Ask the Therapist Ask our resident Psych Central therapists. 2016-05-29T16:35:04Z http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/feed/atom/ Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Stares Blankly Outside But Still Comes Up with Nothing]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41060 2016-05-23T17:39:02Z 2016-05-29T16:35:04Z

I’m obese but told that I’m not. My moods change based on how people treat or what they say to me. I get annoyed easily. I’m empathetic but act like I don’t know anything. Everything I try to succeed in I fail because I’m not good enough. I waste so much money on beauty supplies but fight the knowledge that it’s just society. I pick zits to the extent of scarring because I can’t stand anything raised on my skin. I’m an INFJ and Pisces. I watch how people judge me and it makes me regret being unique (I try to be different but within reason to what I like in general.) I often wonder why I don’t fit into this world and if there’s another but know deep inside there probably isn’t and I’m wasting time acting like this but can’t help but think of all the wonders. I always have hope for the best but never find it. All of my friends just stop talking to me and always place me on the back burner because they know I’m always there when they need me. I feel overwhelmed
with life. Depression medication always makes me gain massive weight (20lbs in a month) so I don’t take them and anxiety meds won’t be prescribed because of the drug issues within our community to someone who looks like I do (tattoo’s in a rural area.) I feel like I’m supposed to do something great but I don’t know what that is and feel like I won’t know until it’s too late. I must have everything clean and in its spot at all times or I get super frustrated and lose my temper. I focus so much that I lose the concept of anything. I have around 10 major crying fits a year as said from my husband. I don’t feel attractive after having our children in 2012, 2013. I don’t feel successful, everything that is mine has gone to shit and I’ve lost a sense of self. I’m confused by the world and would like to stay tucked away in a forest with a huge fence around the area. Doctors act like they know right what it is “depression” or have no idea but would like me to ‘try’ said medication to see if it helps and it never does. What is wrong with me?!!!!

A. You mentioned that you have taken depression medication. You also feel quite moody. Perhaps you need a mood stabilizer instead of medications that explicitly target depression or anxiety symptoms. Discuss your options with your prescribing physician. A mood stabilizer might help. Sometimes, you need to try a variety of medications before finding the right one. Don’t give up.

You described the problems you have had with medication but nothing about psychotherapy. Too many people overlook or dismiss psychotherapy. Thousands of studies have shown that it is effective for depression and related disorders. I would recommend cognitive behavioral therapy.

You can read more about cognitive behavioral therapy on the Internet, but generally it involves developing problem solving skills and identifying and correcting distorted thinking and beliefs. Unlike other therapies, it tends to focus on the present as opposed to the past. You can find a cognitive behavioral therapist by asking your primary care physician for referral or by utilizing the Find Help tab at the top of this page. Psychology Today is another good resource.

Happiness is possible with the right help. You have yet to explore all aspects of mental health treatment. Counseling should be your next step. I wish you well. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[I Want to Hurt People]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=40859 2016-05-23T17:33:10Z 2016-05-29T11:25:14Z

From a 19 year old in the U.S.: I want to hurt people not a specific person but i want to hurt someone badly enough that i may kill them fantasizing about brings me pleasure but not sexual just pleasure a complete sense of euphoria and i want to know if there is a term for what this means in terms of who i am and if there are more like me. If there is a way for me to change before i really hurt someone I know its wrong but if given the opportunity i would hurt someone and i wouldnt feel bad but some part of me knows its wrong i guess thats why im here or its because i want to know what it is i am.

It would be very amazing if someone could help me figure this out but i just want to reiterate I derive pleasure from fantasizing about hurting people but noone specific no targets no prey just someone i can visualize it perfectly and maybe it comes from me being raped as a child my family does not know about that but it was so long ago that the man who did it would not get charged because of the limitations on rape and molestation. They removed the limitations after i was raped and i am stating this because i dont think i can tell them.

A: Hurt people often want to hurt people. This is not at all unusual. When children have been traumatized, as you were, it is very important to get them psychological treatment so that they have a way to process their hurt and anger.

Apparently, you haven’t had treatment. Please don’t be ashamed that you need it. Of course you do. You were hurt and you are feeling helpless to do anything about it. You are therefore left with your fantasies of a kind of revenge. Sadly, those fantasies are going to make it hard for you to trust other people or to be in loving relationships.

At 19, you are an adult. Although I do think you should involve your parents if you have a good relationship with them, you don’t need to. Talk to your doctor or spiritual leader or someone else you trust about how to find a therapist who specializes in the after effects of trauma on children and teens. Then make an appointment.

You shouldn’t have to live with this tension and unresolved feelings. Please contact a therapist and give yourself a chance to heal.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[8 Year Old Boy at My Mother’s School Is Showing Signs of a Psychopath]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41045 2016-05-21T00:22:32Z 2016-05-28T18:45:33Z

My mom teaches at a private school and one of her students kept fighting with others. She asked me to go talk to him so I did. The more I talked to him the more signs of being a psychopath began to show. He claimed he had no remorse for hurting people. And he said calmly that he thought another kid was going to beat him up (A kid who I know personally would never do anything like that) and so he said he had to kill him. That kind of scared me but I made no comment in an attempt to not discourage him from talking to me. I talked to him some more and I remembered that previously I had heard about some kids thinking that only weak people care about others. So I asked him if he thought that was true and he said yes. I asked him if his mom cared about him (which I know that she does, I’m friends with her) and he said yes. I asked him if that meant she was weak and he said yes. He then continued to say that he would like his mom more if she didn’t fake committing suicide, which from the way he told it, sounding like she was going to commit suicide then stopped because she realized that would leave him and his 4 year old sister parent-less. (His father isn’t in the picture.The reason behind this is unknown. He believes he’s never met his father.) I attempted to explain that she just really cared about him and that she didn’t want him to end up living with people that were mean to him. I asked him if he would like living with people that were mean to him and he calmly replied, “I wouldn’t care. They’d probably have knives and I’d kill them.” I asked if he knew that when people died in real life they didn’t come back to life and he said that of course he knew that. He went on to say that he enjoyed hurting people. I knew that he couldn’t hurt me much so I told him that if he liked hurting people so much he could hurt me. So he hit me then burst into tears. I think he’s pretty far down the wrong track but still has hope. How do I help him?

A: While I appreciate your caring and effort and concern this is NOT something that you can or should be helping with. This sounds serious and important and at 15 years old you trying to help may be dangerous — and not what he needs. Don’t get me wrong here. Your sensitivity is genuine and wonderful, but he is talking about killing people, a mother with suicidal tendencies and when he was invited to hurt you he did. As much as I appreciate your desire to help, it isn’t what either of you need.

Explain to your mom that you tried to talk and you think his needs are going to be much more than what you can do to help.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Am I Depressed or Do I Have Schizophrenia?]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41012 2016-05-13T23:40:06Z 2016-05-28T11:35:25Z

So the issue is I don’t know what is wrong with me, I’ve been searching ever since I was 14 or 13 I don’t remember, it happened around that time. I was once a rowdy kid, in school i would interrupt class, I was craving attention i believe, I wrote on the back of a piece of paper that was meant for an assignment, of all of the reasons I’m fucked up, the teacher read it and gave it to the principal, they had a psychologist evaluate me, the duration of the evaluation i just looked at the security cameras and ignored his questions.

But then when 8th grade or 9th grade came along… it was like a switch, most of the kids at my school knew me as the class clown, but I just didn’t want to talk, I didn’t groom myself for school, I didn’t care. Oddly enough, with me becoming overly quiet, I was able to get better grades, for a while. I have an emotionless face, i even notice it. When i was in 9th grade i even had a kid walk up to me ask me if I was Schizophrenic, i said no, and walked away and just surveyed the room.

Later on that grade I actually was assigned psychology class. Then i found out the symptoms of Schizophrenia, and the one that stood out to me was: emotionless face, social isolation, and delusions. Now I try to be a self aware person, i might just have an overactive imagination, but i always feel like someone is watching me, i have specific delusions like: I was terribly tired, so i laid my head face first into the arm of the couch, i swear my math teacher was going to get a hammer and bash me in the back of the head with it, so i sat up and stayed up for the duration of the school day.

I’m completely social isolated, when lunch is in session, i find somewhere else to go. When there is a BBQ I don’t go (unless its with family). I don’t like talking to people, I’m not insecure, I just don’t want to talk to people. I also know that if you have a family member who has Schizophrenia then you have a 1/10 chance to have it yourself, and my uncle has it.

A. Whenever people take a psychology course it’s common for them to believe they have one of the mental health disorders that they are studying. They read about the symptoms and sometimes think that they can relate. I cannot provide a diagnosis over the Internet, but schizophrenia seems unlikely. Depression and anxiety are more likely possibilities but you would need to consult a mental health professional, in person, to know if a disorder is present.

What’s most concerning is the “switch” you have described. Something changed. If I were your counselor, I would want to know more about this “switch.” What preceded it? Did it coincide with a life change? Is there anything that stands out as being significant that could’ve led to this change? Thinking about these questions might help you understand why you feel the way you do.

Even if you never uncover the origin of the “switch,” it’s important to address your symptoms in counseling. I would encourage you to tell your parents about your concerns. Be honest and forthcoming. Ask for their assistance in finding a counselor.

Too few people realize that the vast majority of mental health problems are treatable. The key to overcoming mental health problems is being willing to ask for help and being open to accepting that help. That’s how positive growth and change occurs. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[I Need Some Serious Help]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=40861 2016-05-13T22:21:58Z 2016-05-27T18:45:52Z

I am a 26 male from India. I am extremely psychologically disturbed and don’t know what to do.

In early childhood at the age of around 8 I was introduced to sex by a cousin who was around 15/16. I did not thought much about it then but i engaged in some sexual activities. It did not felt wrong or right at that time because i was just 8. One more cousin did the same with me next year. I did not know if it was wrong or right. Then by teenage i had sexual experiments with two more distant cousins in one of which the other guy initiated but in one case i did. I dont know why i did it but i did.

The experiments ended when i reached 14-15 years of age. After that i locked those memories away and never thought about it.

When i came in college i had a gf whom i dint love nor did i want to be in the relationship with her. I even tld her upfront that i dint want to be with you. But she cried and insisted so much and moreover my friends too pressured me to be with her so i went into the relationship. As soon as college ended i terminated the relationship. After a year i met her again and there was a rebound relationship. After some time it again felt wrong to me so i again broke up with her. This time she attempted suicide and was in ICU for 3 days. her mother threatened police case but nothing happened and i thought to never get in a relation again.

After 3 years i fell for a very nice girl whom i used to know since school days. Everything was good. But once i shifted my room and there was this other girl living beside my room who helped me a lot initially and gave me much attention. I started ignoring my gf and would talk to her. This happened for 10-15 days after which my gf felt something was wrong and i started avoiding her. But once again i talked to her after 4-5 days gap. Then once it so happened that sexual tension arose between us, I hugged her, kissed only gently and when the moment came to advance to the next level, i immediately felt what am i doing and i withdrew myself from the situation and after that i never talked to her again.

This happened around a year ago and about 8 months into the relationship. But already my gf knew something was wrong, she would cry a lot and plead to tell her everything. But i was scared and thought if i tell her she would not believe me and relationship would end. So i kept her circling for 9 months thinking she would forget about it. But then one day it so happened that she said she would leave me so i told her only bits of it and told her nothing happened between me and her.

Over the next few months we would fight a lot and i would always tell her that i never did anything. Also i hadnt told her the whole thing about my ex gf to her that she had attempted suicide. Also once while she was ready to leave me, I told her a little about my childhood that i have been abused in the childhood but i dint tell her the names of those people and the whole thing. After that we w ould always fight about how i never tell her the whole thing about anything. I had lost her trust completely.

One day she was like this is it. Its over. Then desperately to be with her i told her each and everything. Also that i had a consensual casual sexual encounter with two more girls. Told her about the past, childhood everything, the other girl everything. I had never told anyone about those darker times as there is too much stigma attached to sexuality in india.

After that she hated me so much that i couldnt even say. She was mad, stopped talking. called her sister in office whom she lives with asking if she could die. I got scared, i live 250 frm where she is, i immediately booked a cab and went there but by that time i had also called up her sister to go to home and later she found out that my gf was ok. Later in night i talked to her sister and she told me never to contact them again. Again when once i talked to my gf she told me i am the worst person on this planet , i used her physically and mentally and people like me must not exist and many more things.

I never had any bad intensions towards her. I loved her a lot. After the breakup i was so disturbed i started developing personality disorder and blamed it on the other guy inside me. After some days that thing went away. But i cannot bear the guilt of the whole situation. I had always felt lonely my whole life but only when i was with her i felt ok. But now i feel so so lonely like i had never felt before.

I burst into tears every now and then, in room, class, road, anywhere. I dont want to become what i am. I want just a normal life like everyone else. I never intentioned to do anything wrong with her. I had already talked to my parents about her and they were ready. I was going to talk to her parents too but she wont believe even a single word i say. I am just fighting myself from within. What do i do to make my loneliness go away and have a normal mind again? How do i rectify what i wronged to her?

A: Your letter shows you to be a sensitive and intelligent guy. It’s to your credit that you want to right the wrongs to these women. But before you can do that, you have work you need to do on yourself. You were more hurt than you realize by the sexual encounters with older relatives when you were a child.

You were not at an age when you could consent. You were not at an age when you could make sense of the experience. You were manipulated into doing things you were not ready for. Sadly, that put a pattern into place: Sexuality is connected on some level in your mind with manipulation. You now find women who also manipulate you, this time with tears and threats.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what services are available in your country. I hope there are therapists who specialize in the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse. You need to talk with someone who can help you untangle your past abuse so that you can find loving partners to love.

If you can’t find a therapist, please do read about childhood sexual abuse and post traumatic stress disorder. You might also find it helpful to contact an online therapist or to join an online support group.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[Not Comfortable with Doing a Certain Project in University]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41043 2016-05-13T22:19:14Z 2016-05-27T11:35:46Z

From the UK: In university, I’m required to do a group project in which we record a video, and as a student with selective mutism, this is causing me severe anxiety. So I’m writing here today to get advice on how I can talk to my teacher about doing the other project (which is an individual written report, but the problem with it is that our teacher did not discuss that choice with us, which makes me think that it is not possible to choose it) instead of this one, when I had agreed to do this one initially.

A: Your university will have a policy about working with students with special or unique needs. It would be very reasonable for you to ask for an alternate way to do this project, and my guess is that the professor will be able to accommodate your needs. In fact, if it is too difficult to begin that conversation, you can show him or her this post as a place to begin.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Holly Counts, Psy.D. <![CDATA[76 Year-Old Grandmother in Need of Help with Hoarding]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41170 2016-05-13T22:17:31Z 2016-05-26T18:45:34Z

My grandmother has some mental health issues. She has a hoarding problem with junk, and especially with cats. She currently holds a part time job that does not pay the bills. Her house is destroyed between all of the cats and no upkeep. She does not have heat (it gets very cold here in the winter), electric, or running water. My grandfather has many health issues and has been living with my mom and dad who care for him. My mom and dad have tried frequently to get my grandmother to live with them along with my grandfather. She insists on living in the house with the cats (both living and dead) and piles of junk. EMS arrived at the house one time to help my grandfather and almost had the house condemned.
My family and I want to help but do not know where to start.

We talked to a lawyer about getting the house condemned to force her to live with my parents, but she would get in trouble for not taking care of the cats. She says she would only move “if I could have all of my animals and move to the country,” but we do not have the money to make that happen if we wanted to. We are very worried about her, but she is quite stubborn, and does not seem to think there is anything wrong with the way she lives. Most recently her truck motor has blown, and I have helped with repairs in the past but I am not able to buy her a new truck to travel to work. I found an inexpensive car to fix up for the time being, but I do not want to encourage her current living situation. My first thought was to try and barter with her: a used car for moving out of the house. Ideally, we would like to find a way to get her out the house that doesn’t end with her in handcuffs for animal negligence. Unfortunately, I think the only way to get her out would be by force. We would also like to get her the mental help she needs, but I do not believe she is willing to accept help. We are hoping to get ideas on where and how to start. Any advice is appreciated. (age 27, from US)

A: Thank you for writing in with such a thoughtful question. I can tell that you love your grandmother very much and want what is best for her. Hoarding is a very complicated issue and it can be difficult to understand, as well as difficult to treat. Many communities now have a system in place to help, especially when it involves animal hoarding, and in most cases it will take a whole treatment team working together to be successful. There are underlying mental health issues that need to be addressed, and in the case of animal hoarding, the people affected are kind hearted folks who think they are doing what is right. They love the animals and believe that no one but them could care for them appropriately so it can be very traumatic if they are forced to abandon them abruptly.

I would suggest that you put some effort into finding out who in your community has the expertise and resources to help, even if you do it anonymously until you have a plan in place. I would first start with the local community mental health clinics and animals shelters. Explain the situation and see if they have any programs in place already. If you need to branch out further, contact local veterinarians, law enforcement agencies, the area agency on aging, adult protective services, and the housing authority. It will obviously take some time and effort, but getting your grandmother the help she needs to find a peaceful solution will benefit everyone involved. As frustrating and concerning as the situation is, approaching it with compassionate will aid the solution. Good luck to you and your family.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Anxiety & Fear of Losing Someone]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41009 2016-05-13T22:15:24Z 2016-05-26T11:35:26Z

I’m a person with various failed friendships, usually i get very close to someone but the friendship only last for like a year, and i always end up thinking that i’m kinda replaceable because for the other person is easier to find new friends. In my last year of college i found a couple of friends that i’m very close with, even when we no longer see each other every day and work in different places we have a very good friendship. The problem is that i’m afraid to lose them, in my line of work there’s not much chance to meet new people and i fear i won’t be able to find new friends if i lose them. When i make a mistake, or do something that affects them, or could make the angry, i freak out, even when they tell me that it is ok i can’t stop thinking that we’ll drift apart. I know that i did nothing so bad and i would forgive them if things where the opposite, but i can’t stop thinking that i messed up, it doesn’t matter how much i want to stop, i can’t. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to be this anxious all the time.

A. You categorize your past friendships as being failures but maybe that’s not the case. I am also wondering if you are giving those “friendships” more weight than they deserved.

There’s an important difference between acquaintances and friends. Acquaintances are often the people we befriend at work or at school. These relationships tend not to be very deep and often naturally end when would we no longer work at the same establishment or attend the same school. Almost everyone has these types of relationships at some point in their lives.

Friendships are deeper and more serious than acquaintance-type relationships. This may sound counterintuitive but among psychologically healthy people, it’s normal to have a rather small circle of friends. Because these relationships develop over time and require a great deal of energy and effort, they tend to be fewer in number.

Your ability to have healthy interpersonal relationships might be less of a problem than the fear you have about losing them. Fear seems to be at the heart of the issue. I would need more information about the nature of your friendships, both current and in the past, to know what’s wrong.

Counseling is the ideal place to address these issues. Counselors provide objective advice and guidance about correcting life problems. They specialize in relationship issues. Ask your primary care physician for referral to a counselor in your community. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Help with Anxiety]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=40864 2016-05-13T22:12:38Z 2016-05-25T18:45:14Z

From the U.S.: So I am diagnosed with Asperger’s and I have always had anxiety issues. I can only think of a couple times when I’ve genuinely been relaxed. In college I used that anxiety as a motivator. It was a very useful tool to motivate myself to go above and beyond in my classwork and my social life since my brain constantly told me I was worthless if I didn’t.

Since graduating I have had a hard time finding a job and now that same anxiety is more paralyzing than motivating. Fear of failure has impacted all of my efforts recently and I was wondering if this was the time to do something about my anxiety. I’m also concerned it will impact my drive to succeed if I do find some kind of work. What do you think?

A: I think you are correct. The anxiety that is often part of Aspergers is something you can learn to manage. Please consider finding a therapist who specializes in adults who are on the autism spectrum. I think it will be a great relief to you to hear that your feelings and experiences are typical. Even more important, you will learn some new skills for managing your anxiety and your motivation.

You might also find it helpful to read “Be Different” by John Elder Robison. Like you, the author is a very intelligent adult with Aspergers. He is also a very successful businessman. He shares his story about what he has learned about managing Aspergers in order to help people like you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Holly Counts, Psy.D. <![CDATA[I Feel Worthless and Then I Repress It]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41099 2016-05-13T22:11:03Z 2016-05-25T11:35:58Z

I don’t know what to do anymore, I avoid my thoughts and feelings by focusing on anything to keep my focus off of how I really feel. I know my actions are unhealthy, I know it is affecting my life negatively, but I am afraid. I can’t get anything done, I can’t focus on important things, because that makes me think about myself, which leads to me feeling worthless and hateful of myself. I have problems remembering things, and I think it is linked to my repression. I need help, but I don’t want my family knowing just how broken I really am, I don’t open up easily, I am not even sure if anyone notices how much pain I am in everyday. I want to scream it at them, but I fear how they would judge me. I also tend to put others before myself, and that is part of the problem here, they have their own issues, the last thing I want is them to focus resources on me, when I feel they would be better spent on almost anything else.

I want to give up, I feel like I already have, I live in a tiny town and am not sure I could get the help I needed even if I tried. I have no real desires, every day is the same routine of just ignoring it, then getting pulled back to focusing on reality, then feeling worthless. I want to get my life together, but I feel too broken. I feel like I can’t be fixed, even with help. I feel empty. I build mental walls to keep me from the pain, and also to keep the pain from showing through to others. I can feel happiness and anger, although even that often just feels like part of the metaphorical wall I keep, but when it comes to sadness, I feel it for a couple of seconds but before I can dwell on it, it just gets repressed and I am left feeling empty and defective. I need help, but I won’t get it on my own. I want someone to notice my pain and force me into getting help. Even just writing this has me terrified and wanting to back out but I know nothing will change if I do. I don’t feel capable of speaking out about how I feel. (age 20, from Canada)

A: Writing in with your question took courage, and I’m glad that you followed through. It sounds like you are in a lot of emotional pain and are perhaps suffering from clinical depression. It is a real illness and nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t have to keep it a secret, but you do need to take further steps to get treatment.

On one hand, you don’t want to bother your family, but on the other, you are hoping that they notice how miserable you are. It is too dangerous to play this game and you are the only one suffering. You need to take matters into your own hands and see your doctor and/or look into what mental health services are in your area. If you can’t bring yourself to do this on your own, at least confide in one friend or family member and allow them to help you seek out appropriate services. I’m sure your family loves you and wouldn’t want you to be suffering like this if they knew how you really feel. Depression is treatable and you don’t have to continue feeling the way you do. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and once you start addressing the clinical symptoms, you will start feeling better about yourself.

In the meantime, exercise has been shown to be an effective (and natural) treatment, and there are many good self-help books stemming from the cognitive behavioral therapy world that you could be utilizing on your own. Pushing things down and avoiding them isn’t working. It is time to try a different strategy.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[My Mom Has Been Depressed and I Feel Guilty]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41041 2016-05-13T22:04:45Z 2016-05-24T18:45:43Z

I’m 16 years old, and my mom has been depressed for at LEAST my lifetime, though I’m sure it has probably been much longer. Since I was little she has talked about suicide, saying she will only be alive until I am 18 – the earliest I can remember her saying that is when I was 7. Sometimes she is happy, goofy, and in the mood to enjoy life, and other times she is sitting on the floor, drunk and crying because her boyfriend is on a trip without her. She and my dad have been divorced since I was 3, and she blames him entirely for the divorce though I’m no longer sure that’s true. We have tried family therapy but I am scared to share my true feelings when she is in the room, and she constantly feels attacked or offended by everything that a therapist says. For example, when I was in individual therapy, she would yell at my therapist if she said that I might want to consider sessions more often, thinking that she was being called a bad parent. I would not consider her a particularly bad parent but I can see where my depression is being influenced by how she acts and what she says. Also, I almost feel guilty because I feel that my brother and I are the only reason that she has not killed herself yet, and she often acts very miserable and hopeless. I truly believe that if my twin and I had not been born that she would have committed suicide already. We do not talk about these things because she often just wants to cry and feels attacked if I bring anything up, and I strive to avoid confrontations with anybody. How can I make things work, at least until I leave for college in a couple of years?
Thanks!

A: Thank you for reaching out. I understand what you are saying and I am sorry that you have to deal with a depressed and emotionally harmful mother. Her saying she is waiting until you turn 18 to kill herself means that she isn’t making good judgements about your needs — and is trapped in the whirlpool of her depression. I would highly recommend you contact the family therapist and individual therapist on your own. Let them know that your mother’s threat makes your situation unbearable. I would also contact the child protective services in your state. They often have resources to help. You do not need to manage your mother’s depression all on your own.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[I Don’t Let People In]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41006 2016-05-13T22:08:34Z 2016-05-24T11:35:16Z

Hi. I have a problem forming relationships with people. I’ve been working at this place for like 8 months and i still find it really difficult forming interpersonal relationships with everyone here. Not only people in the work place but also family members. I’ve noticed that every time I’m joking around and laughing with someone and getting along with them extremely well, i tend to back off and completely shut down after I’ve noticed that I’m happy or talking a lot. It’s really weird. I do have self-esteem issues and self-confidence issues and i believe i suffer from social anxiety and depression. I so badly want to form relationships with people but it’s like I’m not even allowing myself to you know? My childhood COULD have been better. My dad was a hermit and he didn’t talk to people that well and my mom was an alcoholic at the time so i don’t know if that has something to do with anything. I do remember that i was distant from people even when i was a kid as well. Well not so much distant but it seemed like i needed permission from my friends to go with them places, like i needed to know that i was needed and they liked being around me. I just want to know like what the hell is wrong with me? I just want to be happy. I want to feel normal and BE normal. HELP!

A. Your assessment of your situation may or may not be correct. You see it from your perspective, but it may not be accurate. This is especially true if the judgments you make about yourself are clouded by social anxiety, insecurity and depression. People with those conditions often misjudge situations by assuming the worst about themselves.

I’m wondering about the relationships you are trying to develop with your coworkers and family members. Generally speaking, relationships between coworkers are professional and fairly shallow. Often, these are convenience friends, people with whom you interact because you happen to work in the same business establishment. Likewise, just because you are related to someone does not mean that you will get along with them. It’s often the case that family members do not get along with each other. Who you should be developing deeper relationships with depends upon how well they treat you, how much you have in common, and many other things.

Counseling is the ideal place to examine these issues. Your therapist can analyze your interpersonal relations and determine if you are doing anything wrong and provide guidance about how to fix it. Ask your primary care physician for a referral to a therapist in your community. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[My Past Experiences in School Continue to Haunt Me]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=40754 2016-05-11T20:39:20Z 2016-05-23T18:45:57Z

From the UK: I recently started a new school. The staff are supportive, the students are friendly, and their classes are very informational. However, I only see the evil in the school.

All of my life, I had attended a school that abused, manipulated, and humiliated me. They did this continuously for so many years that it’s stuck with me, even after transferring to a new facility. I see this new school as my old one and have issues trusting everyone, which is affecting my performance in class.

My body has moved on, but my mind is still trapped at that old school, causing me to have numerous flashbacks throughout the day. I’ve tried reaching out to my family for help but they think my issues are invalid despite it ruining my education. I want to help myself but I truly don’t know how.

A: What you are describing is not unusual for someone who has been traumatized by bullying. You need help — both from the outside and on the inside. On the “outside”: Changing schools was an important first step to healing as it took you out of a situation that was traumatizing. That was an important first step. Now you need help with what goes on “inside” your mind.

Here’s why. When someone has been repeatedly hurt, the person’s baseline of anxiety is elevated. It takes less and less to make it “spike” and to push the person into a self-protective mode. The usual reactions are fight, flight or freeze.

Unfortunately, once someone has been traumatized, he or she will go into self-protection whether it is needed or not. Something that reminds the person of the traumatic situation, like a smell, an environment, some careless words, etc., sets it off. In your case, the school environment is a reminder of all the times you felt threatened. Just being there is sending you into self-protect mode.

You need help untangling your present situation from your past experience. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is common to kids who have been bullied and abused.

Fortunately, there are well-researched and effective treatments for trauma. Please share this letter with your parents and ask them to help you find a therapist who can give you the support and treatment you deserve. It is highly unlikely that you can handle this on your own. A therapist can help you recover from past abuse and go forward in life with new confidence.

I wish you well,
Dr. Marie

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Holly Counts, Psy.D. <![CDATA[I’ve Never Had Sex — Is It Possible to Be Pregnant?]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41023 2016-05-11T20:35:12Z 2016-05-23T11:35:52Z

I’m 14 and i haven’t had my period in 2 months now i have never seen a penis in person before. i have never had a guy sexually touch me but yet i have been having bad stomach pains i feel sick every morning, my nipples are starting to have white stuff come out of them (the tiniest bit tho) and I’m eating things that i normally hate. HELP!!! PLEASE im 100% virgin :(

A: Thank you for writing in with this question. From what you are telling me in your letter, you cannot be pregnant. Sperm can travel some distance outside of the body so there have been some cases of pregnancy without actual “intercourse” but not if you have never even fooled around with a guy or been anywhere near a penis. You are not pregnant, but for some reason your mind could think you are and mimic the symptoms. Or, there could be something wrong medically such as a hormone imbalance.

You did the right thing by reaching out. The next step is to go see your doctor to make sure everything is ok with you physically. I’m sure you will be fine and there is an explanation for your symptoms, but you need to investigate this medically.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP http://www.FormerChild.com <![CDATA[Always Confused, Having Trouble Reading and Writing/Typing, Easily Distracted and Spacey]]> http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/?p=41034 2016-05-11T20:33:18Z 2016-05-22T18:45:03Z

Lately I’ve been feeling very strange. I’ve always considered myself to be very bright but lately I feel like I’m slowly turning into an idiot. I’ve loved reading ever since I was young, and I used to be able to read an entire book in one day, but now it seems like the words make no sense to me and I often have to read things over and over again just to understand simple sentences.

I’ve also noticed that my writing skills have deteriorated. I love writing and it’s been a hobby of mine for a long time, and I want to be a novelist when I graduate, but lately it seems like I have no creativity anymore. Sometimes when I’m writing or typing, I’ll be thinking of the word I want to write or type, but then when I go back to look at it, it’s a completely different word than what I wanted. I often make errors in spelling, which never used to happen.

I’ve also become very distracted lately. People will tell me things, and it’s like it goes in one ear and out the other. People will tell me information, but I’ll retain none of it and it’s like they never even spoke to me in the first place. This has become a significant problem in my life, and it makes me feel like an idiot because I have to ask people to repeat themselves so much.

Sometimes it feels like I have no idea what’s going on around me, and I often get lost in my own thoughts. I find myself staring off into space for several minutes at a time. When my professors are giving lectures, I’ll space out and stop noticing that they’re even talking. It’s not something that happens consciously and I don’t even realize that I’m doing it.

I want to emphasize that I didn’t used to be like this before. In high school, I was always attentive and could easily follow instructions and I had a great memory, but it feels like all of that is falling apart and I’m slowly turning into an idiot. I hate myself for being incompetent and I cut when I make mistakes because I feel so stupid and useless. I just want to go back to the way I was.

A: You have identified yourself in your profile as a first-year college student. This typically means that almost every routine in your life has changed. From food to friends to festivities your lifestyle is likely to have undergone a significant transformation. Even the basics of sleeping, deadlines, and self-regulation have been jostled around. If we toss in the typical consumption of alcohol, relationship issues, and party schedule — it can be an overwhelming time.

I’d check in with the counseling center at your university to chat about your symptoms before the end of the semester. They can help you sort though what is happening — and what to do to help.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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