Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Sudden change in character.


QUESTION: Hi, this is something that has been bothering me for some time. There was a point of time where a switch in my head just flipped. I changed in like EVERY aspect. I became the opposite of who I was. I started loving things I hated and hating things I loved. Everything changed like my preference in food (loved my hated food), hygiene habits (started washing myself more, usually lazy to do so), sleeping habits (got up when alarm rang once instead of snoozing), handwriting (messy to neat), studying habits (started topping my classes, was failing before), friendships (suddenly had the mentality that I would never make a single friend for the rest of my life and was fine with it, friends meant the world to me before), perspective of teachers (used to respect them, then treated them like tools for my gain). It was like I became the opposite of everything I was. After a while I started getting depressed and it just got worse over the 5 years. Now, I'm completed depleted of any motivation in life. Am afraid to form intimate friendships or otherwise. Always keep a distance from people and strangely enough, they always seem to think that i'm giving them a lot of attention when I hardly bothered trying with them. Is this normal as a part of growing up? (I'm 19) Cause I'm really lost now and it sucks cause I am exactly where I want to be in life and am not exactly happy with it because I'm not doing anything I should be doing and can't seem to get started. Plus I have this really bad habit where I just cut of people who piss me off at some point. Why did I change so suddenly and more importantly, how can I get my life back on track?

ANSWER: Not sure, Emily. Might be simply age-related, in that at age 14 (when it apparently started) it's common to experience abrupt changes in interests and habits, and as you get older your pattern will gradually stabilize. Or it could be some psychological condition that a qualified mental-health professional can diagnose and help you with. (I can't be more specific about where to find this, as I'm not familiar with those resources in your country.)

In the meantime, a good predictor of a favourable outcome is deep insight (self-awareness and self monitoring) and a high level of articulation (verbal competence), both of which your email suggests that you possess.

Apart from that, I thank you for asking us, wish you the best of luck in getting to the bottom of this, and invite any follow-up questions you may have,


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your help. I actually also have another problem. Is there any way to stop thinking about the past? (happened when I started getting depressed) I don't have very pleasant childhood memories and find myself thinking about them whenever I can, whether I want to or not. As long as my mind is unoccupied, I often end up thinking about it and upsetting myself. I tend to imagine the unpleasant people in the same room as me as well for some reason. It's not like I WANT to think about it but it somehow just comes to me. I've tried keeping myself occupied but when I stop to rest I end up going back to it. I am not angry about whatever they did anymore but I just can't seem to let it go. Is there any way to stop this? Thank you.

You're most welcome.

Strangely, and sadly, we have a limited ability to direct what our brain dwells on. It's similar to not being able to control what we dream about. But, as you have found out (even if you didn't define it this way), our brain can concentrate on only one thing at a time, so a partial solution to unwanted thoughts is to keep it occupied elsewhere. It's similar to the so-called "ear bug," a song or tune that keeps intruding when we're relaxing.

But we can't always keep our brain concentrating on what we decide -- sometimes it will go off on its own direction. However, although we can't always keep these thoughts out, we can control our reaction to them. My advice is to accept the thoughts, even smile at them, and not to fuss over what they mean, why you have them, how upsetting they are, and what to do about them. What will happen is this: one day you'll realize that the obsessive thoughts haven't been around for a good long while. And that will signal that the problem is on its way out.


Psychiatry & Psychology--General

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Alan Auerbach


Taught psychology for 30 years, authored four textbooks. Specialize in introductory and industrial/organizational psychology, but will tackle wider range of areas.

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