Ask the Therapist Ask our resident Psych Central therapists. 2016-09-27T11:35:52Z Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Large Memory Gaps & Strange Urges]]> 2016-09-20T22:41:15Z 2016-09-27T11:35:52Z

I can’t remember anything from the past two months or so. I am told that major events happened during that time which I should definitely be able to recall, but I can’t remember a single thing and it is really scaring me. I am not taking any medication currently and I’m positive that I didn’t have any kind of concussion or head trauma, either. There are some objects in my room that I don’t remember ever seeing before. For the past week I’ve been experiencing random spurts of laughter as well, often in very serious situations and when nothing is funny. It happens so often that people have started to notice and give me strange looks. A few times, I have had very strong, and very sudden urges to hurt or maim other people with sharp objects. However these urges pass quickly and I’m left wondering if they were even real. I am terrified, I don’t know what’s going on with me or what any of this means. This isn’t like me at all, I am usually very calm and gentle. Something is just very wrong and I have no idea what to do or why I can’t remember anything.

A. “Major events” have happened that you cannot recall, but you didn’t describe those events. It would have been helpful to know what major events you were referring to. They may or may not be “major events,” but I cannot judge your characterization of these events without more information.

You’re not taking medication nor have you sustained head injuries but what about drug or alcohol use? Drugs and alcohol are known to cause problems with memory.

Your symptoms should be thoroughly investigated by medical professionals. That should be the first step in determining what might be wrong. If nothing medically is wrong, then consult a mental health professional. He or she can assess your symptoms and determine if the source is psychological and if so, develop a treatment plan to resolve the problem. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[Can’t Open Eyes During Sleep]]> 2016-09-20T22:14:02Z 2016-09-26T21:15:19Z

Sometimes during sleep, I have this condition where I can use all my senses other than my eyes. During this condition, I’m usually having a very bad / scary nightmare and usually I just wake up when I’m having nightmares. But sometimes, I don’t wake up completely. I am able to talk and scream, I can hear other people around me talking and hear myself screaming, I can feel if someone touches me but regardless however hard I try, I can’t open my eyes. So all I can do is scream and scream but cant open my eyes.

Does this happen to anyone else? Should I be worried? (From India)


A:  Thank you for your letter and sharing your concern. From your description it sounds like you’ve had an episode of something called sleep paralysis. In these uncomfortable situations some part or many parts of the body seem paralyzed. Here’s a link to more information about it, but it is generally very short lived and you move through it.

While it can be scary it typically doesn’t have any lasting side effects. Of course if the situation worsens or doesn’t seem to fit your symptoms, a neurological exam will get to the bottom of it.

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

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[I Feel like No One Ever Listens]]> 2016-09-20T22:11:18Z 2016-09-26T16:35:29Z

From a teen in the U.S.: I feel like no one listens to me ever. I’m quiet around my house and in public. I keep most things to myself. I get irritated easily when I’m around a lot of people or at home. I also get bad memories of things that happened as a kid or recently. I just want to know ho to make it stop. I makes it difficult to be in public and I haven’t told my parents.


A:  People can’t listen if you don’t speak. The more you don’t speak, the more difficult it will be to find your voice — and the more you will feel like no one listens to you. Please understand that your struggles are not unique to you. Many, many teens are anxious and confused about how to relate to others and how to be more comfortable in conversations.

The worst thing you can do is isolate. It’s important to participate in activities with other kids your age, even if you don’t have much to say at first. Just being around others on a routine basis will help you get more comfortable. The Greek philosopher Plato once said that you can learn as much about another person from an hour of play as from a year of conversation. So play. Join a team. Get involved with a theater group or a charitable cause. Having some fun doing good things will make conversation come more naturally.

Do remember that most people respond positively to someone who shows genuine interest in who they are and what they do. Even more important than having something great to say is to know how to ask questions to bring out the other person. Questions are the best way to start and continue a conversation.

If you continue to have so much difficulty, you might find it helpful to participate in some group therapy. The focus on group therapy is on helping people get more comfortable interacting with other people.

I wish you well,
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Why Can’t I Make Friends?]]> 2016-09-20T22:09:07Z 2016-09-26T11:25:01Z

I am 31 years old. I have been married to my husband for 6 years. I have a great job. I have had severe anxiety and depression for years and have recently over the last year come out of it. My problem is I have no friends Not a single one. I’ve had a couple of new jobs recently and everyone avoids me like the plague. I think I am nice, I don’t smell, I don’t insult people — I just don’t make a connection with people. I am lonely and don’t know what to do.


A. You said that you have only recently overcome your severe anxiety and depression. It’s possible that those illnesses have affected your ability to connect with people. Those disorders tend to keep people isolated.

You may also be looking for friends in the wrong places. It’s common for people to befriend someone at work and then leave for a new job and never talk to that “friend” again. Generally, those aren’t real friendships; they are acquaintances. Work friends tend to be convenience friends. These types of relationships are shallow (i.e. lack depth) in nature. True friends generally don’t lose touch with one another.

Not having more facts about your work situation makes it difficult to determine what might be wrong. For instance, how have you tried to connect with people? What has their reaction been? There are many more questions that need to be answered. It would be helpful for you to meet with a therapist who can objectively evaluate your situation. Group therapy is another option. Groups can provide important feedback about your interaction style.

Finally, you might try making friends outside of work. See what activities or groups are available in your community. At the very least, it will increase the number of people with whom you interact thereby decreasing your loneliness. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[Unsure about My Therapist]]> 2016-09-20T22:06:22Z 2016-09-25T21:15:24Z

I have been going to weekly therapy for a year and half, as well as group therapy for the past year (with the same therapist). I am very comfortable with him and feel that we have a good rapport. It was difficult in the beginning because I have a lot of difficulty recognizing and expressing my emotions, but now I think that I have come to trust him. My issues included anxiety, depression, childhood trauma (bullying, divorce, isolation), and a medical condition I have with psychosomatic causes (scarring alopecia).
The therapy is not very goal oriented and I don’t have any clear idea on when it might be completed. Though I have gained insight into the way I function and the causes of my distress through much introspection, I can’t say that my issues have gotten much better. I want to believe in him and our relationship…that it can truly help me to form better relationships and minimize some of my depression and anxiety. However, I know I also have to think rationally and evaluate the changes that have been made in the past 18 months.

My sister and mother are worried about me…partly because of mood swings I’ve been having and partly because of my alopecia having flared up the last year. My sister wants me to set up an appointment with her former therapist (who is more goal oriented) but I feel I will be undermining my therapy and therapist. I don’t know what to do. It took me a long time to open up to him and I don’t want to let him go…but I also want to get better. (From Greece)


A:  Your therapist sounds like he has been helpful and supportive. The easiest thing to do is for you to put your need for a more goal directive therapy out to him. Therapists have different styles, training, and process — but I can’t imagine a therapist not wanting to honor your need to set goals and make progress toward them.

The establishment of the relationship is often key to many transformations in therapy. Now that the relationship has been established, it is time for you to help set the agenda.

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

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Mother’s Out-of-Control Emotional Abuse]]> 2016-09-20T21:50:06Z 2016-09-25T16:35:42Z

From India: I am married and now pregnant. I came to my mom’s house for delivery of my first baby. My eldest sister left her husband and is awaiting a divorce. My mom seems to be really disturbed by my sister’s presence, especially because of her 10 year old kid who has not been taught anything related to good manners. My mom wakes up at 5 am in the morning and throws tantrums and tries to wake my sister up so she could help her in the kitchen. My sister is an adamant and lazy woman. She yells at mom for every other reason. In between these two women who cannot speak their heart without using proper words, it seems like I’m sandwiched. But it seems more like an issue with my mother because her anxiety to get things done immediately is affecting my niece a lot. I’m in my 3rd trimester and my mom seems to be a devil! Uncontrollable emotional torture is what I can say. My sister’s husband was abusive and she came home to be at peace but I don’t think it’s a good thing.

My mother is never happy about anything. If we try to entertain her with movies, she hates them. Try to play some music, it needs to be according to her mood. When I scream, I feel pathetic. I feel that someone’s gonna commit suicide soon at home. It’s like a free psycho living at home. I’m exhausted and I don’t trust my mother any more. I wish I could record a video and send it for you to see! It’s abuse for sure. Unless everyone goes crazy and starts screaming or crying or goes vulnerable, she doesn’t calm down.

If she wants respect, is this the way? If this is what parenting is about, it is sick. Abuse isn’t right. Is it? Now she even hits my niece who is merely anything yelling and overpowering their own children, who are adults??
There’s not even a single day when anyone in the house had a peace of mind, forget about sleeping well. My doctor has restricted travel. I wish I could go back to my home now but seems like it’s late. I’m so angry, sad and feeling crazy at the same moment. All my mother wants is a reaction from us. When we all cry, she is the happiest!


A:  What a sad, sad situation. You and your sister both went “home” to your mother to have a safe place. Instead, you are all living in chaos.

As I read your letter, I had to wonder if your mother really wanted such long term guests. It could be that she felt she couldn’t say no to the two of you. She may be overwhelmed by the addition of three more people to her home. It may be that she is saying “no” by making it impossible for you and your sister to stay there. If that is the case, it is unfortunate indeed that you all don’t have the kind of relationship where she can just say it’s too much or where all of you could sit down and figure out how to make it manageable for her.

You also didn’t mention how old your mother is and whether this is new behavior. If she is getting on in years, you may be seeing the emergence of a medical condition or dementia. Do consider taking her for an appointment with her doctor to make sure she is medically okay.

That being said: There is no reason for you and your sister to scream just because your mother is screaming. It doesn’t help the situation. In fact, it only makes it worse. It doesn’t solve the problems and it exhausts you both. It is also a terrible role model for the 10-year-old who is watching all of you and learning how she is supposed to act while with family. Not good.

Just because others invite you to be irrational doesn’t mean you have to accept their invitation. Instead, you could say something like, “I can’t hear you when you get loud. When you want to talk with me quietly to solve the problems, let me know and I’ll be glad to be part of the conversation.” Then leave. When things calm down, invite your mom and sister to have a reasonable talk about how to make the current living situation workable.

Please don’t wait for others to change for you to get the peace you need to have a good last trimester. Take charge of your own part in the family dynamics. Change your reactions and withdraw when you need to. Take yourself to another room. Take a nap. Take a walk. If the other women won’t work on making things better at least you can take yourself out of it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Intrusive Thoughts or Not?]]> 2016-09-20T21:36:28Z 2016-09-25T11:25:13Z

I am a 12 year old who has not been diagnosed with any disorders. My problem: “intrusive” thoughts. These thoughts started like this: I felt guilty because I felt happiness when somebody died in a movie I was watching. I decided to test myself out by thinking of the most repulsive action ever and then then try to make myself tempted. The repulsive action was harming my mother. I was confident that I would have no urge to do it. I tried tempting myself by having my brain repeatedly cheer do it! I felt an enormous urge to do it, which stressed me out. Does this count as an intrusive thought? My worst problem is the urge to do it. This urge kept coming and coming. Sometimes I feel like I want to give into this urge. Sometimes I feel like I have to carry out these urges. Is this another part of intrusive thoughts? And if you don’t think this is an intrusive thought, could this urge be related to curiosity, desire for infame or maybe even psychosis? Could I be confusing the adrenaline I feel with the urges. These urges get stronger when I feel love for my mother. So my questions are, do these thoughts count as intrusive thoughts, and are these urges normal?


A. It does not seem like an intrusive thought. Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that enter your mind against your will. They can be very distressing. You willed the thought of harming your mother into your mind. That is the opposite of an intrusive thought.

The urges you wrote about and the energy behind them could be excitement or nervousness. They could also be related to curiosity but not a desire for infamy or a psychosis.

It is difficult to answer your question about whether or not these are normal thoughts. You are free to think anything you want and your thoughts could have occurred in response to a movie you were watching.

It is not healthy to want to harm your mother. Those thoughts can be distressing especially if they are frequent and lead a person to consider acting on them. At that point, it’s best to consult a mental health professional to prevent them from worsening. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[My Husband Is Not Interested in Sex]]> 2016-09-20T20:54:09Z 2016-09-24T21:15:28Z

I have been married to my husband for 9 years, together for 15. We’re in our 30s. Over the past couple of years, he has become increasingly disinterested in sex. We can only have sex when he wants to, never when I want to. We have sex maybe once a month. I’ve tried talking to him about the problem and telling him how I feel, but he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that it’s a big deal. He says he’s busy and tired, which I understand, but he also says that he has other things to occupy his time such as video games and TV/movie watching, and he doesn’t see sex as much of a priority in light of that, which hurts. He would never consider going to a therapist. I’m getting very lonely and I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to get a divorce, and I don’t want to cheat on him. What should I do?


A:  I would explain to him that this isn’t okay — that it is not the kind of life you signed up for and that you would want to go with him for therapy to try and sort it out. Be clear that this is hurtful for you and that the marriage isn’t working as things are. If he doesn’t go with you to therapy I would make an individual appointment to get emotional support for the changes you will need to make to either remain in the marriage or move on. Here is a link to an organization that has qualified couples therapist in your area.

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

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[How Do I Tell My Mum I Need Help?]]> 2016-09-20T20:52:14Z 2016-09-24T16:35:37Z

From a teen in Australia: I have dealing with quite a few issues. I cannot for the life of me give myself a particular disorder, but I appear to carry traits and symptoms of many, mainly depression-related disorders. A few of my friends think that seeing a therapist would be beneficial to me, and I have come to reluctantly agree. However, my problems are very quiet ones, and are usually buried beneath my louder “outside face” which does not clearly display any of my inner turmoil. This means that instead of it just being obvious to my mum that I need help, I’m faced with the terrifying task of confessing my feelings to her. My mum and I are not friends, she is my parent and I am her child. This doesn’t necessarily mean we’re not close, but it does mean I have never found it easy to open up to her like I would a close friend. I find it difficult to articulate my thoughts alone, but to explain it to her seems almost impossible. I’m not sure where to begin. I have no one else to turn to as my father is not included in my life, it is just me and her in our household and I don’t have any other adults I trust with this sort of thing.

My avoidance of this task is one of the few things holding me back to what could possibly be a much better lifestyle. I am just incapable of helping myself, and my friend’s support and advice, while appreciated, hasn’t worked either. I hate being the way I am, and I desperately want to change. At the same time, I’d rather lay in bed and sulk my youth away. I have no faith in myself, no hope for the future and my behavior and thoughts make very little (if any) sense to me. I would really like to know how I can start this conversation, what I can do to provide evidence on my needs (since I worry mum will be in denial) and what to expect. Thanks a ton, if this ends up answered!

A: Thank you for writing. It’s the next step in taking care of yourself. The first step was talking to good friends who know you well and who gave you some good advice. The second step was acknowledging to yourself that you do need some help. Now it’s time to go forward with the next important step — talking to your mom.

I suggest you share your letter and this response with your mom. You did a fine job articulating your concerns and feelings. Wait for a moment when things are calm between you and you both have some uninterrupted time to talk. Then ask her to read the letter. Follow up with an honest explanation of how you are feeling and a request to see a mental health counselor for an evaluation.

A counselor will help you focus on ways that you can manage your feelings and develop the life skills you need to have the lifestyle you want. With your permission, the counselor will also include your mother in some sessions to help you be more comfortable talking with each other. This is especially important during the teen years while you are going through significant growth and changes.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Fears at Nighttime]]> 2016-09-20T20:00:59Z 2016-09-24T11:25:51Z

I’ve been suffering from some issues since I was little. I have always been scared when it’s dark. I hear noises in the house and outside, but I don’t see what’s making the noises. It makes me feel afraid to go to sleep and I usually end up being awake until the sun rises. If I do fall asleep, I almost always get awakened by nightmares. These nightmares often involve someone breaking in, violence, someone haunting me (usually children who went missing/were killed or something that was on TV), abandonment, or being trapped.

I also won’t go out at night, even on my own property unless someone is with me and the place is well lit and there are no bushes or trees nearby.

I’ve seen shrinks before, but they didn’t help and my family just tells me to get over it/suck it up and that I’m too old to be afraid of this kind of stuff.

Am I being paranoid?

A. Paranoid is a psychological term often associated with psychotic illnesses. It does not seem applicable in your case. You have unreasonable fears that have been reinforced over the years. It seems more like a phobia than paranoia.

Your refusing to go out at night reinforces the idea that the dark should be feared. Also adding to the problem is the fact that you won’t go outside when you hear a noise that should be investigated. Believing in those ideas and engaging in those behaviors strengthens your phobia.

In a way, your family is correct. If you did confront your fear, it would be eliminated but the “cold turkey” approach can be distressing. I would advise against it, unless it was part of a treatment approach facilitated by a therapist or you felt confident about facing your fears.

The amount of fear one should have about any situation should match the probability of an event occurring. For instance, one aviation expert recently noted that the probability of dying in a plane crash was as likely as being struck by lightning seven times, yet despite these odds many people continue to have a fear of flying. Based on the aforementioned probability, one should have very little fear of flying.

You did not mention exactly why you are afraid of the dark. From what you have written, your fear seems irrational. Because this is a long running problem, you should consider specialized treatment if it continues to hinder your life. Choose a therapist who specializes in phobias. Well trained therapists, using the right approach, can cure phobias fairly quickly. With treatment, you can eliminate this problem. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[I Hate My Step Father and My Real Dad]]> 2016-09-18T22:32:34Z 2016-09-23T21:15:48Z

My mum and dad divorced when I was around 9, and for years he took it all out on me and did things like starve me, hold me to the ground and lock me in my room for days. I don’t see him anymore, and I still feel guilty. I feel as though I could have stayed there longer, could have been less prideful and tried harder.

My mother ended up remarrying another man, who I despise. He stands for everything I hate, including being homophobic, bigoted and thinking that his opinion in the only the only opinion. I hate coming home to him because, after what I went through with my dad, I’m really nervous around men, and my step dad’s a massive jerk to me.

I’m just lost between feeling the issues between my relationship with my father is causing the bad relationship with my step dad (my fault) or just that they’re both jerks (not my fault). I’m also growing to resent my mother for marrying him and not standing up for me. She didn’t believe me / help as soon as she should have when I was 13-ish and dealing with the worst of my troubles. I think my step dad I disagree on many things, regardless of him supposedly being a father figure. He thinks gay people shouldn’t have the right to be married, transgenders don’t exist and loads of conservative catholic stuff that I think is wrong. I think everybody should be equal, and this has led to many heated arguments. Of course, being the adult, he always “wins.”

After years of being emotionally bullied by my father, my anxiety around my step father, and men in general, is growing and I don’t know what to do about it. I can’t talk to my mum, I’m too scared to talk to my teachers and I just feel like I can’t tell anybody… Please help! (From Australia.)


A:  I deeply admire the courage it takes to ask for help. I’m sorry you were treated so poorly by the people in your life who were supposed to take care of you. You didn’t cause any of these things to happen — and it sounds as if you are not likely to cause them to change.

Instead, I am going to recommend you make a profound investment in yourself. You are at the beginning of your high school career and I would put your effort into finding support and challenges for yourself outside of your family. I’d begin talking to teacher and counselors about your interests and join clubs and organizations within and outside the school setting that will broaden the network of people with like-minded interests. This can become your vehicle for support.

I’d also begin formulating a plan to be independent and away from your family by the time you are 18. Invest in your education and training. If you inclined toward college, I would work toward that goal. Every moment you can invest in your future should be helpful.

While your mother and father and stepfather have not been there for you, it doesn’t mean that others can’t be. Find the people who support and believe in you and let them become your family of choice.

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

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Can You Please Explain Projection to Me?]]> 2016-09-18T22:29:24Z 2016-09-23T16:25:16Z

From the U.K.: Can you please explain projection to me as I am having problems understanding projection as there appears to be different views on what it is?

I actually think I projected today when on the phone to my husband. I had helped a client get a mattress for her bedroom today and I called him and said “I’ve had a difficult day, I just need to help my client to get this bloody mattress up the stairs and I’ll be home”. But I don’t believe that I am narcissistic or that this was done in a horrible way. I wanted to help my client but also needed to get home asap. But I knew I needed to help get the mattress up the stairs first but I’d be late. so, I said “bloody” to my husband to make it seem like it was a nuisance but I actually wanted to make sure it was in the house so that she had somewhere comfortable to sleep that night.

Also, all the articles I’ve read say to go “No contact” with very difficult family who have narcissistic behaviours. But also contradicting this it says that many Narcissists will go N/C with people sometimes for no reason at all.

I’ve been accused of being cold and heartless by my family for low contact and now need to go no contact as they are incredibly narcissistic. So, all literature and articles I’ve read are telling me to do what a narcissist will do. I know why they’re saying it and actually understand but that too feels contradictory.

Any help in understanding a little more would be appreciated.


A:  Thank you for writing. It’s understandable that your efforts to get good information have left you more confused. Please don’t be hard on yourself. It is not at all unusual to find contradictory information and advice on the internet.

Projection, to put it simply, is reading our own issues into someone else’s behaviors. For example, someone who unconsciously feels superior to others may accuse someone else of acting superior during a conversation.

I don’t think your conversation with your husband was an example of projection. I think maybe you wanted some approval from your husband for what you had done — and perhaps an excuse for being late. That’s only human.

But if you often feel unappreciated or if your husband gets unreasonably angry when you are late, it’s another story. I don’t have enough information to comment.

Deciding to cut off from the extended family at this stage of your life (your 50s) is a huge decision. Often there are unintended and negative consequences. I feel it would be irresponsible for me to give you advice on the basis of a short letter. For that reason, I strongly urge you to seek out a local counselor who can hear your whole story and give you the advice and support you need.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[I Don’t Seem to Care for Other People]]> 2016-09-18T22:26:54Z 2016-09-23T11:20:55Z

Hello from Denmark, I am an 18 year old first year college student. I attend a special college for people on the autism spectrum. My diagnosis is high functioning autism/Asperger.

First a little backstory. Prior to attending college i attended a different special needs school for a couple of years, but i completely isolated myself as i hated the people there. The place was so bad that it made me physically ill. I began getting regular headaches, generally just feeling really terrible, and would stay home from school 4/5 days a week for about 4 months. I was basically stuck in bed for close to 4 months. At some point during those months i began to stop caring about anything, and did have very brief suicide thoughts on multiple occasions (that i quickly dismissed though). I am pretty sure i was falling into depression. I luckily moved to a better school, which seemed to pull me out of the almost depressed state i was in, but i continued to isolate myself as my classmates enjoyed minding their own business 100% of the time. I was at that school for about a year.

Now, classes in my college began Tuesday last week and the first week was mainly used to build and strengthen the friendship in the class.

My problem is, after this week, I still don’t care about any of them. At all. As soon as i leave the school premises, they leave my mind. Completely.

I’m mainly stuck in my room as soon as i get home, and i never go out. I have no close friends left. Never been in a relationship. I talk to myself a lot. I simply do not care about other humans or making any relations. I also have a harder time with empathy than normal human beings, but that’s normal for autistic people i think.

It’s probably irrelevant, but My self esteem is also rotten, i think of myself as lower than every other human being i have ever been in contact with in terms of looks, talent, skill and worth, and i usually downplay all of my so called “achievements” in life.

There is no way not caring about other people (or myself) like this is normal. Whats wrong with me?


A. You recently began attending a new school and have not made friends in the first week. That is not unusual. No one, autistic or otherwise, can make real connections in a week. Relationships need time to develop. It could take years to sincerely know someone at a deep level. The fact that your peers “leave your mind” as soon as you leave the premises, is fairly normal. You hardly know them.

You mentioned having gone to specialized schools in the past. If your college is also a specialized school, then other people with autism likely attend. As you noted, people with autism have trouble developing relationships. It might not be that you are the problem. It could be that you are reaching out to people, but they are not reciprocating. Relationships are two-sided. If they are not interested in forming relationships, then it is going to be difficult to connect with them. It could be them and not you. A therapist could objectively assess your situation and assist you in developing more positive connections with people.

The other issue of concern is your potential depression and your low self-esteem. It will be difficult to develop healthy relationships when you think so little of yourself. If you don’t value yourself, then others might follow your lead. This should be corrected. Developing a healthy level of self-esteem is another issue a therapist could help to correct.

Researchers have developed new psychosocial treatments for individuals with autism, who are struggling with relationships. One of the most recent, promising developments is cognitive enhancement therapy (CET). You might try researching it on the internet. If you choose to begin counseling, choose a therapist who specializes in working with people with autism. Counseling could help you better navigate social relationships and raise your self-esteem. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[I Feel Like There Is Something Wrong with Me]]> 2016-09-18T22:22:08Z 2016-09-22T21:15:20Z

I have always felt off for as long as I can remember. I have had bad relationship after bad relationship. I have been with men who have made me feel awful, but I have also treated them awful. I feel trapped in this awful life, I can’t find happiness! I don’t find joy in much of anything as hard as I try. I have to kids and love them to pieces, but sometimes it’s even hard for me to want to continue being a mom. Sometimes I want to run away because I feel like they deserve someone better. I have struggled to come up with something to pinpoint what exactly my problem is. I have tried counseling so many times and it gets nowhere. I KNOW that I have something wrong… But everyone tells me all the things I am experiencing are normal. Are they? I just can’t accept that. I can’t seem to get along with my mother, I can’t seem to be happy without a relationship, and I fall in “love” so fast, and way to easy. I stay even when I know I shouldn’t. I feel like I am not capable
of doing anything, I feel like the biggest waste. I have anxiety about so many things! I drink more then I’d like and hate it, I recently picked up gambling, which has ruined everything. I can’t do a lot of things unless I’m drinking. I can’t seem to make friends, and only because if I’m sober I wonder why they would ever want to be my friend. I can’t have sex when I’m sober, because I have horrible anxiety that I am doing everything wrong. I have the same anxiety about a lot of other aspects in life as well. I rarely even try new things anymore because I just know I never can, and never will be able to do it. I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I just want to know that it can be fixed! I don’t want to live my life so sad, and lonely. I don’t want to waste it.


A:  First thing’s first. The way you describe your feelings about drinking and the anxieties that follow suggest it is time to visit a self-help program. Here is a link to Alcoholics Anonymous. I think this is a great place to start. I encourage you to attend an open meeting nearby and see if this will help.

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

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[I Can’t Tell if I’m Okay or Not]]> 2016-09-18T22:15:16Z 2016-09-22T16:15:43Z

From a teen in the U.S.: Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! I’ll try to keep it organized.

About two years ago, I started to be much more aware of everything. All of my feelings and memories intensified. It was fun to feel so alive, so I kept chasing the thoughts that led me there (where are we, why do people do what they do etc) deeper down the rabbit hole and now I don’t know where I’ve ended up. I smile all the time, but it’s not because I’m happy. I’m living for other people. I haven’t let myself be angry or yell at someone since I don’t even remember when. Intellectually, I think I get that it’s probably not healthy, but I don’t think I can make myself choose to be different.

I tend to analyze myself, so I identified the two events in my past that affected me. The first was that my dad died when I was 13. I think that’s part of why I fear death, because I understand what it really means to just stop existing and that there’s no rule or pattern saying when it will happen. On the flip side, it’s helped me stop wasting time. And the other event was when my coaches quit on my team sophomore year. I didn’t realize how bad it had been, and as captain I defended the coaches days before they quit. I still blame myself, but I grew up a lot trying to run things on my own after that. I think I was heading toward whatever these feelings are without these two events, but they helped push me there.

My whole family is a tree of hypochondriacs, so there are nights when I’ll stay up freaking out about my heartbeat or not breathing after I fall asleep. I’ve taught myself to just shut that down with logic, but nighttime is still when I think too much.

Most days I can choose to be okay. I can choose to see both the dark and light side. But there are days when it feels like it would be so much easier stop choosing to be okay and to fall off onto the not okay side. I’m just waiting for college to go see someone who doesn’t already know me. Is this normal?

Thank you again!


A:  Another question is whether this is “normal” for you. You’ve had two important losses in your young life — losses that taught you not to take life for granted and that you needed to depend on yourself. Those are not bad lessons to learn. It’s also not a bad thing to be analytic, especially in a family where people are hypochondriacal. You’ve learned to stop and think about whether symptoms are real. That is often the focus of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. You figured that technique out all by yourself.

I think we all make a daily decision about whether to see life’s events as mostly positive or negative. The difference is that most people just do it automatically and unconsciously. You are more aware of the choices you are making than most.

Are you normal? I can’t tell on the basis of a letter, of course. What I can tell you is that the range of “normal” is enormous. You have responded normally to life events. Whether you’ve taken it too far is something you’d need to talk to a counselor face to face to figure out. If that would give you peace of mind, I hope you will do so. A counselor can help you dig deeper and gain more insight into who you are and what you might want to work on to be all you can be.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie