Psychiatry & Psychology--General/I'm sorry that it's so long.


QUESTION: I'm not especially used to this, and to be honest I hate electronics, but I would really appreciate some outside advice on this matter. I have two close friends that I feel I can talk to about problems or issues I have (and I'm quite certain they feel the same, as they often tell me about their issues, be the topic small or very urgent). Recently, one of them was diagnosed with depression, and me and my other friend were very... Well, shocked? We had no idea she'd gone to see someone about her problems, and more surprising was the fact that she seemed far happier then either of us, even after she told us about pressing matters in her life. While I was concerned for her health and how she was processing the information, I was horrified by the fact that me and my other friend would eventually need to come out and talk about our problems as well. We've both assumed that we do in fact have some form of personality disorder or mental disorder, though I'm very skeptical of my own assumptions and would prefer it if we could both talk to a psychiatrist or therapist, someone who could at least identify wether are problems should have treatment (be it therapy or medicine). The problem is that my friend is stubborn, and she doesn't talk to people she doesn't know and trust. We're both (all three of us actually) socially awkward (that much I can be sure of), and I can't blame her for not wanting to tell her deepest darkest secrets to a complete stranger. I know she needs help, she often has suicidal thoughts and she used to cut. I say used, but, not even a month ago we saw fresh scars and panicked, asking her about them. She was apologetic and honestly told us about it, and last night she told me she still wishes she could cut, but she holds back for us, me and our other friend who's already been diagnosed. I swore to myself that I wouldn't ask for help until I knew she was going to get proper treatment as well, because I'm not one to let a friend suffer alone. And if I can't help her back up, isn't it better to suffer with her? But recently I seem to have gotten much worse. I can usually act very cheery at school (though, towards the end of the day I become obviously tired), and I'm usually only ever depressed after school or on days off. But now I'm losing interest in my hobbies, I'm always sluggish, and I feel empty (for lack of better words). For example, I LOVE anime, it is something I'm extremely passionate about and I often watch it in all my spare time. Recently I have trouble watching it, I get this bored (dullish) feeling, even to things I normally would find very funny or moving, and I just can't bring myself to keep watching. At night my head circles around how much I hate myself and how I want to die, and while that isn't completely uncommon with me, it's been happening multiple nights in a row instead of just once or twice (maybe three times if it's bad) a week. I can't focus in school, and I know my friend has the same problem. She's a try hard, not a teachers pet or (and I apologize for swearing) an ass kisser, but she pushes herself to much because of her mother and father. She wants to be a doctor when she gets older, so I understand that she needs to work hard, but we've only just entered highschool and I feel like she needs help now so that things don't end up far worse then they should be later on in life. But what should I do? I'm not familiar with who I should contact, but even if I knew it's highly unlikely that she'd tell anyone anything. I hope you can help me, and, I guess if not, then there's nothing I can do, but if you have any ideas I'd be glad to hear from you.

ANSWER: Nice to hear from you Elizabeth, and don't apologize -- you do have a lot on your plate and it's nice to see such a helpful attitude.

What you're experiencing is not all that unusual, and there are ways to deal with it, but there are a lot of uncertainties here.

You are the one who contacted us, but you have a friend who seems to be in much more need of help. Schools differ.  Many have excellent facilities to help their students deal with personal issues; others may have nothing. Parents differ too. Some are understanding, helpful, and constructive, but not all. And this could involve money. There may be a way of getting the consultations paid for, or could be pay as you go. So my comments have to be a bit uncertain.

A good place to start is the school -- if it has a guidance or student-services or somesuch office. It may have a mental-health professional on staff, or a system (guidance councellor or school nurse) to refer you to the right person.

Another place might be your family doctor if you have one. They would know of local clinicians who help young people.

And of course, nobody has your well-being more in their minds than your parents.

You could go yourself and later tell your friend about it, or maybe more than one of you could go together, at least the first tiime. Go where? Probably the easiest to make an appointment with and the least costly would be a clinical psychologist. If the concerns are really serious or associated with medical issues, perhaps a psychiatrist. Or both.

What will happen? Just talking, pointed at how would you define the problem and how can the practitioner help you reduce it. I promise it won't hurt a bit.

Sorry I can't be more specific, but I hope you all get advice that helps, and without too much trouble. And if you think I might be able to contribute anything further, feel free to send a follow-up. Good luck.


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

QUESTION: Our schools guidance counselors have proven to be unhelpful in the past, all of my friends have tried asking them for help or talking to them at one point or another, but nothing has come of their talks. To make matters worse my friend's parents aren't supportive. Her father doesn't believe in things like depression or anxiety, he believes that such things are actually cowardice (he had a friend who committed suicide, and it traumatized him, so he's aggressive and cold to topics such as these). Her mother is more understanding since she had anxiety issues when she was younger, but my friends anxiety seems to be worse compared to her mother's since she has trouble understanding some of the things my friend gets worked up about. I'm not sure about her knowledge on depression, though, but I think she has assumed that my friend is not depressed, which is surprising since my friends sister has depression, which just makes it all the more likely. But her parents have already spent all they can on medical expenses for the rest of this year since my friend  recently broke her hand and needed surgery. Her parents are divorced (I forgot to mention), and  I think if I want  someone to actually consider what I'd have to say then I should talk to her mother. My mother is extremely supportive, and she adores my friends as much as she does me, so if I told her about the situation I'm sure she'd find a way for us to meet with a clinical psychologist. Before I first contacted you I'd actually considered us both talking to a psychologist at the same time. I thought it'd be easier for her to admit her circumstance if she knew she wasn't alone. Is it really possible to have two people go in at once? I don't know much about any of this, really, and I'd rather not go alone myself. I've talked to a psychological once before, and they were very rude to me. I can't say it was there fault, though, they'd talked to my older brother when he was younger, and they'd assumed that we were similar, I hadn't realized their mistake till months afterward, so I'm not as traumatized now, but I think experiencing a different psychologist with my friend would be very beneficial to me (both of us, really) in the future. Anyways, I thank you for your assistance, I hope that I can put your advice to good use.

Should I take physics or chemistry? Is there a college I should be thinking of? These are the kinds of questions that guidance counselors are equipped to answer, Elizabeth. How can I help my friend who has a history of suicidal thoughts and cutting and whose parents are unsupportive? That kind of question, less so. Here the counselor's role would be to refer to a suitable professional, to explain to the clinician that at least initially, more than one would like to consult together for some mutual support, and to talk with the parents about what could happen if no help is given.

To get the ball rolling, is there a teacher you could talk to? Perhaps the principal?  If there's a school board or a parent-teacher association, do you know (or could you approach) anyone on it? Otherwise, maybe you could get yourself across the desk from a practitioner, and raise not only your own issues you'd like help with, but your friend's. The professional may have better inroads than I have.

You should not have to be facing such obstacles, I hope that things straighten out for all of you, and again, I'm here if you want.


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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