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Ask A Therapist: I’m Not Depressed Or Anxious But Prefer Being Alone

I know there have been several questions on this site regarding preferences for solitude, but most of these questions have come from people with diagnosed disorders such as depression, social phobias, PTSD, etc., and the answers provided have been framed in the context of the relevant disorder. My concern is that, despite being depression and anxiety-free, I am becoming increasingly rigid in terms of my willingness to spend time with others, and it is affecting my relationships negatively. I’ve always been a bit of a loner and required a certain amount of time alone, but I’ve also always had plenty of friends and a pretty normal dating/relationship history. However, over the course of the past year or so I have started to really prioritize solitude over spending time with friends, family, and romantic partners to the point of avoidance. It’s not that I’ve become apathetic towards these people or that I’ve stopped liking them. In fact, I still have a strong desire for affection, friendship, and intimacy, but only in VERY limited quantities, and anything beyond that feels like an obligation. To give you an example of what I’m talking about, my girlfriend lives about 100 miles away, so spending a whole lot of time together during the week is not really feasible. Because of this she would really like to drive to my place after work on Friday, spend the weekend with me, and leave Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately I can’t even begin to fathom spending that much time with someone -even someone I love- and so I always have to come up with an excuse for why she would need to leave Saturday morning or afternoon. And to be honest, by Saturday I’m literally counting the minutes until she leaves so I can be alone. I don’t want to be this way. It’s not fair to the people in my life, and I feel like I shouldn’t be in a relationship, even though I am very much in love. Any insight into my problem would be greatly appreciated!

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Ask A Therapist: I Think I’m Depressed

So five months ago, I moved from Chicago to a new school. I thought it would be great to move to a new school, but I was wrong. It isn’t and I’m still not making any close friends. Everyone already has all their groups and best friends, so it’s really hard for me. I still haven’t found anyone to fit in with. And now, I’m starting to have self esteem issues. I was already having suicidal thoughts a little before I came to this school, but then they kind of died off. But about a month after being in my new school, the thoughts came back and stayed with me for another good 3 months. Even though these thoughts are gone, my self-esteem isn’t as great as it used to be. I cry a lot more often just thinking about my life, and I’m a lot more sensitive than I used to be. I also used to have an eating disorder, where I made myself throw up a few days a week. I barely read anymore, which is something I used to do all the time.
 From this, do you think I’m depressed?

A: The short answer is yes, your symptoms do sound like depression. I suggest that you seek help immediately. The social isolation and low self-esteem, frequent crying, and your history of suicidal thoughts are serious symptoms that need to be addressed. While I can’t diagnose you in this forum, I suggest that you get a thorough mental health evaluation to find out exactly what’s going on, and what treatment you need so you can start enjoying your life. Watch the video below for my complete response. Thanks for writing in.

Take good care of yourself,

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: Low Self-Esteem, Technology Addict, and Fear of Relationships

Q: I feel like nothing I do matters and nobody really understands who I am. Every time I reach out to someone they let me down. I guess they just don’t care. The last few years I’ve taken to locking myself away in my bedroom to read or watch movies; it gives me more enjoyment than people do but I’m always feeling guilty about it too. I’m 19 years old and I’ve only kissed 4 guys ever, and never anything more. I’m afraid and self-conscious and I feel like I don’t get the opportunity to meet boys that other girls do. I know its my fault but its so hard to change, and I don’t know if I really want to be in a relationship anyway; I don’t think I’d be good at it at all. I’m always fighting with my parents, especially my dad; he yells at me a lot. I used to be so afraid of him when I was younger; he has quite the temper and is always criticizing me. My mother constantly nags me to go out more, to find a job, to stop watching so much TV, to eat better, to do more chores, to act older, the list goes on. I often get excited about little things and become quite childish and energetic, but the smallest thing can also send me into a spiral of sadness, anger or  frustration for the rest of the day. Both reactions seem to annoy my family. My few friends probably find it annoying too; if I could stand being thought ill of I’d probably ask  them. I always think if I were prettier or smarter or talented at anything, life would be better. I don’t want to be different or behind; I just wish things were easier. What should I do?

A: Thanks so much for writing in for help. The fact that you are reaching out for advice in this forum means you have some hope that things could be different for you, that you can feel differently about yourself and your life.

What you’re describing sounds like depression: social isolation, insecurities, withdrawing from activities, negative thoughts, hopelessness. First, I want you to go to your physician and have a physical to rule out any physical illness. While you’re there please talk to your doctor about your hopelessness, isolation and fears. See if medication is an option for you. Your tendency to turn toward technology may be a way to numb your emotional pain.

Also, ask your doctor for a referral to a psychotherapist in your area to work on ways to improve your mood, gain self-confidence, and gain relationship skills. You may also want to consider asking your parents to attend family therapy  to improve your family relationships.  Even though you’re 19, it sounds as if  you’re still stuck in experiencing the “childhood” disapproval of your father, and criticism of your mother, and letting those emotions dictate, on some level, how you feel about yourself. The good news is, you can feel differently.

Your family relationships greatly impact how you feel about other relationships.  If you think about your relationship with your dad as the “template” for male relationships, and you experienced him as scary and critical, then it makes sense that you would be hesitant to open up to other male relationships, like friendships and dating relationships.  It makes sense that you’d have only a few female friends, too, because you’ve experienced your mother as nagging and constantly correcting you. She is your model of how to relate to women so you likely may fear disapproval in your female friendships as well. Your therapist can help free you from these patterns so you can experience relationships with others differently, and not as extensions of your parental relationships.

In addition to meeting with your physician and therapist, I’d like to recommend a couple of books to you: “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by Dr. David Burns and “The Relationship Cure” by Dr. John Gottman. Both books will provide excellent tools and new perspectives on yourself and your relationships.

Thanks again for writing in. Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask a Therapist: I Feel Stuck in My Own Mind

Q: I’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes trying to formulate my thoughts into a paragraph but I can’t do it so I’m just going to list feeling as they come to mind.
1. I feel nothing on a regular basis.  For example if I got a call saying that my mother died, I don’t think I would even cry.
2. I’m irritable beyond belief.  If someone asks me to do something I get pissed for them even asking me.
3.  I’m not suicidal, but I constantly question why I’m living and try to come up with reasons to continue on.
4.  I don’t see people as individuals.  I see everyone as a mammal, which leads me back to number 3.
5.  I want to ask my parents, or anyone for help, but I’m afraid of being laughed at.
6.  I don’t even try to interact with girls.  I’m not homosexual at all, I’m still attracted to girls, but the effort I need to put in to get an outcome is unbalanced.

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