I have a dear and personal friend,who I believe was either molested or raped as a child. This person has disturbed sleep (nightmares,etc),becomes panicked when they feel that they cannot get away from people,and recoils with shock at touch. Also,topics with sexual overtones make this person extremely uncomfortable and sick to the stomach,as well as miserably depressed. They have no recollection of a certain period in their life also. Dr. please,I love this person so much. How can I help my friend?
- Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
There is no question that you are correct and that your friend needs help. However, since you do not seem certain as to whether she was actually molested as a child, we will explore a couple of possibilities.
First, what she could be experiencing are the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if she was molested or abused as a child or teenager. The symptoms of PTSD often remain years after the actual event if the trauma was never able to get psychiatric help. Everything you describe is typical of PTSD.
However, if there was no molestation or other traumatizing event it means that she could be experiencing symptoms of depression, phobia or other anxiety disorder.
Whatever the precipitating cause of her problems, she needs psychiatric and psychological treatment. She needs to be seen by a psychiatrist who could evaluate your friend and prescribe medication to help relieve her depression and sleep difficulties. Because medication and psychotherapy reinforce one another it is important that she enter psychotherapy so that she can identify what causes her symptoms to surface and learn how to control or prevent them.
Your real problem is how to get her to go for help and that may not be easy unless she is open to the idea. Those who are open to advice about seeking help are much easier for friends and family to cope with. Yet, there are those who become offended by the idea of therapy either because they find it stigmatizing or deny that they need help or have a problem. Hopefully, your friend is someone who will be open to the idea of seeking help.
If she is open to and agrees with the notion that she needs help there are several approaches she can take to get the needed psychiatric treatment:
Your friend can see her medical doctor, explain her symptoms and ask for a referral to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist will see her, prescribe medication and refer her for psychotherapy.
If she works and has medical insurance, she can call her insurance company and get a referral to one of the psychiatrists covered by her insurance network. They can also give her the name of a psychotherapist.
If she has no insurance, she can go to a mental health out-patient clinic associated with a local hospital or health agency and ask for help there.
If she has friends who have a psychiatrist and therapist, she could ask them for a referral.
You can encourage your friend to seek help by letting her know that you both love and are worried about her. However, no one can be forced to enter treatment. She will have to decide for herself that she is tired of suffering and wants help. Part of your task is to understand that all you can do is express your concern and support. After that, there is nothing you or anyone can do until she decides to get help for herself.