Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Twelve Years Old and Depressed!

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 17, 2011

     Tina, twelve, reports “I am fine during the day, but when the sun goes down I think of how limited time is. I don’t think I have that much time left and I don’t think I can do all that I want to do before I die. It makes me very depressed. Maybe my focus medication is wearing off and I am getting depressed. I am not sure. All I know is that in the evenings, I just feel life to be unbearable. During the day, I enjoy my friends and I love to do art, but boy, when I go to bed, I feel very scared.” “Wow, that sounds really hard. It sounds like as the evening approaches you get scared because your mental demons are released from their closet.” I say, trying to understand this precocious, highly verbal twelve-year old who comes from a high-pressured family where the expectation is that she will go to an Ivy League college and then to a prestigious, high-paying job. “What would help you?” I ask Tina, trying to see how she imagines feeling better. “I don’t know. I hate being in my bedroom alone,” she says. “It sounds like your thoughts are so scary and then you feel very dependent on your parents to calm you down. It is hard for you to help yourself with these negative thoughts,” I respond. “Well, my dad seems to like to come into my bedroom with me and soothe me. It seems to suit him well. Sometimes I think he is trying to escape from being with my mom.” Tina says, making the interesting point that Tina’s depressive thinking hooks the dad into an important fatherly role, while at the same time, takes him away from his wife, which Tina believes benefits the dad. Tina implies that her parents’ marriage is tenuous, also implying that her anxieties serve as a means to divide her parents further apart. “Do you mean that your depressive thinking makes your dad feel important to you, whereas he might not feel so important to your mom?” I ask, trying to  tread lightly on this very delicate subject. “Yes, that is exactly what I think,” Tina responds with enthusiasm, uncharacteristic of her typical flat tone. “It must be hard to need your dad at the same time that you feel that you are pulling him away from your mom,” I say, trying to articulate the Tina’s bind. “I like pulling him away from my mom, but I don’t think my mom likes that,” Tina says, explaining how torn she feels. “It is remarkable that your sad and scary feelings have a big impact on your parents in ways that seem to split them apart.” I say, realizing that Tina’s symptoms are layered with family dynamics which are as painful as the feelings themselves. “I am glad we are talking about this,” Tina says spontaneously. “It can be a relief,” I say, echoing her sentiment.

2 Responses to “Twelve Years Old and Depressed!”

  1. Shelly said

    Glad you changed the format here so the text didn’t cover the Comments box.

    Do you think Tina’s depression can be overcome with talk-therapy alone, without medication? Or is she only anxious at night and would only need something to help her sleep or anti-anxiety?

    • Gee, I did not know I changed the format. I will have to look into that.

      TIna has been on medication for her mood, and maybe we need to re-visit that, but my current hypothesis is that her moods are tied into her parents’ marriage, such that if the parents could strengthen their communication skills, Tina would not be able to use her depressed state as a way of getting her dad to ignore her mom.

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