From the U.S.: When I was a child I was diagnosed with ADD because I was unable to concentrate. At age 19 I started having panic attacks. At age 20 I had a mental break down after breaking up with my boyfriend and I was talked into going to a psychologist in the hospital and being ommitted to a psychward for three days. The psychologist told me I was having problems because I was so unstablyouith living circumstances. I found a place to live and got a little better. However, through all of this I fought with my parents, fought with my cousins, and ignored my friends.

As the years went by I slowly tried to repair relationships and stay connected with the people I loved. Yet, no one invites me anywhere but large family gatherings. My mom is stand offish and detached and has struggled with depression. The only person there for me through all of this has been my husband.

Most of my life starting in sixth grade, I have been very shy, I am able to stand up for myself if I really have to but mostly I am very quiet nd I have a hard time expressing myself verbally. I am almost finished with my bachelors degree so I know I am book smart. However, I am noticing every problem I have had in life has been socially. Is there a chance I am sorta autistic or something?

I am not able to keep friends without arguments and when I am speaking I sometimes can not think of words. It happens alot. My mom and grandmother have mentioned having the same problem as well as memory problems. I have forgotten names of people I have known for 6 months, only to remember them miniutes later…..what is wrong with me??? or am i just paranoid???

A: Thank you for writing. It looks to me like you lost some growing time due to some serious problems during your early 20s. You’ve been rebuilding your self-esteem and your self-confidence ever since. It is a very positive sign that the man who loves you continues to be there for you. It sounds like the rest of the family has problems of their own that get in the way of relating to you.

I don’t have enough to go on to determine if there is anything “wrong” with you. It could be that you are simply by nature an introvert. There’s nothing wrong with that. It could be that you developed some social anxiety in the wake of the hard breakup when you were younger. If that’s the case, some treatment would probably be helpful. It could be that your family members are socially unskilled themselves. If that’s the case, you will only have limited success connecting with them. It would be more satisfying to find other people who can be a family of the heart for you.

I applaud your efforts to learn about yourself and to connect with others even though it is difficult for you. I hope you will consider making an appointment to talk to a mental health professional who can hear your whole story and who can make the assessment I cannot make on the basis of a letter. You will probably come away from such an appointment reassured and with suggestions for how to work on social skills.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie