Ask the Therapist Ask our resident Psych Central therapists. 2017-09-21T18:45:48Z Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[How Do I Stop Fear of Home Invasion?]]> 2017-09-14T20:57:19Z 2017-09-21T18:45:48Z

From a teen in the U.S.: I have an overwhelming fear of home invasions. My house in the past has been broken into multiple times. Despite the fact that we now have an alarm system, dogs, etc. I still do not feel safe. This fear often keeps me up at night, listening for any noises or looking out for anything out of the ordinary. During this time i often experience panic attack like symptoms as well as extreme paranoia.

I have done large amounts of research on the topic of home invasions, in hopes that knowing I am prepared if it were to ever occur would calm me down during these situations but it never works. I have also spoken to my family about upping our security further, but there is only so much you can do. Either way, even with the added security we currently have, my fear will not subside, and if anything has gotten worse over the years. I don’t know what to do, and am open to any and all suggestions, thank you!

A: No one can blame you for being afraid. You are not fantasizing a problem. Your home has been invaded — multiple times! It makes sense to me that you are anxious about it.

It’s highly unusual for a home to be invaded multiple times unless there is suspicion on the street that there are drugs in the house or there is someone living there who is involved in things they shouldn’t be. If that’s the case, you need to explore options for getting out. Your school counselor may be able to give you some advice. There may be scholarships to a private school or an exchange program or a work program that you qualify for. Or you may want to investigate whether a relative in another community will let you move in for awhile.

But — If your family has just had horrible luck or you are living in a high crime district that your family can’t afford to leave, your family has already done what it can to ensure that there won’t be another invasion. If that’s the case, you have to figure out how to manage your fears or be miserable until the day you go off to college or move on yourself.

I can make a few suggestions:

  1. Stop researching on the internet. You already know what you are going to find. At this point, continuing to research it is only keeping the issue very alive in your mind. It’s like if you told yourself not to think of yellow kangaroos. The effort to not think about them is a way of thinking of them so yellow kangaroos would never be far from your mind.
  2. Work on some mindfulness exercises to help you relax. You can find guided meditations online. Work on focused breathing to help you relax. Focusing on breathing will engage your mind in something besides your fears.
  3. A short course of anti-anxiety medication might be helpful as a way to at least break the cycle of being afraid, being afraid of being afraid, and then being even more afraid.
  4. Consider seeing a therapist for a few sessions to coach you in mindfulness and to provide further suggestions and support.
  5. If you are allowed to have a dog where you live — and if you can be a responsible dog owner — talk to your folks about getting a dog from your local shelter. Dogs can be wonderfully therapeutic for someone like yourself. An added benefit in your case is that even a small dog with a big bark will usually deter someone from breaking in. Put up a “Beware of Dog” sign and teach the dog to bark at strangers.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[My Therapist Keeps Asking How I Feel about “Our Relationship” and It’s Making Me Wanna Quit]]> 2017-09-14T20:52:57Z 2017-09-21T11:30:20Z

I feel like we’re nearing the end of my therapy, and my therapist keeps asking me ‘how i feel about our relationship’ cause he insists i shut off when we touch that topic. I think i shut off because i have no answer and his insistence on that is making me uncomfortable to the point that I wanna quit, because I just don’t understand what he’s getting at at all.

A. There is no way for me to know why your therapist keeps asking about your “relationship.” Only he will be able to answer your question. My best advice is to ask him what he means.

It’s unclear why the topic makes you uncomfortable or why it would lead to you wanting to quit. It’s possible that this is a misunderstanding, but, without discussing it with him, you might never get to the heart of the problem.

Communication is notoriously difficult. Often, what we say is misinterpreted and understood differently by others. We assume that people understand our words and their meaning is clear but we should never believe that assumption. It is always safer to expect that miscommunication will occur.

The two of you are obviously not on the “same page.” Clarification is needed. This can be corrected by making him aware of the problem and addressing it directly.

Be honest about your feelings and once you do, you might find that this problem is easily rectified. Best of luck to you.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[Question about My Father and My Relationship]]> 2017-09-14T20:41:41Z 2017-09-20T18:45:50Z

Very embarrassed to discuss this issue, but simply, I have reason to believe my father has a slight sexual attraction to me and my sister. Growing up he was very touchy feely and he still is until this day. He will touch our butt and make comments about our breast. He always says it in a joking manner, even in front of our mother, and she doesn’t think much of it. It has become more of a problem for me as I have gotten older and I do not want that kind of attention from my father. It makes me very uncomfortable. This behavior isn’t incessant, but I still do not find it normal. I still have a good relationship with my dad, however, and go to him for emotional support. I just think his treatment toward my sister and I, no matter how casual it is, is normal to me at this point.

However, last night, he, my sister and I were making crank calls to our family members (out of boredom). He made up several names for the calls like one would naturally do. By the end of the night, he was already a little drunk and came into my room while I was in bed and laid down next to me and sort of spooned me. I asked him why he was doing that and he said “you don’t want to make love to [insert name here]?”

I have no idea if I am blowing this out of proportion. Perhaps my father does not see me sexually and is just more comfortable with joking about sex than I am. Perhaps subconsciously I have been taught by society to fear all men. Thank you for your time. (From the USA)

A:  It is important not to let this go — don’t minimize it. There are several things that aren’t okay, like your father touching your butt, talking about your breasts, and spooning you after drinking. None of these behaviors are acceptable, and the fact that you list your age as 23, and have been concerned about this for some time, means it is time to say something.

Talk to your father directly about this. Let him know it bothers you and needs to end. At this point, you setting the boundaries is important. I’d also encourage you to talk to your sister and tell her to do the same. Start here and continue to reinforce this boundary with him. If it continues please talk to a therapist. The find help tab at the top of this page will help you find someone in your area.

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

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Is This Self-Harm?]]> 2017-09-14T20:37:41Z 2017-09-20T11:30:55Z

From a teen in New Zealand: Hey I’ve had this habit of using my braces to cut my lips. I was wondering if this is considered self harm? or just a habit. I usually do it subconsciously and don’t realize until I taste blood in my mouth.

A: Regardless of what you call it, you are hurting yourself. Habits are just that — habits. Habits can be broken. There are many good websites where you can get advice. Just do a search for “breaking a habit”. Start there. If you follow the suggestions and still can’t stop, I suggest you see a therapist for a few sessions to give you more coaching and support. The therapist will also be able to help you determine if there is more to this than simply a bad habit.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Was It Abuse?]]> 2017-09-14T20:36:42Z 2017-09-19T18:45:59Z

When I was 12 I was in school and behind me was the 16 year old boy and I felt something behind me in the line to get some dinner, but I wasn’t sure what it was but I felt his whole body in back which was very uncomfortable and I couldn’t see his face properly. But I wasn’t sure if he was touching me at first so I just got out of the line because I felt his hand in my back but I wasn’t sure, so I kinda let it go. So the next day I went to the line again to get some food and I felt something really close to me again and i felt a hand trying to pull my jumper and shirt and it made me very uncomfortable and he touched me in my legs and between them but I was scared I didn’t know what to do I was just frozen I would always try in move but he would always go back, so again I got out of the line. I felt like he was following me everywhere I was really scared my friends were always there to make me feel a bit more protected. It happened for two weeks him just touching me and it always got worse, so I told my head of year but I couldn’t describe what he was doing so it looked like she didn’t really care so I thought I was being exaggerated that it was ok for him to touch me really inappropriately. I didn’t eat at school for days, until one day I went and he was there and once again he touched but this time quite worse as he tried getting between legs again my friends saw so they went to get my head of year and she took him out of the line and I didn’t know what she said to him she never spoke to me about it. The good thing is that he stopped but I was so traumatized and I still am. I have nightmares all the time and flashbacks of his face as I saw him earlier this year for the first time in a year I was scared I was getting paranoid. I was stupid for not saying stop it but I was so scared. Was it molestation or was just something that didn’t matter? These nightmares are just getting worse I just don’t know.

A. It’s difficult to determine what happened. Based on the small amount of information provided, the 16-year-old boy repeatedly touched you inappropriately and that would be sexual abuse. It does not appear, however, that he was reprimanded or held accountable for his actions. Thankfully, it was stopped.

The abuse still troubles you. It’s not something you should ignore because it seems to be interfering with your life. The ideal solution is counseling. It will help you to effectively address the trauma from the abuse.

It’s also important to address a thinking error. You wrote that “I was stupid for not saying stop.” That is simply untrue. You were a child and you didn’t know any better. Children are vulnerable. You were afraid and confused and did not know what was happening to you. Confusion and fear are understandable reactions, especially for children.

You did what you should have done, which was to tell someone in authority about the abuse. The person to whom you reported the abuse apparently didn’t take your first report seriously. If anyone made an error in this situation, it was the person who didn’t act when you reported it. Unfortunately, some adults don’t believe children when they report abuse. You did exactly what you should have done. You did nothing wrong.

I’m sorry that this happened to you but the good news is therapy can help. Contact your primary care physician and ask for a referral or use the “Find Help” tab at the top of this page to locate a therapist in your community. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[Childhood Sexual Abuse]]> 2017-09-14T20:26:24Z 2017-09-19T11:30:58Z

So say you were about four years old, and you were circumcised at birth while most others in your community were not. You enter kindergarten and as kindergarten children do, they compare their private parts by showing them to one another. Kids find out you’re different. You feel strange and different from everybody else (because you ‘are’ different).

One day, the kindergarten teacher brings me up to the front of the classroom, and asks to pull down my pants. She tries to pull down the front of the pants to expose my private part. At first I resist and start to sob, but she says ‘it’s okay, it’s okay’ and I then yield. She goes on to ‘explain’ my private parts to the classroom, saying something to the effect of ‘this penis is circumcised; boys will be getting them one day; it’s normal’. This was a one-off thing, and there were no sexual connotations. It was more of an explanation and a vindication rather than an attempt at humiliation, but at the time I don’t  exactly remember how I felt. Would you say this is sexual harassment of a minor? The law at home says it might qualify as such, but as far as I know kids before the age of four are not abashed at showing their private parts in public because it is a natural thing for them to do. Thoughts? (From Korea)

A:  I am sorry this humiliating experience happened. As you’ve described it had a psychological impact on you — and more than 25 years later it is still a concern for you. Regardless of the legal definitions the psychological implication is clear — this experience was way outside the norm. This was not something that happened every day in your culture. Boys and girls were not put on display as a regular event. I can understand why the law in your country would say it qualifies as sexual harassment.

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


Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[How Do I Help My Obese Son?]]> 2017-09-14T20:18:30Z 2017-09-18T18:45:54Z

From the U.S.: I have an adult son 35 yrs old. Kind, caring good person. Good job, supports himself, lives alone. He and I have always been very close. He is obese 400 lbs+, colon cancer survivor, diabetic, sleep apnea, anxiety and depression. No close friends, no social life. We do not live in the same state. He says he is lonely and hates being fat. He does see a therapist on a regular basis.

He recently went through a weight loss program at a hospital. He noted he was the youngest and the heaviest. He attended all the classes and ended with a 1lb weight gain. He called me at the end of class and cried.

I have been very emotionally supportive of him. I helped him pay for the class but I do not contribute money to him in any other way. I have told him I would pay for him to fly to visit when he feels he can fit in an airline seat.

I don’t know how I should handle this situation. I am so stressed out with fear he is going to die that I can’t live a happy normal life. I am so focused on his unhealthy lifestyle and loneliness that I cannot enjoy my own life. I go from feeling sorry for him to feeling guilty that I somehow was not a good parent to being so angry at him for not helping himself.

I don’t want to make his anxiety any worse nor do I want him to think I am giving up on him because I love him so much. I am frustrated. I have told him many times that I love him and want to see him healthy and happy, it doesn’t help. I need to know how to bring myself to a happier place. I have cried myself to sleep so so many nights and I feel like the stress is making me sick. Every time I see that he has sent me a text or I see his number calling me my heart sinks thinking its never good news but I need him to text me good morning everyday so I know he lived through the night. Ugh. Even when something good happens for him I know the happiness will be short lived for both of us…HELP.

A: If the weight loss program focused only on weight loss, I’m not surprised that your son wasn’t successful. He is probably too depressed to have the discipline to do a weight loss regime.

My guess is that all of his health problems are inter-related. What they have in common is the depression. For that reason, I would want to focus on that first. A depressed person is simply not able to sustain the motivation needed to manage a weight loss program. The depression may also be at the root of his lack of friends and a social life. (Overweight people do have friends and lovers but not if they are chronically depressed.)

Ask your son to talk to his doctor about how diabetes and sleep apnea contribute to the depression. If he isn’t using a C-PAP or Bi-PAP machine, encourage him to talk to his doctor about whether it would be helpful. Many of my clients who gave the machines an honest try felt much better within weeks.

Further, if you haven’t already, encourage him to see a therapist who can help him deal with the depression directly — and who can be a weekly (or more) support in his life. Suggest to your son that you will be able to step back and give him more space if you know he is seeing a therapist who has skills you don’t have to help him be less depressed.

Meanwhile, as difficult as it is, it is time to take a step back. As you said, your life and happiness are too much entangled with his. That not only gives you stress, but it also puts pressure on him. You may be inadvertently adding to his depression if he is feeling responsible for your distress. Further, you certainly don’t mean to, but by primarily talking about your concerns when you speak to him, you may be reinforcing the depression.

By all means, ask him to call you with good news but suggest that, for awhile at least, you will take a break from always talking about his health. Then take steps so you can have positive things about your life to report to him when you are talking to each other. Make a list of the things you used to enjoy before you got so wrapped up in your worry about your son. Then make every effort to reclaim your involvement in some of those activities.

You certainly have legitimate reasons to be very worried about your son. But sharing the worry with him hasn’t been effective. Why not talk these suggestions over with your son and see what he thinks might be more helpful?

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[Low Self Esteem, Relationship Issues, and Depression]]> 2017-09-14T20:10:38Z 2017-09-18T11:30:11Z

I guess I have problems with self esteem. I hold myself to absurd expectations even when I know rationally that I shouldn’t.
I seek unnecessary validation from people I shouldn’t, and then feel guilty about receiving validation.
I sometimes feel a compulsive need to be better than other people, and place myself under extreme amounts of pressure beyond my realistic capabilities.

I don’t have confidence in most if any social encounters without close friends, unless it’s during conversation that means nothing and is short.

When I’m with new people, I won’t really speak unless spoken to, and my brain just kind of shuts off, and I feel like I don’t belong.

I’m emotionally closed off, and deal with a lot of insecurity.

I don’t talk to anyone about my problems because I feel like I can’t, and I don’t trust them to not hurt my feelings or to not misunderstand me.

I’ve never dated ever, and don’t really know how.
I can’t bring myself to start conversations with women, or express sexual or romantic interest at all.
When women wink at me, I completely panic, lose everything, and I just leave as quickly as possible.

There are periods where I feel very depressed for no reason. Nothing happens to set me off but still, in the evening, for hours, I will lose all happiness and feel completely hollow, and all my negativity is exaggerated.
This happens weekly and it feels normal but I don’t think other people go through this sort of thing.
Does everyone just feel hollow at times?
This only happens during parasympathetic nervous system activation.

The rest of the day I fare well enough, going to class, going to the gym, making small talk about homework.

I tried seeking therapy at my college mental health center, and it reinforced the idea that there is nothing wrong with me.

Everything is explained by the fact that I’m a narcissist in a very competitive major (Aerospace Engineering) who is introverted, and I just need to get over my shyness, and the rest of the time I can function normally.
Everybody goes through tough times, so I can’t tell if psych help is something I really need.

What do I do? (I can access campus therapists) What do I tell them?

A. You stated that you are depressed at times for no reason. This is akin to saying “that it rains at times” for no reason. We live in a perfectly logical world, as an engineering student, you should be willing to accept that fact. The biggest tragedy and failure in the United States aerospace program, was the explosion of the space shuttle. No one at NASA thought that the explosion was “for no reason.” There was an explosion and they search for and found the reason why. You have periods of depression and you should search for and find the reason why.

I have stated before that growing up is hard to do and, though that may appear to be a trite phrase, it is absolutely true. You are in a period of transition. It is a time that demands growth within your very being. It is a period of instability and should end with your transforming into a stable adult. It is a metamorphosis of sorts.

All of the things that you have described are typical of this period of time. Low self-esteem, shyness, feeling a desire to date but a great insecurity when attempting to do so, all of these things are common. You can attempt to deal with these things on your own, and you might succeed, or you can seek help in this process. If your car is not running right, you can try to fix it yourself and you might succeed but it is much easier with a far greater probability of success, to take that car to a professional, someone who is skilled and trained and experienced in fixing this type of problem. You are probably not familiar with automotive fuel injection or automotive computer diagnostic codes. I’m not suggesting that you could not learn these things but I am suggesting that it would likely take a long time and a great deal of effort. It is simply easier to take your car to someone who already knows these things.

Fortunately, you are in college and most colleges offer free access to their counseling professionals. I would highly recommend that you take advantage of that opportunity. Mental health professionals are no less skilled than mechanics.

If you feel it wise and acceptable and a desired course of action, to take your car’s problems to an experienced and educated automotive technician, I would think it reasonable to conclude that it would be similarly wise to take the problems that you’ve described to a counselor, who is also skilled and educated.

I am glad to have made your acquaintance, even in this superficial way and I hope that I have been of some assistance, if even in a small way. Good luck.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[Mother Having an Affair with Married Men]]> 2017-09-14T20:08:02Z 2017-09-17T18:45:41Z

Since I was younger, my mother always got caught being on a call with other men, even before she and my dad got divorced about 5 years ago. Now she’s the only one who pays our bills, being the single mother. After she got divorced with her second husband, she started to become the old her, receiving calls from married men, having a date with them. Maybe because of her, I’ve always being skeptical about marriage, thinking if all men will cheat–there will be no point of being married.

This evening my mom got another phone call from one of the married men she usually talks to. After the phone call ended, I have this urge feeling to ask her directly about what I’m thinking. I asked her “mom, imagine if you still with dad now, and dad got caught having a phone call with other woman exactly like what you just did, will you be jealous?” and she was directly answered “yes” and after a while we started fighting.

My question is, did I do it wrong? if I did, how exactly am I supposed to do or feel? I asked because I have no idea how marriage and adultery life are like. I can’t stop feeling disrespectful towards her but she’s our only financial support and I feel wrong of feeling that way. (From Thailand)

A:  I think it is always alright to express how you feel about what is happening, when you are talking about YOUR feelings. Saying, “I’m upset when I see you dating married men because it makes me feel like there is no value in marriage,” is different than trying to make your mom feel guilty. You are always entitled to your feelings, but you will almost always be in for a fight if you try to make someone else feel ashamed of what they’ve done. Try to express your feelings without trying to shame your mother, and start thinking about moving out and having your own adult life out from under your mom’s influence.

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

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[Can I Mend the Relationship with My Girlfriend’s Parents?]]> 2017-09-14T20:06:27Z 2017-09-17T11:30:18Z

From an 18 year old in Italy: My girlfriend and I are in a serious relationship for a long time now (both of us are in high school). We live very far from each other so we can’t see each other often. My girlfriend is younger than me so we can’t meet whenever we want, only when her parents approve that.

When I visited at their home (for the first time) and stayed there for a few days, her father called me before I came and talked to me about us (me and my girlfriend). He asked me to give me his word that we won’t have sex.

Long story short, we had sex and he found out about it. On the phone I gave him my word that I’ll do my best to avoid such thing but I suppose that he thought that I give my word that I won’t do it.

After he found out he was extreamly mad (he found out after I was gone) and said to my girlfriend things such as: “He betrayed me and he will betray you”. He also suggested her to end it with me because “I’ll betray her as well”. I really want her parents to like me because my relationship with her is very serious and hopefully, will last very very long.

I don’t know how to fix this and I’ve tried. I sent both of her parents a message in order to show them that I want to talk to them about what happened but they didn’t reply. I feel hopless because I can’t have bad relations with her parents.

I usually don’t type in these places but I need more opinions and tools to fix this mess.
Do you think they’ll forgive me in the end?
Do you think they’ll like me again?
Do you think they’ll think I am worthy for their daughter?

I don’t think this is relevant but I am very successful when it comes to studies and I am also very responsible and very mature. I tried to stop us from doing it but she was stubborn and after lots of “are you sure we should do this?”, we did it. I can’t bare that I am a disappointment to her parents because it’s not who I am. People are usually impressed by me so it also hurts.
Please help me with your opinion and take this seriously.

A: You are not as mature as you think you are. You are trying to avoid taking full responsibility by suggesting you only said you’d “do your best” to avoid sex, not that you gave your word. You then put blame on your girlfriend for being “stubborn”. Really? The father had every reason to believe that you were making a promise. He extended himself by allowing a visit and you did betray his trust. As the older person, it was your job to withstand your girlfriend’s insistence.

Your girlfriend is younger than you are. Her parents are only doing a parent’s job by being protective of her. Although her dad may be mistaken that betraying him means you would betray her, he does have grounds for wondering when a promise from you is meaningful.

I think it will take a long time for her parents to want to support your relationship again. Trust is one of those things that is hard to win and easy to lose. You and your girlfriend can try to repair the relationship with them but it will require that you both take full responsibility for breaking their trust. You will also probably have to accept that the only visits will be highly supervised.

You’ve had a hard lesson in what it means to be trustworthy. I hope you can learn from it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[My Wife Seems to Be Suffering from Paranoid Personality Disorder]]> 2017-09-09T16:35:08Z 2017-09-16T18:45:44Z

I have gone through the symptoms of Paranoid Personality disorder and my wife seems to be suffering from the same since last 13 years. she is 39 years old and is a house wife now. earlier she was working as a teacher. she is a mother of 3 kids. My questions is that how should family members behave with a patient of paranoid personality disorder and how can we save our children from being a victim of the same disease. what are the chances of getting them affected. My wife doesn’t trust anyone in my family and fights with everyone. she says that she is not suffering from any disease and thinks that i want to divorce her on this ground.

A. I want to caution you against diagnosing your wife with a mental illness. She may have paranoid personality disorder, but she would need a comprehensive evaluation to determine if she has a psychological condition. Mental health professionals receive years of rigorous training to make determinations about mental health diagnoses and thus have the necessary expertise. It’s always best to consult an expert, when possible.

Generally speaking, having a parent with a mental illness increases the probability of their offspring having a mental illness, but there is no easy way to determine the likelihood of that outcome. Both nature and nurture are thought to contribute to the development of mental health disorders but researchers cannot yet pinpoint the exact cause of any one mental health disorder. Your children would benefit from living in a supportive, loving environment which could help to buffer any additional stress.

It’s common for people with psychotic disorders to not recognize that they are ill. The inability to recognize one’s illness is a symptom of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Therefore, it often takes a great deal of effort to convince a family member who is actively psychotic that they need help. The best treatment for psychosis is medication. Medication will reduce the symptoms. The sooner you can get her into treatment, the better her prognosis.

Your first step should be having her evaluated by a mental health professional. That will provide more clarity about what’s wrong and most importantly, how to treat her symptoms. Once her symptoms are under control, they will have less impact on your family.

You might also consider family therapy to help your children deal with her symptoms. Family therapy is the ideal counseling method for family members who may be having difficulties adjusting to a family member suffering from mental health issues. Good luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[Depression and PMDD]]> 2017-09-09T16:30:25Z 2017-09-16T11:30:17Z

I am an introvert, I suffer from depression and pmdd. I take Prozac and wellbutrin. My PMDD is really bad this time. I try listening to positive affirmations everyday and listen to music that will pump me up. I still get triggered very easily and become emotional, irritable and could lose my job because of this. I dont know what to do, I am trying so hard to control myself but I cant. I feel like I need to be away from people until this passes. What can I do? (From the USA)

A:  It sounds like you have been doing the right things to bring your premenstrual dysphoric disorder under control. The three things you didn’t mention that have been shown to bring relief along with what you are doing are diet, vitamins, and exercise. If you haven’t tried these approaches you may want to learn more about them. Here is a blog post from us that you may find useful.

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

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker <![CDATA[I’m Really Moody and Withdrawn]]> 2017-09-08T20:26:50Z 2017-09-15T18:45:43Z

From a 14 year old girl in Australia: When I was 6 years old a 13-year-old guy convinced me it was normal for me to make out with him, so I did. At the same time, a frenemy convinced me to have my first lesbian experience with her.

After I moved residence I became friends with a girl for 2 and a half years. She would hit me, choke me if I interrupted her accidentally, call me names, isolate me from the rest of the group if she was mad at me, pressure me into gossiping about our friends only to hold it against me later on and would dig her elbow into my pressure point of my knee if she was bored. And that’s just to name a few things. I had self-harmed since then and became really depressed.

Due to multiple experiences with teachers and other adults I have become terrified of seeking help from others, especially adults.

I find it really hard to keep up with human needs such as hygiene (I do take care of myself hygienically just not nearly as much as I should), I won’t usually eat unless someone else has cooked something, I panic in social situations and have a very little filter so I’m deemed very weird.

If I’m in an area with a lot of people or with a group of people I don’t usually know it usually ends in an emotional breakdown. I usually don’t seek out help due to feelings of extreme guilt in doing so. My greatest wish when I came to high school was to have no friends because a lot of my emotional stress (I’m guessing) is due to me having a social life.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to self-harm again and I have a nasty habit of digging my nails into my skin when I’m depressed.
I don’t feel comfortable telling my parents anything because they think all my problems stem from a lack of exercise. I listen to music A LOT and usually pace up and down the hallway listening to music for hours on end.

It’s come to a point where I’m not doing my homework or assessments because I cannot be bothered, I’m also completely cutting myself off socially.

A: It seems to me that your primary problem is the effects of bullying by the older girl. As a child, you didn’t know how to either identify what was happening or how to get out of the relationship. It is no surprise to me that you have difficulty trusting that other peers won’t treat you as badly. It also doesn’t surprise me that you are so highly anxious when you are with people you don’t know.

You’ve already discovered that you can’t recover on your own. Drowning out the distress with music or distracting yourself by cutting works for a bit but those tactics don’t get to the root of the problem. I think the onset of depression is a reflection of your discouragement. You do need help but you don’t know how to get it since you don’t trust adults to help you.

Fortunately, there is a kids’ helpline in Australia. That may be a good place for you to start. Counselors there are available 24/7 to talk to kids like you and it’s free. The website is

I hope you will take a deep breath and also ask your parents to help you. It might help them understand what you are going through if you show them your letter and this response.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW <![CDATA[What’s Wrong with Me?]]> 2017-09-08T20:25:23Z 2017-09-15T11:30:11Z

My parents have said many times that I’m cold blooded because i don’t feel sad or pity when people die in terrorist attack like they do, i really don’t understand why i should, it’s not me. I tried to drown my sister out of jealousy but i played the victim so I didn’t get punished. I like to break friendships up and make my friends hate each other. I like to wreck other people’s groups. I like to twist people’s words to make them feel bad and apologize/’comfort’ me. I only want to become a surgeon when i graduate because i want to operate on people not because i want to help them and my mother always say that of me, but even though that is not my goal, they are still helped in the end, so what’s the problem? I once ran away from home for a while so that my parents can get worried and be punished. I pretend to be the innocent and lovely person around other people. I once accidentally poisoned a cat but I don’t feel regret. I was happy when my baby cousin had a hole in his heart because he was born near my birthday and he took the spotlight away from me. I was mad my granddad died a week before my birthday so my family wont celebrate my birthday cause they are greiving. I fantasize about murdering or torturing people that has wronged me, but i wont do it cuz i will get a criminal record . I wasnt brought up in a abusive family and i have never had a traumatised childhood. I dont know what’s wrong with me.

A. The fact that you worry about going to prison might prevent you from harming strangers, but it does not seem to prevent you from wreaking havoc in the lives of those closest to you. There are occasions when you purposely harm them and subsequently feel no remorse. These are worrisome behaviors and responses.

I can’t answer the question of what is “wrong” with you, on the basis of a short letter, but generally speaking you seem geared towards harming rather than helping people. How you treat people is a choice. You can choose to do good or you can choose to do harm. For reasons that are not well understood, some people choose the latter.

In a broader, more philosophical context, our choices are considered good or evil. To help someone or to relieve their suffering is considered good. To do the opposite, to intentionally behave in ways that harm people, is considered evil. As the famous Stanford psychologist, Dr. Philip Zimbardo explains, “Evil is knowing better but willingly doing worse.”

The first step in changing negative behavior is acknowledgement. By acknowledging these issues and by asking your question, you are behaving responsibly and in my view, trying to change your behavior. It would suggest a desire to change. That is hopeful and encouraging.

Your next step should be asking your parents to assist you in finding a local therapist. Counseling will help to correct your thinking and behavior. You will learn how to move away from behavior and tendencies that could lead you into trouble. If you were to carry out your fantasies, you could be facing a lifetime in prison or, depending on where you live, the death penalty. You must do everything in your power to correct this problem. Counseling is the ideal solution. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP <![CDATA[Doctor Phobia]]> 2017-09-08T20:17:07Z 2017-09-14T18:45:36Z

How does someone with a fear of doctors, and a trauma history, see a doctor like a “normal person?” I have tried different PCP’s through the years, and always have a similar experience. I never get through the Physical Examination: I become horribly uncomfortable, they guess my history, give me a PTSD diagnosis, tell me to get more therapy, and never call me back in.

I have had therapists since I was 12, and discussing this with my current therapist only resulted with a recommendation of finding a woman doctor under 25. I don’t know how to find a doctor who might meet that criteria, and at the same time: explain to me what they are going to do to me – before doing it, and not be afraid of me and send me away – never to be contacted again.

I have had health insurance for many years that covers annual visits (and much more), yet I don’t know how to find a doctor that would be willing to do that, at least.

Part of my trauma history, was a dehumanizing multiple doctor examination when I was 11. I understand they needed evidence for the court case. I understand that complicates my ability to not be extremely nervous around doctors. I understand not all doctors would, or should, treat someone like I was then. Most of all, I understand that finding a doctor I could trust, and communicates well, would help me not be so nervous.

All I want is to be a normal healthy person. I am good at forcing myself to do a lot of things, if I know what is going to happen. I have tried to do research on what exactly a Physical Examination consists of, and how to find a doctor who would work with a person like me. I have not had much success.

My questions are:
How does one find a doctor that is not afraid of someone with a trauma history?
Are there resources, information, for someone like me? (From the USA)

A:  I am sorry it has been so difficult for you to find good medical care in your area. I did a google search with the name of your town by putting in Women’s Center near__________. This returned a number of good possibilities, many of which deal with woman’s issues related to trauma. I would invite you to contact each of the ones that seem like they are good possibilities. Typically, woman’s centers will either have someone on staff who is trained and helpful, or they will know who to refer you to.

If this doesn’t work I would also look for therapist who specialize in helping with traumatic events. You can find someone in your area by checking the Find Help tab at the top of this page.

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