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Thread: Apathy (help)

  1. #1

    Default Apathy (help)

    My best friend whom I've known for years is starting to worry me.

    When we were at school together he was very active and positive towards life, he was very fun-loving and always had an opinion on something. When we were 14-15 he started becoming negative towards everything, he stopped caring about everything including friendship, we're always taught that this was common for adolescents but recently (we're both adults now) he's been becoming increasingly apathetic.

    He constantly puts himself down and comments on the futility of his life, and feigns(?) suicidal thoughts. He's never been the one to seek attention or blow anything out of proportion, but for the past few years he's been gradually falling into a pit of depression, doing nothing but listening to music and playing video games. Whenever I invite him to a social event he just says he has family visiting and spends the rest of the night playing games.

    He has a family history of schizophrenia and has an abnormal amount of medical issues, which caused him to have problems with making friends in early life.

    I'm becoming genuinely worried for his well-being, what can I do to help him? I feel obligated to help him in any way possible, we've been best friends since high school. I've tried talking to him about his apathy, and at first he would get angry and lash out in denial, but now (past 6 years) he's been open about his feelings, but still refuses to do anything about it.

    He studies psychology so he understands what he's going through and how to help himself, but refuses to seek help or create a better outlook on life, he just shrugs and says "This suites me better, I was meant for solitude". Even though he sees himself as worthless and disposable, he still mentions how much our friendship means to him, and that I'm the only person he is willing to trust.

    Is there any way I can help him? Or do I have to accept the fact that my friend will drift through his life in apathetic disposition and depression?

  2. #2

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    Friendship is the key, just be there for him in any shape or form and talk to him, but without sounding condescending which can be hard if the person is in a bad frame of mind because they might take it that way, even though you weren't. Maybe invite him over on a one to one basis if he finds it hard when surrounded by people plus if you close to any of his family members you could let one of them know your worried about him, but again be careful as this might do more damage than good. I am terrible at giving advice so I normally don't do it, but I hope that helps a little bit. Good luck keep us updated.

  3. #3

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    AmbelBulp95


    There's a few things I need to say before progressing on to my actual repply:
    - I do indeed NOT KNOW your friend - thus my reply should be considered with this in mind...
    - suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously. There is only a distance between feigning such ideas and stepping over the threshold and embracing such ideas... suicide can also have many "ways" it doesn't need to be the "slash the wrists open" "jump from the roof" or "swallow pills" option. Some people start to become so careless or "Daring" that they for example just cross railroad lines without looking, walk on the road in dark clothes at night, get into fights, etc... with an attitude: If it gets me killed, fine... just saying.

    Now to the questions you pose:

    I guess it is also important to highlight, that just because he is studying (not finished I guess at 18) psychology it means crap about being able to self-help himself. it might create such an allusion, but the truth is far from that.
    it's like a brain surgeon... can't perform brain surgery on his own brain. Ok - I admit - that allegory isn't perfect... but you get the idea.
    Sure he has probably a better understanding of such issues, but he clearly is NOT able to help himself.

    Depression is a serious issue - and as you have noticed it wasn't like switching off the light-switch... it was pretty progressive and long ignored.
    Now even if he WANTS to walk away from depression, it's not like switching the light switch back on... this as well will be a progressive road to walk.. and not an easy one.
    Once someone is depressive and highly so, it's difficult as depression basically feeds on depression... it becomes worse and if you start to walk away from that dark places, they can easily lure you back - because just being depressed is "easier" than overcoming the depression.

    Now with depression - there's "being depressed" as an expression, as a state of mind etc... and there are the causes.
    And this is crucial to understand - for as long the the causes behind the depression remain active it will be neigh impossible to get over the depression - the stuff that has pulled a person into becoming depressed (even if gradually) will keep tugging and pulling under. There is the rare case, that someone manages to overcome serious depression and in the process basically manage to ignore / step over the causes. But usually "treating" depression involves creating an environment where the causing factors are eliminated.
    But that also includes in first figuring out what those factors are.
    And that, well that is usually not so easy as it might superficially seem... it is often not the superficial stuff like "no girl/boyfriend, etc..." - those things (lack of social contact, lack of friends, no real activities) are not the causes but rather manifestations of the depression.


    Also IMPORTANT: keep in mind that depression can be the result from CHEMICAL IMBALANCES in someones body... for example a serotonin deficiency... there are a lot of supporting theories that such a deficiency can be a major cause in serious depression. There are other pure medical things that can trigger depression - it does not need to be the result of a psychological issue!!!
    In such a case pharmaceutical therapy (anti depressants on the base of SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor)) can really help.
    Also for pure psychological issues anti depressants can HELP - by partially breaking down the overly negative outlook and thus creating a more even playing field and enabling someone to actively work to overcome depression.
    But Anti-Depressants especially if the underlying cause is psychological should not be regarded the the ultima ratio - the definitive solution - it should never be the goal to basically create a life-long dependency on anti depressants (although in some cases it still is the better option). Also those medications have side effects and in general NO ONE should SELF-MEDICATE with that stuff without professional supervision.


    I can obviously not give you a thorough crash course on depression... And I am far from an expert.


    Now what can be done:
    if you truly want to help you have several options... some might work, all might work, none might work - keep that in mind.
    Also never forget, that it is not your fault... so if it doesn't work, don't feel guilty about it.

    1) TALK - seek an active talk, confront him with YOUR observations, fears, etc... let him know that you are worried and that you are there if he wants to talk. Don't be pushy - this can drive people away.

    2) Present ACTIVITY CHALLENGES: Try to win him over into some activities (try hard) - sports are actually amazing especially to combat depression (the adrenaline, the endorphines, etc... all will create often very positive momentums - times where body & mind are tired in a healthy way and open for new view-points). Take him to concerts - you say he likes music... go along. Cooking is another good thing... if you're not good at it... start with a weekly meet in a good restaurant... healthy good food... or get better at cooking and try to make this something regular (like every wednesday...).
    Also with sports / other activities... try not to get random schedules - but rather try a fixed schedule (those are emotionally harder to break as they become a bit of an "institution" over time - deeper implemented and more compelling to attend).

    3) TALK YOURSELF to a professional (book a few sessions with a renown psychologist / therapist)...
    Why? well simply to get professional INPUT on what to do... this is in my opinion an important step in helping to decrypt your observations and figuring out a battle plan and helping you to further understand your friends situation.

    4) Be positive... don't make this entirely about his depression, depression depression depression,.. just make this ABOUT FRIENDSHIP.


    And last but not least a sad bit of advice - one I don't give lightly but find rather important:
    If he does NOT WANT TO CHANGE his situation there is NOT MUCH you can do.
    That is the frustrating thing about depression, the WILL to CHANGE must emerge within the person - must come from the depressed himself. Only if there is the slightest desire to actually change, to see stuff differently, only then there is a realistic chance of overcoming the depression.
    There are of course exceptions, for example if he attempts suicide and get hospitalized... and they start a drug treatment (Anti-depressants)... stuff like that can help to snap someone out of the cycle. I've seen it happen.

  4. #4

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    Thank you so much for your input, I can tell you've got some sort of formal understanding of this matter.

    I've been talking to him for the past few hours, he may outwardly state he feels depressed but when I confront him with it he becomes passive, evasive and reluctant. It took me two hours of general discussion about my fears until he admitted that he is depressed, but he doesn't say it's a problem.

    We're actually working on a project together, we have been for a couple of months. So far he's been unwilling to make any great contribution, he keeps putting himself down while I keep reminding him that he's far more important than he thinks. I find myself doing most of the work, which nullifies the whole exercise.

    He's had one particular problem with blood pressure and breathing, it's stopped him from doing a lot of stuff, including physical activity, he's going to have an operation in a week or so, with any luck his blood flow will be corrected and he will feel more energetic. He's already planning things to do once he's recovered from surgery, he's seeing it as a turning point of his inactivity. without his breathing problems he can paint again, with the proper blood flow he can finally play sport.

    I actually had a battle with depression years ago when I was in school with him, I was extremely stressed with school at the time and this caused some extreme anxiety and public ticks where I would make a fool of myself. It turned out that I had a chemical imbalance like the rest of my family that lead to me being diagnosed with clinical depression. I was recommended to take medication for it in addition to applying for special privileges at the school, but I refused all of it. my doctor, teachers and parents told me I was being irrational, but my brother supported me every step of the way, he told me something that stuck with me; "I'll never associate the word 'depression' with myself in any way". By refusing treatment and turning down the school's privileges I managed to deal with it myself, and to this day I still cope well, my brother has always been there help me, even if it was just talking to me to make me realize that I can do it myself. In a way I want to be that role in my friend's life, he's always kinda looked up to me and I try to lead by example, we command a great deal of respect for one another.

    I guess all I can do is talk to him, his recovery is up to him. I just want him to know that he has lots of friends that care about his well-being.

    As I write this, my friend is messaging me telling me that he's looking forward to our next project meetup! Has to be a good sign.

    It's a big development, and I look forward to seeing him happy for once.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmberBulb95 View Post
    My best friend whom I've known for years is starting to worry me.

    When we were at school together he was very act. e and positive towards life, he was very fun-loving and always had an opinion on something. When we were 14-15 he started becoming negative towards everything, he stopped caring about everything including friendship, we're always taught that this was common for adolescents but recently (we're both adults now) he's been becoming increasingly apathetic.

    He constantly puts himself down and comments on the futility of his life, and feigns(?) suicidal thoughts. He's never been the one to seek attention or blow anything out of proportion, but for the past few years he's been gradually falling into a pit of depression, doing nothing but listening to music and playing video games. Whenever I invite him to a social event he just says he has family visiting and spends the rest of the night playing games.

    He has a family history of schizophrenia and has an abnormal amount of medical issues, which caused him to have problems with making friends in early life.

    I'm becoming genuinely worried for his well-being, what can I do to help him? I feel obligated to help him in any way possible, we've been best friends since high school. I've tried talking to him about his apathy, and at first he would get angry and lash out in denial, but now (past 6 years) he's been open about his feelings, but still refuses to do anything about it.

    He studies psychology so he understands what he's going through and how to help himself, but refuses to seek help or create a better outlook on life, he just shrugs and says "This suites me better, I was meant for solitude". Even though he sees himself as worthless and disposable, he still mentions how much our friendship means to him, and that I'm the only person he is willing to trust.

    Is there any way I can help him? Or do I have to accept the fact that my friend will drift through his life in apathetic disposition and depression?


    I understand what what your friend is going through. I suffer from chronic depression and I never wanted to go get help. I would have what I call a burst of confidence. I would be ok for three or four days and then the depressions would come right back. Since my grandmother died two weeks ago my depression has gotten a lot worse. I'm finally going to see someone this week.

  6. #6

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    First of all, never, never, NEVER underestimate how much help and support you have been giving your friend. If it were not for the concern and care you have shown him, he would likely be in an even worse state of mind.

    Unfortunately, when dealing with depression, there are no easy answers. It's a process that can go on for many years, with all the ups and downs, successes and failures, and setbacks along the way. That's why it's so important to have supportive people with him on the journey, to give him hope on the bad days. He's lucky to have you.

    Depression can be the result of so many causes, it wouldn't be right to give advice about how he should be dealing with it. It can be caused clinically or because of situational circumstances. Some of the problems relating to long-term depression can stem back to issues in the past which result in poor self esteem and a sense of helplessness to change the situation.. For myself, I grew up feeling worthless and inferior after a horrible childhood with an abusive father. I suffered from it and severe depression long after I left the family home. I learned to overcome it by finding the answers that worked for me (I talked about it in a previous thread titled 'The Philosophy of Sports.'). It should be noted that no one should ever attempt to tell a vulnerable, depressed person how they should overcome their illness. The answers that worked for one person could have negative consequences for another and impede any progress towards recovery. Depression is a complex issue and any treatment or coping strategies should be done under the guidance of a professional therapist. It may be worth looking into whatever supports are available in your community, such as a Mental Health Association, or an agency that provides case management services to individuals. These can be less 'formal' services and may not be as intimidating to people who are reluctant to get help. If you are unsure of what's available in your area, a local distress line or a community centre may be able to provide some help.

    Also, just because your friend has taken psychology doesn't mean he knows or understands everything about himself. In spite of how we have progressed in the last several decades with medical discoveries and cures, I find psychology is still pretty much trial and error with hit and miss theories. When I went back to school, I got turned onto psychology by a teacher who introduced me to the works of Victor E. Frankel and Logo-therapy, a humanist-based perspective of the human spirit. It inspired me to go on to university to take more psychology. There I learned Freudian and Adlerian perspectives, and when they were applied to depression and suicide, I found their theories to be laughable and pretty offensive. Your friend doesn't need theories that speculate about what he is going through, he already knows how he feels. He needs help.

    You're doing everything you can to assist him. In the end, I hope he appreciates your support and reaches the point where he takes the next step, which is getting help for himself.
    Last edited by Starrunner; 31-Mar-2014 at 00:47.

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