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August 19, 2000

Behavior

Question from Texas, USA:

My daughter has had diabetes since she was seven years old. Now, at age 17, we are fighting "depression and adolescence". We have had a divorce, dad abandonment, a geographical move, and four shots per day. We are in therapy and her moodiness and sullenness seems to be all the time. I'm trying so hard with her, but I can't seem to make much headway. She doesn't want to join anything, etc. She's, curt, mad, and sullen. Is depression common in girls aged age 16 to 17 who have diabetes and all of the above problems? It would seem so.

Answer:

With the added stressors of relocation, divorce in the family, and the challenges of fitting into a new school environment, it is no wonder your daughter s struggling with her moods. Depression is sometimes called “frozen anger” and I can imagine that daughter may be pretty angry about all the things she cannot control right now (including her diabetes). Depression is a more “acceptable” and accessible emotion in females than anger. Instead of you trying so hard with her, it might help to acknowledge and draw out her angry feelings so that she does not need to shove them down by being depressed.

Here is a technique I use with clients like your daughter. I say: “I am going to ask you to tell me all the things you are angry about right now. Start each incidence by saying “I am angry because___________.” Use a watch and give her two full minutes to unload. Do not react! Just watch your watch and gently urge her to continue. In my clients, once they are safe to say how very angry they are, even yelling out their feelings, the end result is usually tears. The sadness and anger are intertwined.

If you are uncomfortable doing this yourself, ask a really competent counselor to assist you. Your daughter has a lot on her mind. It is better for her to reveal her feelings than to stuff them down inside.

CMB