Don't understand people
July 13, 2011 7:14 AM   Subscribe

I have a weird brain that needs fixing. Any recommendations for NHS advice/private psychiatric recommendations in London?

I don't get people.

The only person I've ever been able to make a real connection with is my wife, but even she is starting to get fed up with me.

I breezed through school, uni and my career as I was lucky to get fantastic "book smarts" in both humanities and sciences. I have always tried to be nice, humble and extremely friendly but nobody seems to want to be friends back.

I've tried eliminating standard issues (halitosis, bad body language etc) and apparently come across great when presenting, in front of clients and on tv/radio, but there's just something wrong that means in my lifetime I've been invited to 7 parties, 2 lunches, 2 after-work drinks and a coffee. I've tried inviting plenty of people from my side and it always seems to go well, but no reciprocation.

I don't know what's wrong and its making me extremely depressed as I've tried to fix it for years and failed. Everyone else seems to have at least a couple of decent friends/a support network outside of their family. This depression has affected all parts of my life and I now do my job on auto-pilot and can't organise even the simplest of things in my personal life. I was always ok with not having friends, although I worked at it, but I am most depressed in how its been affecting my wife who I love dearly as she was extremely popular/social when we met (she's not from the UK), but I have dragged her down into social oblivion as she hasn't been able to make any friends since coming here and I don't know how to fix anything.

I definitely need professional help, but I don't know what type or where exactly to go. I'm thinking a top notch psychiatrist would be good to try and sort out the tangle that is my brain, but have no idea where to look, hence recommendations of who to find on NHS or private (have health insurance) would be much appreciated.

Thank you in advance,

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
I'm sorry, I can't help you with a recommendation but I did want to chime in and say it seems like you're doing the right thing in trying to go out and meet people. I'm an introvert and for me it's a chore to go out and meet people and retain friendships, but what I did find was that if the people I try and cultivate friendships with have something in common with me it's a lot easier and quicker to bond - so I'd recommend (in the vein of a 1000 people before me) to find hobbies and interests that you can cultivate in other people.

Secondly, I've found that simple efforts such as inviting people to lunch or dinner _consistently_ will either (a) get them to ask you to leave them alone (which is totally fine) or more often (b) make them expectant of this event such that a closer connection can be formed. You can move it forward from there.

Thirdly, and most importantly, you should explain your situation to your wife (no doubt you have) and let her know it is perfectly OK for her to go out and be sociable and make new friends alone. To be fair, I doubt you being super successful socially would impact her social situation much as to form close friends she needs connections with the individuals themselves and latching onto your friends is unlikely to provide that (IMO anyway).

Fourthly, do you have siblings or family (immediate or extended) you're close to? Quite often I find myself interacting with family because it's more comfortable and less stressful, and it may help you and your wife.

I acknowledge that I have _NOT_ answered your question but I hope this helps.
posted by gadha at 7:28 AM on July 13, 2011

Do you have any hobbies? What do you do aside from work and be a husband? (I'm assuming you're male.) How old are you?

"7 parties, 2 lunches, 2 after-work drinks and a coffee". This needs to be put into perspective but it's difficult to do that given all that you've written. If all you really do is work and sleep, 24/7, 365, then you're invite record isn't that's shocking -- in fact, if you're only 25 then it could be viewed as quite good. (If you're 45, then not so good.)

Firstly, if you think you might be depressed, go see your GP and talk to them about it. Tell them how you feel and how it's been affecting your life. It's important that you don't suffer in silence.

Secondly, consider talk-therapy (or counselling, as it's also called). If your GP diagnoses you with depression then you may well get access to CBT therapy. But from what you've written you sound quite lost and unsure of yourself. In that case, relatively regimented 'issue-focused' therapy like CBT may not be what you need right now. After all, if you don't know what the problem is, exactly, then you may not have much success CBTing it.

So perhaps what you could benefit from is a more 'chatty' style of therapy; these are often labelled 'humanistic' or 'person centred' (although I defer to an expert on this matter). I don't think the availability of this type of therapy is very good on the NHS so you may have to pay yourself. But it's relatively cheap (compared other private treatments) and could be invaluable to you right now. This type of therapy will allow you to thrash out with a neutral and completely non-judgemental second party what the issue(s) is(are). What is clear from what you've written is that you are not living the life you want to live, and that that's making you depressed. A suitable therapist will help you figure out what it is you want and why you don't have it. Whether you can get or want to get the life you currently desire is question only you can answer.

A psychiatrist may be the right move further down the line, but from what you've written I feel like your depressed because you don't 'have it all'. Thing is, nobody has it all, and not having it all is not a sign of mental illness. From what you've written you have a lot to be grateful of: a wife and a successful career. These are two things many people never achieve.
posted by davidjohnfox at 8:17 AM on July 13, 2011

I am somewhat biased in this matter, as both my father and mother-in-law are affiliated with this organisation, but you may wish to take a look at the Philadelphia Association's philosophy-based approach to talk therapy. There is a description on the website, but if you want to know more, feel free to memail me with the sort of information you're after, and I'll find material to send to you.
posted by tavegyl at 8:46 AM on July 13, 2011

To strictly answer your question - where to look is your GP. Whether you go private through your insurance or with the NHS, you generally need a referral from your GP and you don't really get to choose (your insurance may give you a choice of providers available on your insurance) so I don't think we can really make recommendations of who to see.

TBH I wouldn't hold my breath on either angle though, being unpopular isn't a psychiatric condition and depression is most commonly treated with drugs (much cheaper than psychiatry). You might be lucky and live in an area where therapy is easily available on the NHS (you probably have better chance with your private insurance) but your chances of seeing an actual psychiatrist are slim to none.

From the sounds of it the source of your depression is your wife's unhappiness with her lack of a social life, for which you seem to be being blamed. I think your wife needs to address why she can't make friends of her own and not be dependant on you to make friends for her. You said you were fine with not having friends until it affected your wife.

I also agree with davidjohnfox that your numbers need to be put in to context. For all we know, the only problem is your expectations. 7 parties is a lot more than I've ever been invited to (since I've been an adult at least) because the people I know don't throw a lot of parties, or go to lunch or have drinks after work. I had friends when I was at school and uni then we all sort up grew up into fairly boring adults (and the ones of my friends who aren't boring shut-ins don't live nearby ;) ), when we chat its all like, "so, what have you been up to?", "working mostly...."
Are you aware that there are parties etc that are going on that you're not being invited to or do you just think there are?

Do the people you invite out try to make excuses? Do you invite the same person more than once? If you invite people out and they agree without making excuses and they'll attend more than once, I'm not sure you do have a problem. If someone I don't like invites me out, I make excuses. Their non-reciprocation also isn't necessarily indicative of a problem, some people never 'make the first move' - especially introverts. If you're taking a position of not inviting someone to hang with you because its their turn you need to cut that out and be more proactive about making friends. Just because someone doesn't return the invite, doesn't mean they didn't have a good time or that they don't like you. I'd also recommend sticking to persons of the same gender for the time being... if you don't have a lot of experience socialising you could give the wrong impression.

You say you present well and come across well on TV/radio - if your peers/coworkers are mostly introverts, they could be intimidated by you. You say you breezed through school being good at both humanities and science, are you good looking and athletic too because that's a recipe for being disliked at school ;) You can try to be as nice and humble as you like - no-one likes an over-achiever.

IMO what you need is a blunt acquaintance rather than a psychiatrist who you can ask and trust to be honest with you. If your peers are really all going out partying and having drinks after work etc that you're excluded from, you need to bite the bullet and ask someone why you're never invited.

Finally, do you have any hobbies outside of work? The kind where you do stuff with other people not alone in your shed ;) A lot of people aren't interested in socialising with coworkers or making friends at work - they already have friends. Find clubs/activities to join - better yet, find activities that both you and your wife can do together eg. dance or cookery classes. You could make friends with other couples that way and kill 2 birds with one stone.
posted by missmagenta at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best way of accessing NHS services is usually through your GP. Why not make an appointment to chat to them about it and see what they suggest? They will have a good idea of what's on offer in your area. They may start by telling you about simple NHS services, but ask them about private alternatives too.
posted by sleepy boy at 8:55 AM on July 13, 2011

IANAD or YP (I am not a doctor or your psychologist), but some of the things you mention are reminiscent of experiences of people on the autism spectrum: Seeming to miss or misunderstand social cues, having difficulty seeing how others might perceive you, feeling ok about not having many friends, talent in academics. It is not necessarily the case, but may be one avenue to explore. The National Autistic Society is a great resource for information and potential referrals. Simon Baron Cohen's group at Cambridge also has a wealth of information on their website.
posted by goggie at 9:14 AM on July 13, 2011

Does your wife have good English yet? You don't say whether she is bilingual or whether you are. Are there activities that suit your or both of your interests?

Do you think that, to an extent, you try very hard to make friends and can be too friendly? I have been this way in the past and it does put people off when it's too much too soon. This is something counselling may be able to help you explore/
posted by mippy at 8:34 AM on July 14, 2011

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