You will likely decide this is too specific and lengthy to answer. It is more a request for a perspective than it is a question. I am a 21 female undergraduate. My life is well-established: I receive excellent marks, my family is financially comfortable, and I am talented enough that I do not lack in self esteem, yet I consistently feel numb or unhappy, such that when I do feel joy over something, it feels like a drug trip.
I have been increasingly demotivated for the past three years. I am losing energy, and thoughts that often cross my mind are: do I truly benefit the people around me? Am I annoying anyone? Would it affect anyone that aversely if I were to disappear? I put off things like mailing because it causes irrational stress. Missing the bus can set me in a negative mood for the rest of the day.
I have implemented strategies to discourage myself from this practice: I practice yoga, run, draw, am socially involved, and I am studying and traveling around Europe.
The family I spoke with became angry with me for expressing these thoughts, considering my many blessings. The friend I reached out to suggested that I change my regular thought patterns, and that I am addicted to worry. I perceive this as logical advice, but I am not sure why I feel vaguely angry when I hear it.
I do not believe that I have any reason to feel the way that I do, that it is pointless, ungrateful, and melodramatic, as I am surrounded by fellows with larger problems than my own. If I were to guess at a cause, I would agree with my friend; I drove my thoughts in this direction and continued to do so until it became a habit.
My mood has started to affect my productivity. I can’t drive myself to concentrate on independent work, I received a D on my latest exam (I have historically achieved nothing less than a B), and I can’t remember words and concepts in conversation after years of public speech and debate. I feel sluggish. I can’t truly see a way forward from here. I understand that in order to beat this I need to motivate myself, but I am not sure how to, or if I am strong enough in constitution to take any advice that I am given.
A. You might be describing the symptoms of depression. It is common for people who are depressed to feel the way you do.
You might say that there’s no reason for you to be depressed because you have lived a fortunate life. You may have had good fortune but it doesn’t prevent depression. Of course we should count our blessings, but material things don’t equate to happiness.
If you’re unhappy, then it should be explored with a therapist. Thus far, you have relied on yourself, friends and family for insight and advice. It would be much wiser to consult a therapist who has both specialized training for treating these types of problems and who has the benefit of objectivity. Friends and family can provide social support but they can’t do therapy nor can they effectively be objective.
Your friend believes that your thinking patterns may be the problem. That is possible. Many theorists believe that depression is the result of faulty thinking. In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the most effective types of therapy for depression and related disorders, is based on the idea that illogical thinking patterns underlie psychological problems. The goal of CBT therapy, in part, is to assess the quality of one’s thinking, and to ensure that it is in line with reality.
Studies have shown that the majority of people, at some point in their lives, experience mental health problems. In other words, it happens to virtually everyone. It is nothing to be ashamed of. When you recognize that a problem exists and you have tried to help yourself, then it is time to seek help from a professional. Consult a local therapist about this problem. If you find a therapist you like and you actively participate in treatment, you will likely see positive results. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle