Ask Dr. E

Answers to your questions about emotional dependence, past traumas,communication rituals and more.

Dear Dr. E,

As I have gotten deeper and deeper into my latest relationship, I have become severely emotionally dependent on my boyfriend. Before we met, I was an outgoing, outspoken person. Now, I've lost much of my confidence and independence. We're happy together, but I don't like feeling this way. How can I be the confident person I once was?

M, Columbus, Ohio

Dear M,

Emotional dependence is a trap. In a healthy, functional relationship, partners not only love each other, but they also respect and nurture their partner's identity and independence. For tips on regaining your identity without destroying your relationship, I recommend Loving Him Without Losing You (John Wiley, 2000) by therapist Beverly Engel.

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Dear Dr. E,

I have trouble looking people in the eye. Some Americans have told me that this is rude or disrespectful. Is that really true?

S, via e-mail

Dear S,

Each culture has its own rules for eye contact, body language--even belching. If you plan to stay in the U.S., your life will probably be easier if you try to learn basic communication rituals. When in Rome, as, they say.

If you do choose to ignore local practices, keep in mind that your behavior is likely to be misinterpreted from time to time.

Dear Dr. E,

I was sexually abused when I was young. At some point in my childhood, I began to hear voices. Then I got help, and they went away. Now, 10 years later, I'm 17. I'm under a lot of stress, and I'm hearing the voices again. What can I do to stop them?

K, South Dakota

Dear K,

The voices could be influenced by your traumatic past, but the two are not necessarily related. It's possible that any significant stress in your life might cause perceptual areas in your brain to malfunction.

If the voices persist, if they bother you, or if they interfere with your life in any way, it's important that you seek professional help. The fact that you were helped before suggests that you can be helped again.

For referrals or additional information, contact the American Psychological Association at (800) 964-2000 or use matching services such as here2listen.com.

Dear Dr. E,

Today I'm happy, tommorrow, who knows. That's the story of my lift. It's not that I'm depressed. I just feel drained of energy. Could certain vitamins or herbal supplements help? My goal is to feel energized enough to do chores and not sit in front of the television all day.

G, Miami, Florida

Dear G,

First of all, visit your physician and get a thorough check-up. Low energy could indicate a medical problem. Most people can boost their energy levels by getting more exercise, improving nutritional intake, and getting more sleep. Books like Elizabeth Somer's Food and Mood (Owl Books, 1999) can get you started on the nutritional component.

Dear Dr. E,

I'm 29 years old, I'm 5'6", and I weigh 180 lbs. I'm very depressed about my weight. I won't do anything drastic like kill myself, but I know I need to do something. Can you help?

S, Maine

Dear S,

Studies confirm that being overweight in our society can limit one's social life and career. That said, as long as your health isn't in jeopardy, there's nothing inherently wrong with extra weight. Decide what you want to weigh, and then make a plan for reaching your goal. Learn about the caloric value of food, and cut down on calories. Increasing your physical activity is also a powerful way to combat depression. Keep records of your progress. Self-Help Without the Hype (Performance Management Publications, 1996) can get you on track.

Please send your questions to psychtoday@juno.com, or call our 24-hour hotline: (877) PSYCH-TODAY. Questions may be aired on PT's nationally syndicated radio program. PSYCHOLOGY TODAY reserves the right to edit all submitted material.

To be referred to a therapist, contact:

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: www.aamft.org

The American Psychological Association: www.apa.org or (800) 964-2000

The Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy: www.aabt.org

The National Association of Social Workers: (800) 638-8799

The National Beard for Certified Counselors: (336) 547-0607

Adapted by Ph.D.

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