I am Preoccupied with an Actress

Reader’s Question

I am a 25 years old male. I am suffering from a serious depression problem nowadays. However, I am not sure that the reason (explained below) behind this depression is actually a psychological disease or disorder and if yes, whether it can be cured or not!

I am a big fan of a TV actress. In the beginning, which means till last year, I was just a fan of her’s but in the last 6 months, I feel like I have fallen in love with her. Although I belong to a different country and I know that there is no way on earth I can even meet her, I still feel depressed and keep on thinking about her. I am a finance professional and earn a decent middle class living. But because of this problem, I have come to a point where I have started disliking my profession. I don’t feel like coming to work anymore. It is affecting my work and personal life. I live with my parents and brothers, and at home, I feel like getting out of there. I have started disliking my profession because I think that my profession does not have fame, and I am not famous like her. I do fantasize that I was also an actor/player who was famous and rich and I would go and ask her out and all that. Most of my day goes on thinking and fantasizing how I would have gone to her and proposed to her and her reactions and we would have got married and all that. When I wake up in the morning, I imagine what the time is and what she would be doing now. I read forums about her fan club and people say that they met her in that country and she is so beautiful, down to earth, no attitude, she is so simple, they even like her more after meeting. So I feel if I could meet her too, but as mentioned earlier, it is not possible because I belong to different country and I don’t see any way I can meet her.

I am just 25 years old. I was very career oriented about my profession before but now, I have come to form an opinion, that my profession does not have fame, it is useless and does not have enough money, and the profession she is in is easy, has so much fame, and a lot of money. So now it is like I don’t care about growing in my profession anymore. This is also worrying me. I hope you understand my situation.

Till about 6 months before when this all started, I was OK and just though this will go with time and just a passing thing. But now recently, lets say 6 to 8 weeks, I have started feeling so depressed. I have received several comments lately from my coworkers and friends that my face tells them that I am very very depressed. My manger, my coworkers and my friends, all ask me if everything is ok and if there is any way they can help me. I simply tell them that no there is no reason, and I am happy and probably I am just tired. But they are very right!

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Unfortunately, I cannot tell this to anybody. I don’t think anyone will understand it. They will just make fun of me. And even if they don’t make fun of me, they cannot help me. I even thought I should start seeing other girls and divert my mind, but this doesn’t help me either.

I am usually online, surfing on the net for information about her, her interviews, her profile, her pictures and all that.

I watched her on TV yesterday night and this morning when I woke up, I had headache and I realized that whole night, despite sleeping, she was going through in my mind and I was thinking about her. I feel like crying when I wake up. Sometimes when my depression increases, I simply go outside, or on bed and cry.

I even went for a short trip outside in the country and enjoyed it with my friends, but this did not help much during my trip (it did a little), and when I came back, it started all over again with the same intensity (or probably more).

After reading my situation, can you tell me if I am going through a psychological disorder or disease? Or I am a special case? Is it a common problem? Can I come back to normal life? It is affecting my work life and personal life. I don’t like to talk to people who are close to me, and I can’t concentrate on work nowadays. Initially I thought it will just pass by but it is getting worse and worse day by day. I have tried my best to explain the intensity of my problem to you through this letter but believe me, it is far worse than it sounds after reading this mail. One other problem is that I cannot discuss this with anyone! Please help me!

Psychologist’s Reply

You are experiencing a depressive disorder with a twist! A period of prolonged stress (job, family, personal pressures) causes the depletion of a neurotransmitter — Serotonin. This chemical works with multiple body systems and produces problems with sleep, appetite, energy, concentration, and other depressive symptoms. Most antidepressants work by increasing the availability of Serotonin, thus lifting the depression. Serotonin is also associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and OCD behaviors.

I’ve worked with many cases similar to yours. As part of the course of depression, the brain suddenly activates obsessive-compulsive behaviors. In most cases of depression, the individual has obsessive thoughts about death, disease, guilt, etc. In other cases, OCD symptoms surface and the individual begins counting things, having numbers or thoughts race in their head, or develops rituals. It’s not uncommon for depressed folks to become germ phobic or preoccupied with disease.

In rare cases, the Low-Serotonin OCD features are triggered by some external event. One of my depressed patients was bitten by his pet pig (I don’t understand the pet pig thing…but anyway). He awoke the next morning to feel he had rabies. Despite negative medical tests, he felt his rabies were “subclinical” and couldn’t be detected. He began wearing gloves and surgical masks around the house, wrote out a last will, and consulted with 10 physicians to volunteer for rabies shots. I’ve worked with a nurse who had the same OCD features triggered by a blood splatter and an engineer who was triggered by a chemical exposure. Whatever situation triggers the OCD features — that becomes the preoccupation. In your case, an actress.

In your depression, OCD features have been triggered and your brain has become obsessed with this actress. By your report, the OCD features were triggered about 6 months ago and are getting worse — all in keeping with the way this type of depressive disorder works. When OCD features are triggered during a depression, the patient gets the feeling that their mind is out of control. Keep in mind, this is not insanity or for that matter, an extreme psychiatric disorder. However, it will require treatment.

First, I’d recommend reading my article on Chemical Imbalance, available at www.drjoecarver.com. Second, you need to recognize that this is a type of depression and not a reflection of your career, family, etc. Third, recognize that this is a dangerous time for you. Your brain is hyperactive and full of thoughts. People do some risky things during these times such as sell everything and try to visit the movie star, that kind of thing. Don’t make any big decisions or engage in risky behavior. Lastly, I’d consult a psychiatrist. We have medications that address both the depression AND the obsessive-compulsive symptoms currently experienced.

Your situation is very treatable. While the specifics are unique, the neurobiological mechanism is very familiar to trained mental health professionals. We can fix this.

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