Free Press Journal

Agony Aunt: Dr Anjali Chhabria answers personal queries



Hi, I am a mother of a 22 years old girl and my daughter has been having a lot of problems recently. Her father passed away a while ago, she was numb then and now after almost two years she cries a lot. She has frequent breakdowns and hasn’t been sleeping or eating much. She has become so anxious that she has began pluck her hair and severely bite her nails till the bleed. She has recently got her hair chopped off very short and I can see patches of bare scalp. She covers it with a scarf or a cap but I know it’s a severe problem. How can I help her please suggest?

Ans: She seems to be suffering from tricotilomania. This is an impulse disorder which usually stems from stresses like depression, anxiety or others like in your mothers case grief. She will need a professional help like visiting a psychiatrist who can help her overcome the grief.  The doctors may use pharmacotherapy initially to deal with her root cause like giving her anti-depressants or anti-anxiety depending on her need.  Along with this she can also be helped with therapy like cognitive – behaviour therapy or relaxation technique that will help her cope better with stressful situation. You as a support system needs to be patient with her and give her the unconditional love that is required for her to feel accepted even after the way she is behaving and it will be a great support for her to feel loved and get through this with good feeling.

Substance abuse 

I am an addict. Even knowing this does not make it easier to give up my vice. My family and friends are all fed up with my behaviour and my ability to hold down a job or get my life back on track. I want to quit but I don’t think I am strong enough. I am scared that this habit is going to cost me losing my loved ones or even my life eventually. But I also feel helpless? Please help?

Ans: Addiction of any substance in the long run causes not only behavioural issues but also impacts badly on to relationships, occupation and social interactions. You are currently experiencing the repercussions in all these areas. Giving up on yourself without trying will not lead to results. Instead begin with setting up attainable goals for de-addiction. It will be a longer process to get rid of your vice but it needs to begin somewhere. There are various centres that run de-addiction programs which involve Support Groups, one-to-one counselling, pharmacotherapy and rehabilitation. Taking one step at time will help you become confident enough to continue the treatment and not lose hope midway.

Nagging ex-girlfriend

I need some guidance on how to deal with my ex-girlfriend. We were dating for about 10-12 months after which I had to break-up with her because we both belonged to different countries and different cultures. It was just not possible to see ourselves in future together. I always thought that we both knew what we were getting into. But now, she has started blaming me and threatening me that it has led her to slip into a depression. She calls me throughout the day and demands to talk for long hours. It is causing me mental stress now and I have lost my patience and feel very helpless. What can I do?

Ans: While you may feel you are to blame, it is important for you to remember that you are not responsible for her happiness. It sounds like she has become increasingly dependent on you and that is not good for either of yours’ mental health. It is better for you and her, temporarily and/or permanently cut-off contact. Try writing her a sincere letter explaining that you are coming from a place of concern and care, and are looking out for her general well-being. Clarify the need to stop talking and your reasons for doing so. If the stress persists, consult a counsellor to address your needs.

Can’t say “no”

Hi, I am a 16 year old girl. I have a lot of difficulty in being assertive and saying no. My friends drink, smoke and do drugs. The more I resist all this more scared I become of losing out on my friends. I don’t want to jeopardize my friendship. What should I do?

Ans: Hi. Friendships depend on accepting each other the way s/he is. If you feel your friends are trying to coax you into something you are not comfortable with it is important to evaluate the importance of such relations in your life. Since the activities they indulge in do not suit you, you can probably speak to them about this. Start by explaining your discomfort, your reservations about experimenting drugs and alcohol and also the fear of losing out on friends if you don’t comply. When communication is clear there will be fewer chances that they misunderstand you. No one can force you to do things against your own will. If this friendship for them is based on the kind of person you are then no matter what, they will stick by you whether you drink or smoke with them or not.

(Dr Anjali Chhabria, MINDTEMPLE)