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Q's and A's

TOO SENSITIVE?

Q: I am very sensitive person and I do mind very small things. I have so many problems with the people I know. I have the feeling that people hate me because of this nature. What should I do? I mean shall I consult some doctor?

A: Being sensitive can be a good thing, depending on what you mean by it.

If you mean you notice both good things and bad things deeply, this gives you a rich emotional life.

If you mean you only notice the bad things deeply - and you are quick to berate others for even small social errors - that does, of course, make people want to stay away from you.

One important thing to consider is whether this is a personality trait you've had for many years or whether it is just due to some recent irritations in your life. If it's the former, please do get help. If it's the latter, you probably have some long-term friends who are still close to you who you can rely on during this difficult time.

If you think you are too angry to do well socially, it would be a very good idea to see a mental health professional.

SNEAKING MEDICATION

Q: My elder sister is 35. She gets angry easily. My mother has been secretly giving her Haloperidol for a few years whenever she can sneak it into her food. My sister has no insight, she's suspicious of others, unable to hold jobs, and can be a hypochondriac. I have read about the side-effects of Haloperidol and was wondering if there is a safer alternative. Is there anything that can be done to resolve her problem considering the fact that she refuses to go for therapy?

A: Sorry, but I'm not an MD You and your mother need an appointment with a psychiatrist to discuss your sister's problems.

Be sure to tell the psychiatrist everything about your sister, including the medication she's been getting and whether it helps her, etc. Don't mess around on the web about this. You need to actually talk directly to a psychiatrist about this.

AN IMAGINARY FRIEND?

Q: I talk to myself a lot. I talk as if I was talking to a friend. Could I have a disorder?

A: Yes you could, but you could also be quite normal.

We all talk to ourselves mentally, almost continuously. Different "personality parts" discuss the day's events, trying to decide what we want, how to overcome daily problems, how best to take advantage of daily opportunities, etc.

If you think you actually see or hear the "friend," or if the person seems to have a whole personality that is very different from your own, these things would be delusional and should be checked out by a psychiatrist.

Don't worry about the self-talk, but instead think about:
1) How much emotional pain do you feel?
2) Do you have major trouble doing the things you need to do in life?
3) Do you have a drug or alcohol problem, or eat way too much, or anything similar? These are the questions to consider when deciding whether to work with a therapist.

DOES THIS CHILD NEED HELP?

Q: Tantrums. Speech problems. Mother into bondage. Grandmother schizophrenic. Grandkids on fathers side have, dyslexia, self-harming, bipolar, manic depression and ADHD. Child keeps tying her toys up with anything she can use. Is physically abusive at times. Low attention span and attention seeking. Does this child need help?

A: I could comment on each word or sentence, but do you really wonder if the child needs help?

Has the child been tied up or in any way physically or sexually abused? If so, in most states it's a legal requirement that she gets treatment.

The problems her mother and other relatives have don't necessarily mean that she has problems of her own, of course, but just the fact that her mother was into bondage and the child ties her toys compulsively is enough. The tantrums, and "physical abuse," and low attention span, and attention seeking are all normal to a degree with five year old children, but the degree should be checked out in a professional evaluation.

Please don't delay. Call any therapist you have heard good things about (psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker) and get a referral to a competent child therapist.

DEPRESSED, LONELY AND SELF-CRITICAL

Q: I'm an effeminate, ectomorphic man, at the very bottom in regards to masculinity. It's truth, not an image. This is just one part of my story, of course. I'm 43, alone, depressed, and withdrawn from all people outside of work. My fantasy future is wonderful; my real future is totally blank.

A: You don't mention therapy, but if you are depressed and have such a low opinion of yourself I sure hope you are seeing a good therapist, and perhaps a psychiatrist for medication.

I don't know what you mean when you say "my fantasy future is wonderful" or even "my real future is totally blank." If you mean that you fantasize about the future and come up with things that help yo to feel wonderful, that's great! But you also seem to be saying that you try to fantasise about your future but you can't do it (it comes up blank). I'd suggest that you read the topics at my site about "Fantasy vs. Reality" so you can think about the role fantasy plays in your life. You can start by reading "Fantasy and Reality #1"

You might also want to check out the topics related to depression and those related to having a sense of futility. Just click on the appropriate statements on this Index page and you'll be taken to the lists.... If you have trouble locating any of this, just let me know.

CRIES AT WORK

Q: When I have a problem at work and I have to talk to the manager, I always get tears on my eyes and my voice trembles. The same happens to my daughter and she is 34. Do I need therapy? I tried to relax and take deep breath before talking but it doesnít help. Please advise

A: This is usually about being scared of "big people" (parents when you were a child, bosses now, etc.).
While your eyes are tearing up you aren't just sad, you are much more afraid than sad.

Sure, therapy would be a good idea! You are talking about a pattern of fearfulness that covers at least two generations. It's very difficult to overcome something that strong without professional help. Just know that you are only supposed to feel fear when there's an immediate threat to your existence - like someone coming after you with a weapon, or a car that looks like it's going to hit your car, etc. All other fear is from your own thoughts, not from anything in reality. All other fear is unnecessary!

So please don't spend the rest of your life being afraid unnecessarily. Good help is available. (See "Are You Considering Therapy?" at my site for info.)

BOUNDARIES AND FEAR

Q: Boundaries. I don't recognize them. I'm in jeopardy not knowing. I do not see them. This causes trouble for myself. I'm a loner fearful of doing or saying something I should not. Are there GOOD books on learning boundaries? You may have another approach.

A: I don't have a good book to recommend, and I doubt that a book would help much. I assume you've read the topic "Boundaries" at my site. If not, please do read it for some hints.

I suggest that you not focus on boundaries in your therapy right now unless other people are complaining regularly that you cross their boundaries, expect too much from them, etc.

I suggest that you focus instead on being a "longer, fearing doing or saying something I shouldn't." Fear is the primary emotion, the basis of all others. If you have this much daily fear in your life then what you need is to be in a safe relationships with a competent person who genuinely cares about how you are feeling and how you are spending your energy. Since this person is probably your therapist, I think you'd be wise to talk to your therapist directly about how safe/unsafe you feel when you are with them, how different you feel most times when you leave their office (whether you feel better from the "safe dose of attention" or not), and how you may be holding back due to fear in the therapy relationship.

Bottom line: Boundaries don't matter if you aren't doing much with other people. And if you are avoiding people out of fear of what will happen in a relationship, then you need to focus on the most important current relationship in your life to acquire new skills while you are emotionally "with" the other person. All of this points to the therapy relationship, in my opinion.

Hope this helps!

[A later brief letter...]

Q: I read boundaries. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have great anger, rage, boundary problems, and suicidal thoughts. My therapist knows this. We have an agreement for emergencies. I can't see him as much as I like. (money shortage) I need help with boundaries.

A: I know money issues are a very real concern, but I hope you are seeing your therapist as often as you possibly can. When you have suicidal thoughts and rage, nothing is more important than talking about it clearly, strongly, and directly with your therapist as often as possible.

I'm so sorry such awful things happened to you....

Please be Proud of how far you've come, and don't pick on yourself for "boundary issues" or anything else. All issues improve with time and good therapy, and the speed of the process is determined by the amount of Self-Love you possess, how well it grows, and whether you rely on it through the tough times.

CAN YOU BE ADDICTED TO ANGER?

Q: I want to thank you for your site. As someone who has been depressed for 30 years (I'm 41 now ) I found it very helpful. I rarely express my anger and feel very tired most of the time. I always felt it was wrong to express anger, but, you know, maybe it's OK after all.

Do you think it just keeps the cycle of anger going?

Is it possible to become addicted to it for the rush....?

A: I wonder what happened to you when you were 11 years old. Is this the anger you are holding on to that keeps you depressed?

Holding on to old anger is a big cause of depression, yes. And you can release it in any safe way you want to utilize: intense release of rage (pillow pounding with the face of the person you are angry at on it...), or just by an act of the will, or by anything that feels safe and right to you in between those extremes. The important thing is that when you do this you need to want to focus on releasing all of this anger and then be done with it. And you may need to do it more than once, but not for weeks or months or anything like that.

Know that this is not about "forgiving" the person or not. This is about giving yourself a better life, one that doesn't include carrying all that old anger around with you (... while the person you are angry at is going about their regular day and not feeling anything related to your anger or to the events back then anyway!).

You also might want to read my topic on "Hate" It talks about a vow we sometimes make to stay angry "forever" at someone.

I guess you could express your anger just to keep the cycle going. But why would you want to do that if you are depressed from it??

About the "rush": That's a good, temporary feeling that tells us it is good both that we were angry in the first place and that we are letting go of the anger today. You won't get this rush if you are trying to hold on to your anger, and it will only be a temporary good feeling at the time you release it. So you can't get "hooked" on it.

TALKS TO HERSELF

Q: Your topic "Talking To Yourself" was helpful in the sense that I now know that talking to yourself is normal. But, I'm a little concerned because when talk to myself I don't really talk to me per say. I usually reenact a situation the way I would have wanted it to happen. And in like a mumble I will say what I would have wanted to say and in my head. I'll hear what that other person would have said and again respond in a mumble. Is THAT normal? Is it a sign of stress?

A: Well, I guess it's a sign of stress because you are concerned about the interaction with the other person that you are thinking about at the time. But, really, what isn't a sign of stress? If I have a bad interaction today with someone, it will be stressful - and I will show it one way or another... Maybe I'll find myself walking heavier (to express anger) or biting my nails (fear) or getting mad at my wife for no reason (displacing my feelings) or..... or.... or.....! The point is that if something stressful happens there will be an expression of that stress one way or another. So I don't think there's anything wrong with the fact that your talking to yourself is a sign of stress.

What I like is that when you talk with yourself about this you are not only thinking of what actually happened but you are also training yourself to handle it better the next time something like that happens. You are practicing. I guess the main question is whether this practicing actually helps you the next time a similar thing happens. If it helps a little, I'm glad you do it.

Q: I've never really gone to therapy, but during a low point in my life I will mumble my problems and in my head I'll play the psychiatrist and give myself advice and I'll go on talking away.

A: I think that's great!

When I have problems I sometimes "Go and talk to Tony"... I sit here at the computer and type about how I'm feeling, then I mentally switch to 'Tony the therapist' and try to come up with ideas to help myself. And I'm PROUD of doing this, and I've told many clients and friends about it and they seem to wish they could do the same! So I think you could be proud of it too, instead of using it to worry about yourself.

Q:Of coarse, not when others are around.

A: Sure.

Q: But, I'm really curious what this means? I've done this for years.

A: From this description you gave me I'd say it means that you care about yourself and you work on feeling better when something goes wrong. Good For You!

HOW DOES SHE GET PEOPLE TO IGNORE HER?

Q: Thank you for your inspiring site. What are ways to indicate to people that I am being "disowned"? I am tired of begging for attention. I feel invisible. What am I doing to cause them to shut me out?

A: Of course I don't know for sure what you are doing to invite this mistreatment, but I do know that if most people ignore you then you must be inviting it somehow. Here are some of the most common behaviors that say "leave me alone"....

1) Avoiding eye contact.

2) Not speaking at all.

3) Extremely long pauses between statements.

4) A generalized bitterness toward "everybody" that you think doesn't show. But it does show. Sometimes others notice it more than the person who is bitter (because the bitter person has been this way so long that it doesn't strike them as significant anymore).

5) Very low self-esteem, including worry that whatever you say or do will actually be wrong, or that others will think you are wrong even when you are right.

I could go on, but these are the most common invitations to be ignored.

When these problems are most severe they usually come from being greatly ignored as a child, needing parental attention but getting only enough to get by. These problems can also come from being physically abused in childhood, and from many other causes even in adult life. But parental neglect is the most frequent, and most severe, cause.

The important factor here is that this is a big problem which causes you much pain and, as such, it's a perfect topic for therapy. Read "Are You Considering Therapy?" at my site for some ideas about finding a good therapist, if you don't already have one.

MED STUDENT CAN'T STUDY

Q: I am a 24 year old woman in my fifth year as a medical student. Lately I'm not studying well . I'm always wasting time and leading a really passive life! I can never accomplish things because I always think that it's too late to start . I need help

A: Sounds like you think you have a motivation problem, or that you may be depressed.

Please read the topic "Motivation" at my site for some ideas. Notice that the problem isn't that you don't have enough motivation, but that you aren't admitting to yourself what your true motivations are.

You should also check out the information about depression. Since depression is so common in our culture, almost every topic at my site has some ideas that can help. But the one's with either "depression" or "anger" in the title should be most helpful. You can do a search for these, of course.

You don't mention therapy, but I hope you have a good therapist to help you sort this out.

CAN'T ASK FOR WHAT SHE WANTS

Q: How do I learn how to ask for something I want? (Obviously I havenít learned this as successfully as Iíd like yet!) What are my possible barriers?

A: Since knowing what we want and then asking directly and clearly for what we want is THE most important thing we can do to give ourselves a good life, your question is like asking "How can I be happy?"

Depressed people, anxious people, all kinds of people have trouble reading their own emotions (which helps them to know what they want). And all kinds of us also have trouble asking for what we want once we know what it is. This last problem is usually due to fear of the other person's reaction when we ask, but it can also come from what is popularly called "low self-esteem" (thinking you don't deserve what you want), and various other things.

Did you read many of the topics at my site? Since your question is so central, almost every topic gives you encouragement or ideas about asking for what you want. If this doesn't help enough I'd suggest that you see a good therapist and try to figure out how you stop yourself. It could be a few short meetings will help you enough, or maybe there are deeper problems. But either way you've got to know you are Worth it!

THINKS SHE'S BIPOLAR

Q: I am 53 and want to change. I feel ruled by my overwhelming emotions, which change quickly. This has caused many problems with work, relationships and life plans. I have recently read about BPD and the descriptions fit me very well. This scares and inspires me. What should I do now?

A: See a psychiatrist to learn about medication, in case you are right about BPD... or see a therapist first to discuss what's going on and see if the therapist thinks it's a good idea to see the psychiatrist.

If you do have BPD, medication helps most people a lot. But it's hard for therapists to diagnose BPD when it's compared to other problems, so that might not be the problem.

Just don't hold back. Call someone today to get started, OK?

Do you live in the Milwaukee area? If so, maybe we could work together. Otherwise, read "Are You Considering Therapy?" at my site for some ideas.

GOOD RELATIONSHIP WHEN THEY ARE TOGETHER BUT...

Q: I think that things are going great in my current relationship. Great chemistry and great communication (for both of us), but the other person is gone frequently. The excuse is business or family, but is it strange that the other person doesn'tít try to make room for me in the schedule? Especially since this is a new relationship (less than two months). Keep in mind that the other person is divorced for two years.

A: I don't know why the fact that the other person is divorced for two years matters, so I'll ignore that part in my response.

Otherwise, I just wonder why you use the term "excuse" in referring to the person's absences. If you use this word because you know the other person just isn't very trustable in general, then you need to ask yourself why you are in the relationship at all. And if you know they are trustable in all other areas, why wouldn't you believe them when they say they have to do it this way for business or family reasons?

There's a good topic about trust at my site: "Who Can You Trust?"

Basically I'd say that if things are this good and you've only been together for two months, you need to ride it out and learn more about them as time goes on. (Bet there's some reason you feel a need to "rush" things....)

SHOULD SON VISIT HER EX-HUSBAND IN PRISON?

Q: My Ex-husband went to prison last year. Suddenly he wants me to bring our 8 year old son to visit. I am afraid it will cause problems for our son, who doesn't ask about him. His step-dad has cared for him since he was 2. What should I do?

A: I'd need to know what kinds of problems you think it would cause for your son, based on your knowledge of your ex's behavior toward your son and you and others.

But basically I'd say that an 8 year old is old enough for you to ask him if he wants to do this (while trying not to influence his decision in either direction).

I also don't see this as related to picking between the ex and the step-dad in any way.

I just think it's your job to decide if this is physically safe for your son (to reestablish contact), and, if you decide it's physically safe, for your son to tell you whether he wants to do it or not.

JUST REALIZED HE WAS ABUSED

Q: I am a 41 year old male. Sexually abused as a child/teen. Buried it for 20+ years. The Michael Jackson case has brought to surface. Anger, sadness, guilt, shame! Can you help?

A: Yes I could, if you could see me here in Milwaukee. But I'll assume you don't live around here, so PLEASE call a good therapist Right Now!

Being suddenly able to remember such horrible things is actually a very good moment in your life, even though it hurts so much. Being able to remember means that you finally feel strong enough to handle what happened to you. (You no longer have to pretend it didn't happen out of fear that you can't handle it!).

Please call a therapist. You might want to read "Are You Considering Therapy?" at my site for some ideas about how to find a good therapist.

UNMOTIVATED 18 YEAR OLD

Q: It seems that our son, now 18, is unable to make by himself the slightest effort to achieve independence in life. He desperately needs a job yet he cannot make himself go and look for one. He doesn't keep appointments, is completely non-dependable, and nothing can change that. He suffers but does nothing. Could you please help us?

A: Do you live in the Milwaukee area? If so, we could set up an appointment to discuss this.

Otherwise, if you are hoping for a few words that might help, here goes:

1) It's your son's life. He needs to make the decisions about his life, and you and your spouse need to make the decisions about your own life. This might seem obvious, but it's important to keep in mind. Otherwise you might keep pushing and pushing him, and he might keep being the donkey who won't be pushed... and that could last a long, long time.

2) If there are drugs involved (including alcohol), you must insist that this doesn't happen in your house. And tell him that he must lick the drugs before his life will get better. You could find a treatment center or a good alcohol therapist for him, but just give him the name and number and let him know it's up to him.

3) At some point remember that you have the right to tell him he must leave your house and make it on his own. I don't know where you live or even what culture or country you are from, but every family has an age when they consider a child to be an adult - and after that age the child needs to be on their own.

4) You mention that your son "suffers," but I don't know what kind of suffering. No matter what kind of suffering he goes through, make sure the appropriate professional services are available for him. Suffering is unnecessary when there is good care available.

Bottom line: Do what you need to do for yourself and your spouse and any other children. Let him (and any other adult children) make and live by their own decisions. If he needs help, he must get it from a professional.

DEPRESSED AFTER A MISCARRIAGE

Q: One month ago today, I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks. Since then, I fight with my fiance', I cry, I feel useless and miserable, all almost a constant everyday thing. Am I going crazy or is this normal?

A: Many women feel horrible after a miscarriage. And, of course, many women also go through post-partum depression after any birth. When you have a miscarriage you can actually be going through both of these at once!

So much of this is related to hormones that it's not reasonable to blame yourself or worry about being "crazy"... but the depression is still depression, and it can be very severe.

You really need to see a good therapist, starting with an appointment with a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication that will help. The psychiatrist will probably also refer you to a good therapist who has had special training in hormonal depression.

Please don't try to go through so much without getting good professional care. Call a good therapist today to get started.

NO INTEREST IN SEX

Q: I am almost 26, never had a boyfriend, and although I would like an emotionally intimate romantic relationship, I have never been interested in sex. I would be perfectly fine if I never had sex and would only do it to please my partner and to fit in. Am I abnormal?

A: It doesn't matter if you are normal. It matters if you are happy this way.

Sexual desire is a natural thing, so let's imagine that we are talking about not having an appetite for food. What would we do about it?

What we'd do is:

1) We'd explore on our own, trying different foods, etc. [Explore your body alone.]

2) We'd talk with others about it, and explore with them, asking what foods they like, how they cook them, etc. [Talk with your friends about their pleasure and, when you are ready, explore with a lover.]

3) If exploring alone and with friends doesn't help, we'd have a physical checkup to see if anything is wrong with how our body works. [Have a serious talk and a thorough exam with your gynecologist.]

4) If there's nothing wrong physically, we'd wonder about psychological causes for the lack of appetite. We'd see a psychiatrist to see if medication might help, and we'd also see a good therapist who is well-trained in this area. [A psychiatrist followed by a sex therapist.]

I know our need for food is far stronger than our desire for sex, but, except for this matter of degree, I think the analogy holds.

It's sad that you don't know what you are missing. It's not just the physical pleasure of sex that you miss out on, but also the closeness, the warmth, and the lasting relationships that being in tune with your sexuality can bring.


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Tony Schirtzinger, Therapist (Milwaukee) 

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