Ask Dr.E

Answers questions on psychological problems. Importance of hanging out with a friend who has a suicidal tendency; Information on a desensitization procedure; Characteristics of a person having a bipolar disorder or manic depression.

By Robert Epstein Ph.D., published on September 1, 1999 - last reviewed on November 20, 2015

Dear Dr. E.,

My friend Ken is in a bad marriage, which seems to be making him
suicidal. He keeps saying he's having his "psychological thingy"--a
vision of shooting himself in the head. What can I do to help?

Scott D.

Madison, Wisconsin

Dear Scott,

Listen to Ken, hang out with him and support him--people don't kill
themselves when they're with friends. And try, try, try to get him
professional help. Nearly threequarters of a million Americans attempt
suicide each year, and more than 30,000 of them are "successful." Many of
these individuals visited a therapist or physician not long before
killing themselves, or told others about their intentions well before the
act. People who talk about suicide or who envision committing suicide are
indeed at risk, and their statements should be taken seriously. For
advice and information, call the American Suicide Survival Line at
1.888-SUICIDE, or the 9-Line crisis hotline at 1-800-999-9999, or the
American Psychological Association at 1-800-374-2721.

Dear Dr, E.,

I've never been on a roller coaster and I'd like to go on one, but
even when I've tried easy, low-speed rides, I've gotten very
uncomfortable. Do you think this might be related to motion sickness? Is
it psychological? Can I overcome it? I really don't want to waste my life
not even trying a roller coaster once!

Dennis T.

Los Angeles, California

Dear Dennis,

I'm not sure that a life without roller coasters is wasted, but if
you want to try them, you might benefit from a "desensitization'
procedure. A therapist can help you learn to relax while visualizing
yourself in a graded series of roller-coaster experiences. Trying
"lowspeed rides" on your own was a good idea, but you probably started
too high. Work your way up gradually by going on kiddie coasters until
you feel comfortable pursuing more dramatic experiences. Desensitization
is extremely effective. For more information, check out "Thrills &
Chills" in the June 1999 issue of PT. Happy coasting!

Dear Dr. E.,

My husband has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but I've been
reading all about it, and I think he actually may be schizophrenic. He
often makes no sense when he talks and can't seem to function at all. I
love him, and I'm very afraid. I think the doctors at the local clinic
have misdiagnosed him. What should I do?

Mina L.

Sunny Isles, Florida

Dear Mina,

Bipolar disorder, also known as manicdepressive illness, is
characterized by shifts in mood from mania to deep depression. From the
sound of it, your husband may indeed be struggling with schizophrenia,
which is a serious thought disorder. But beware of psychiatric labels.
Diagnoses in mental health are always a bit iffy. Professionals debate
their validity all the time. If you're not happy with your current
caregivers, call a local referral service for more suggestions. In
Florida, you can call the Florida Psychological Association at (850)
656-2222. And don't give up!

Dear Dr. E.,

People have been acting cold to me lately and I think they might be
jealous of my success. I don't understand such feelings. Where do they
come from?

Gary S.

Akron, Ohio

Dear Gary,

Well, first of all, congratulations. If jealousy is aimed at you,
it probably means someone thinks you have something valuable in your
life: high grades, a wonderful girlfriend or an excellent job--something
that he or she probably lacks. There are many schools of thought on
jealousy, but here's one way to look at it. Imagine you have tried
repeatedly to sink a basket from the foul line but have missed every
time. After a while, you begin to feel angry; you might even curse the
court and slam the ball on the ground. This is a common way we respond
when we fail. You'd also feel hostile toward someone who walked around
holding up a sign that read "Gary Stinks at Basketball,' because he or
she would be calling attention to your failings. To your jealous friend,
you are walking around with such a sign. The mere sight of you is a
reminder of his or her failings. What's your friend jealous of,

Please send your questions to or call our
24-hour hotline at 1-877-PSYCHTODAY. Questions may be aired on PT's
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to edit all submitted material.

Robert Epstein, Ph.D., is editor-in-chief of PSYCHOLOGY TODAY and
host of PT's nationally syndicated radio show.