Medical Student Feeling Sad

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Reader’s Question

I am 21 years old and in my 5th year of medical school. I’ve been experiencing some symptoms, and I need your help to sort this out. It started about 6 months ago when I used to like a girl and it didn’t work out well. I was hurt when the relationship didn’t work out. Ever since I was young I have felt low and have had problems having good social interactions. I used to read self improvement skills through the internet, and it helped me feel a bit more confident in myself. But most of my friends told me that I changed and I became aggressive (I mean in a humorous way) rather than being calm and kind as I used to be. Honestly, I may have been acting sarcastically towards others because that gave me the sense of confidence — until one day a friend got angry and told me that what I am doing is wrong and that I should be more calm and kind again so that people would like me.

Since then, I tried to stop and change the way I act around others. But I still feel loneliness, fatigue and tiredness. I feel lazy (like I have no energy) despite having normal sleeping hours. I fear I won’t be able to talk to friends and improve my social life. I am unable to concentrate, even in my studies. I daydream a lot even if someone is talking to me. My friends have commented that I have a sad face and that I don’t smile. I feel anxious and depressed even if there is no reason. I don’t know what is wrong with me, and I wish you could help me figure out what to do. Thanks a lot.

Psychologist’s Reply

It is difficult to determine exactly what is going on with you without more information. You describe feeling sad since you were young and having a longstanding history of social difficulties. Based on the information you provided it is important that you find a counselor or therapist to talk to. Your symptoms are consistent with depression. Many people who are depressed have difficulty with concentration, feelings of loneliness and withdrawal, low energy and feelings of sadness. Symptoms of depression can occur in reaction to a stressful situation or loss (such as the relationship with the girl you liked not working out), or they can occur out of the blue (it may seem as though there is no reason to feel so sad). It is also common for people experiencing depression to have symptoms of anxiety as well. Sometimes this anxiety can manifest in social situations — with feelings of discomfort in public settings and difficulty making friends. Your anxiety could be related to your depression, or it could be a separate issue. A more in depth discussion with a therapist may help you sort it out.

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