thinkers tend to experience them more intensely. Good therapists tune in to others and are able to still keep themselves in balance. Is that you? Or are you out of control? A counselor will be able to help you decide.

I do worry about the tendency these days to pathologize almost any feelings that are above or below neutral. It’s as if we’re all expected to be driving a car at one moderate speed all the time, regardless of the circumstances — never fast, never slow. It would be boring and at times dangerous. It’s more sensible to learn to drive the car (or your feelings) according to the situation.

So I think you should get your question settled so you can relax about yourself. A mental health counselor will be able to hear your entire story and discuss your history thoroughly with you. A good place to start would be with your letter and this response.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Should I See a Specialist?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/07/14/should-i-see-a-specialist/