Ask Dr. E

Presents questions and answers on psychology. Disadvantage of emotional trap; Etiquette on using eye contact and body language; Psychological effect of sexual abuse.

By Robert Epstein Ph.D., published on January 1, 2001 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

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

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

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

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, 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:

The American Psychological Association: or (800)

The Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy:

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

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

Adapted by Ph.D.