Themes of the Week

Struggling with low self-esteem

Dear Alice,

Do you have some advice for someone suffering from low self-esteem? Some things that I struggle with: comparison of myself to others ("She is so "together!" Why am I not like that? What is lacking in me that makes her better?"), lack of faith in my abilities ("I'll never be as good as him at that — I might as well not try."), lots of self-criticizing ("Why did I sign up for this class — I should have known I couldn't handle it."), always saying yes to people or feeling like I've said the wrong thing... you get the idea. I've been feeling pretty unmotivated lately too, and I think this just adds to the problem. Can you give some advice, dear Alice?

Thanks, feeling blue

Help! I blush so easily!

Dear Alice,

I have many friends, but my problem is I can't say really funny or stupid things (as jokes) without getting embarrassed! And it wouldn't be so bad but my face turns really red for like, anything! The only people I can be silly around without getting embarrassed is my two best friends, but that's all!! Do you have any advice for me? And is there any way of not blushing or hiding it? Make-up usually doesn't help!! Thanx!

~blushes too easily~

Making friends when I have low self-esteem

Dear Alice,

Your advice to "Surround yourself with positive, healthy people" is good. But this is part of my insecurities. It seems that everyone will want to surround themselves with positive, healthy people; but if I'm not healthy mentally, why should people want to be around me? I fear I'm excluded because, even when I try to hide my insecurities, they still show and people don't want to be around a "downer." Any advice on this aspect?

Difficulty maintaining eye contact

Dear Alice,

I've been experiencing in the past few months something that I understand, but am unable to deal with effectively. It is the difficulty to maintain eye contact while conversing with others. Usually my thinking drifts from paying attention to the conversation into concentrating on where should I look. It's really annoying and sometimes it makes me avoid people just because I'll be unable to have eye contact with them.

What is also annoying is that I feel that the person I'm talking to is getting unnecessary tension because of my "looks" that I'm sure do not carry any bad feelings or insinuations. I've read an article suggesting that this could be part of a "shyness syndrome," however, I do not consider myself to be shy.

Finally, this phenomenon fluctuates, but I haven't been able to relate this fluctuation to any specific factor (i.e., it does not change whether talking to men or women). Thanks for your valuable answer.

The Appreciative inquirer

Can't stop crying

Dear Alice,

Are there any techniques for controlling crying? I doubt that my problem requires clinical attention; however, it frequently manifests itself as a serious handicap. During conflicts (particularly with professional superiors or with significant others), I find myself unable to defend my position, which only makes the problem worse. Sympathy only tends to aggravate the crying and it is impossible to stop once it starts. I am a twenty-four-year-old graduate student, and I don't seem to be growing out of it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Coffee withdrawal symptoms?

Hi Alice,

Been reading your site for a while and wanted to first thank you for an excellent site! So anyway, here's the question:

I've been having headaches off and on for the past year and noticed that it seems to coincide with days that I don't drink coffee in the morning. I've heard of becoming "addicted" to caffeine, so I decided I should just go ahead and quit for a while. This past week, I cut out coffee and all caffeine-related products from my diet, and have been suffering from pounding headaches every day. Today (six days from my last cup of coffee) is the first day that I don't seem to have a headache. Is this common? And also, any ideas on what will happen if I do have some coffee? Will my system require coffee every day again (at the sake of a pounding headache)? I'm completely clueless on this, and I love coffee, so any advice would be helpful.

— de-caffeinated and hating it

Does caffeine raise blood pressure?

Dear Alice,

Does caffeine raise your blood pressure?

Guarana versus caffeine?

Dear Alice,

Is there a difference between guarana and caffeine? Is guarana better for you than caffeine?

Coffee's got me feeling nauseous — What gives?

Dear Alice,

Recently, I have noticed that drinking coffee makes me somewhat nauseous. I have never had problems with caffeine before and still don't with caffeinated soft drinks. The only thing I can think of is that my diet at school tends to consist almost entirely of pizza and Chinese food. Could it be due to a dietary deficiency? What's up?

— B-real

Ginkgo–What d'ya thinko?

Dear Alice,

Do you recommend the natural remedy Ginkgo as a dietary supplement for good health?

— What D'Ya Thinko About Ginkgo

I can't get rid of my abdominal fat!

Dear Alice,

Help! How do I get rid of abdominal fat? I've been working out now for two years. I seem to be toning up everywhere but my midsection. I am a middle-aged adult female.

Thanks for your advice

Is soreness a good indicator of a good workout?

Dear Alice,

My trainer is getting annoyed because I am not experiencing soreness. I have been working out now with him and other trainers, three times a week, for three months now. Plus I do 45 minutes of cardio four times a week.

I think it's kind of odd that he bases his progress on how sore his clients are. I was always led to believe that soreness in muscles comes from working newfound muscle groups or aggressive workouts. During our workout I am feeling my muscles being worked and I have lost a number of inches and lbs since I have been working out. It seems to be a large issue with some of the trainers at this gym. I am wondering why! Also he had me doing 420 lbs on my legs. I am not a body builder nor do I want to be. I started to tone up. Advise please!

— Pushed too far?

How much rest between runs?

Dear Alice,

I wanted to know how many days of rest is recommended between workouts. I heard it was three days on to one day off...is this enough? I workout on a treadmill for 50 minutes every day and have for the last 14 months. I was not aware of how rest played a very important role until I recently read a brief article on it. I guess my question is, do I need to take that day of rest and how important is it?

Thank You,


Minimum and maximum heart rate for aerobic exercise

Dear Alice,

I work out on my treadmill 20 to 30 minutes a day, usually one to two miles. My husband says that there is a minimum and maximum heart rate. Is there a formula that I can use to calculate this information? Please advise.

What's a healthy weightlifting schedule?

Dear Alice,

Is it healthy to lift weights everyday, or is it better to lift every other day?

What position is best... for sleeping?

Dear Alice,

Is there a "correct" way to sleep? Position wise? And if so, is it possible to change your current sleep habits to conform to the correct way?

Waking up in fetal position

The downsides of sleep deprivation

Dear Alice,

What are the long-term effects of sleep deprivation?

Can't wake up in the winter


I have always been a poor "getter-upper" in the mornings, but lately I haven't even awakened when the alarm goes off. I just sleep right through it and wake up at around noon. I have been missing classes regularly and it's very distressing! I haven't been going to bed any later (I go to sleep at around 2:30 or 3 AM and have since the beginning of school and I used to wake up at around ten for my class). I haven't been eating or exercising differently. Could this be a result of the shift in weather or in the clocks? Does it take time for the body to adjust to the new season?

— Sleepyhead

Always tired

Dear Alice,

I'm always tired. I get plenty of rest (at least eight hours a night), eat healthy, and exercise regularly. I went to my doctor and he took blood only to conclude that I am perfectly healthy. But every day, I am exhausted constantly to the point that it affects my everyday activities. Any suggestions as to what I can do?

Short sleep + long naps = Healthy?

Hi Alice,

I find that I'm most alert late at night, and at school I'll stay up till three or four in the morning. Since I've had morning classes in the past, I've tried to form a habit of going to bed earlier — around midnight or one — but realistically, I don't think this is ever going to happen. I was thinking of trying, when I go back to school this fall, to go to bed around three or four and sleep for four hours, and then also take a four-hour nap during the day. Is this a good solution, or will I be more tired than if I sleep eight hours straight at night? Thanks!

Eating disorders and non-disordered eating

Dear Alice,

What are some types of eating disorders?

I want to recover from my eating disorder and need to learn how

Dear Alice,

I have been bulimic for six years now. I have tried so many times to quit, but I always fail. When I eat I feel guilty about it sooo much that it is impossible not to purge. I feel so helpless. My boyfriend walked in on me the other day, and the look on his face broke my heart. I REALLY want to recover, but I need help. And I have no idea where to go. I will be a starting college this September, but I don't want to wait that long. I want help now.

Men with eating disorders?

Dear Alice:

Is it possible for a male to have an eating disorder? I mean, I know it's possible, but I've never heard of any documented cases. All I've seen are connected to females.


Is it possible for a Black woman to have an eating disorder?

Dear Alice,

Is it possible for a black woman to have an eating disorder?

— Curious

Instructor concerned for student with possible eating disorder

Dear Alice,

I am the owner of a dance studio. I also teach dance at a local school. One of my students at my studio and school confronted me last year about a problem with eating. We talked things out and she said she would be ok. She went to dance in NYC for the last year and came back a few weeks ago. She used to be so beautiful and graceful; now she looks like a living skeleton. Before she left for NYC, she was a thin, 5'11", 130 lbs. Now she is a sickly 110 lbs. She now denies her problem along with her mother. I know she desperately needs help before it's too late, but I don't know what else I can do. Please help!


Gay men having sex with women?

Dear Alice,

Do gay guys actually go with girls just so no one knows they are gay? How would they be able to "perform" on the girl if they weren't attracted to them?

Does diabetes affect sex?

Dear Alice,

I have been diabetic for 19 years now (I'm 20 years old) and I was wondering: does having this disease for so long have long-term effects on my sexual health? I am a man and so far I have no issues.

First time sex: Minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure

Dear Alice,

I will be getting married in June. My fiancé and I are both virgins and intend to be until that night. How can I minimize the pain of first-time sex as well as maximize the pleasure of our honeymoon.

I'm ready for sex — My boyfriend isn't

Dear Alice,

I have been dating the same person (exclusively) for over three years now. We have never had sexual intercourse, but, we have been intimate in every other way (physically). We haven't had sex simply because I haven't been ready. I am extremely attracted to this person, (and I have verbalized my strong attraction countless times) but I have had personal issues which have prevented me from feeling comfortable with the idea of losing my virginity.

After careful consideration, I feel that I am now ready for sexual intercourse with this person. The problem lies in the fact that he no longer seems interested in a physical relationship. We haven't even been intimate for three weeks! In short, I am wondering if I have "missed my chance," or if I have "messed him up" by not wanting to have sex. I haven't told him that I am ready, since he barely even wants to kiss! We are both athletic, slim, attractive, intelligent individuals. I don't feel that he is not attracted to me, he just seems uninterested in the physical side of our relationship. Aside from that, our relationship is absolutely healthy and happy, just very...PLATONIC.

One thing you should know: one year ago I kissed someone other than my boyfriend. It may not seem like a big deal, but I think it really devastated my boyfriend, and I think some element of trust was lost in the process. Do you think this other "affair" could have some effect on the lack of interest in intimacy now? I would never, ever cheat on him again, but what is done is done...my question is, since we used to be hopelessly passionately in love, do you have any advice on how to re-kindle the old flame?

Wanting It

Sex and spinal cord injuries

Dear Alice,

What can you tell me, a caregiver, about male quadriplegics and sexual intercourse? I take care of a young gunshot victim who is dealing with his sexuality. I would like to better understand what he is dealing with.

Thank you,
A Concerned Caregiver

Ecstasy effects

Dear Alice,

I heard that the first reaction you have to taking ecstasy is to become violently ill, after which the party can continue. This sounds like an urban legend to me. Could you clarify please?

Plugging ecstasy?

Dear Alice,

On "big nights out" (about once a month) friends of mine "plug" ecstasy tablets — by which I mean they each stick one up their butt instead of swallowing.

They claim that is a "safer" way to ingest E because it bypasses the liver and goes right into the bloodstream. They also claim the effects are heightened.

I have been tempted to try this method as they swear by it, but thought I'd get your opinion first — are there any potential side effects to plugging? Is it really a "safer" way to use E?

— Unplugged in NY

Ecstasy and sexual side effects

Dear Alice,

I used to be a heavy ecstasy user and now am clean from ecstasy. I find I can't ejaculate. Alice, I guess my question is would the ecstasy have affected me sexually, so that I can't ejaculate when I'm having sex?

What's the difference between molly and ecstasy?

Dear Alice,

What is the difference between molly and ecstasy? On my college campus people keep saying that they take molly. I think they are just taking ecstasy because they act the same. How could they even know what is inside the pill anyway?

— High on life and life alone

Zoloft and MDMA?


Could you possibly tell me the interactive effects of Zoloft (the anti-depressant) and MDMA (Ecstasy)?

—Depressed but partying

Breast lump

Dear Alice,

My doctor found a lump in my breast recently. She told me not to worry, but have it checked out soon, by another doctor. She said that it did not feel cancerous, but may be a cyst or fibroadenoma. Can you tell me about what these are exactly, and does this mean a greater chance for breast cancer later in life? What should I expect? Thanks for your help.

— Concerned

Family history of breast cancer: When do I need to get a mammogram?

Dear Alice,

If there is a strong family history of breast cancer in the family on the mother's side (including the mother), then how often should the daughters get mammograms and when should they start?


Dear Alice,

What exactly happens during a mammogram, and does it hurt?

Breast cancer prevention and nutrition

Dear Alice,

What types of foods should I eat to prevent breast cancer?

— Concerned about breast cancer

Male breast cancer

1) Dear Alice,

Are there any differences in breast cancer between men and women?

— Gender sensitive

2) Dear Alice,

I feel that I might have male breast cancer. But I don't know how this is possible. I am young, younger than 18. And I would like to know how male breast cancer is contracted. Plus if I do, I'm afraid of telling my parents. What should I do?

Skin tag removal?

1) Alice,

Over the past six months, I've been getting lots of "skin tags." I've had one or two under my arms for years but suddenly they're popping up on my neck. They're not discolored, but they're still kind of gross. What ARE these things? What causes them? How can I get rid of them? Are they preventable?

Tagged for Life?

2) Hi Alice!

This is disgusting and embarrassing but I have these things I refer to as "skin tags" on my armpits and I started developing them on my bikini line. Needless to say I stopped shaving my bikini line but they don't go away. Is there anything to do other than minor surgery to get rid of them? Do you even know what I'm talking about? I don't have a problem with shaving cream or razor burn. They are embarrassing.

— Thinking about Spring Break

Obsessive face picking

Dear Alice,

My girlfriend has a terrible obsession with picking her face. It is not that she has bad skin or acne, but, when she is in a certain state, she will stand in front of the mirror for hours and pick her face to shreds. It leaves her with horrible sores and open cuts covering her face. One day, she will be fine, and the next day, she will look like a war casualty. After she does this, she feels that she has to hide for days.

Aside from these concentrated sessions in front of the mirror, she is constantly picking her face while she is studying or reading or talking on the phone. Often, the state of her picked face affects our plans -- for example, she may not come with me to see my family even though we had planned to go together. When she is particularly self-conscious about it, she forbids me to look at her. She will cover her face with her hand or hair if I am even gazing anywhere near her. It is hard to communicate when I cannot see her face, and it affects our kissing and other intimacy.

We are very close and have been together for two years. We have talked about this many times and it does not seem like there has been any change. Mostly, I have been supportive by listening to her and comforting her. But, at times, I have been upset and have let her know. Some of her family members do not hesitate to be cruel to her when she "looks like shit." But she is well aware of her problem, but cannot seem to stop. She has had this obsession for over three years, and it is really making her miserable, and is making me wonder if it will ever go away on its own.

We have talked about the possibility of some kind of therapy, but she does not feel that it could help. She seems to be terrified of having to see any kind of therapist. I feel that somewhere inside, she needs to stay feeling miserable even though she is clearly genuine when she is cursing the terrible life this habit makes for her.

I have every intention of staying with her, but I feel that her obsession and the self-consciousness and misery that come with it are keeping us from getting closer. How can I have more of a role in affecting some kind of change in this? I feel that there are things that I have no control over, but they affect me and the one I love deeply.

—No pock marks

Moles that change color or increase in number: Cause for concern?

1) Dear Alice,

Over the span of the last couple of years, I have noticed a significant number of moles appearing on my body. They have been appearing everywhere from my neck to my inner thighs. I had one on my neck since childhood, but now have so many more. Is this normal? Is it something I should be concerned with? And does child bearing have any relevance to this happening?

2) Dear Alice,

I have a mole which has turned very dark purple, and grown a bit in size (still small). This is the second time it has done this — last time was a couple of weeks ago, and it slowly faded back to almost nothing until today. Should I be very concerned about this?

Wrinkle remedies

Dear Alice,

I am twenty-five years old yet have been noticing a lot of wrinkles around my eyes. I have started to use baby oil as an intense moisturizer — is this a good idea? Do you have any other suggestions for over-the-counter wrinkle remedies?

Bags under the eyes: How? Why?

Dear Alice,

I was wondering what physiological phenomenon makes the pockets below our eyes swell or go blue/dark when we are really tired? I suppose it is blood, but I don't understand why they appear only there, and what makes them come about. I know the best way to get rid of them is sleep, but are there other ways to alleviate them?

Family death five years ago

Dear Alice,

I am a generally happy graduate student here, with family nearby and good friends. However, I wanted to ask if maybe I should try counseling. When I was in my late teens, I had a traumatic family experience (death of a family member). Some months later I entered college, and promptly began to drink like a fish. I don't really know, to this day, how much of it was for fun and companionship and whatever, and how much was to dull the pain of recent events at home. Anyway, I stopped drinking the next year, and have since drunk alcohol with no signs (to me) that I had an alcoholism problem, which was often suggested to me that first year of college.

Now, I am in school, doing what I want, and involved for the last two years with a man I love very much, and who loves me. We are headed for long-term commitment, but I am afraid of wrecking it, because I often feel like I am freaking out and will sometimes cry and become very, very depressed, I think over these events I have mentioned. My guess, unfortunately, is that I have a tendency for melodrama and depression anyway. In which case, I would just try to rein my emotions in and get control of myself. I need some reassurance, I guess.

— Emotion-laden

Family meets faith

Dear Alice,

I have been with my partner for almost six years. We are both from different religions (I'm Muslim and he's Hindu). I would like to raise my children as Muslims. He says we should raise them with both, but I completely disagree with this as I disagree with the religion of Hinduism. I have read a lot about Hinduism and asked him to do the same about Islam for 1 year now—I even gave him the Quran, but he just can't be bothered.

I'm due to go abroad for three months in two months' time, and I think that we should break up because we can't agree on our future. My parents are completely against this marriage, and so is his family. If I marry him, I risk losing my family completely. We are great together because we hardly argue unless it's about religion. I thought, perhaps, if he started reading and asking questions about my religion, he might convert (because then we would not have a problem) or even start to see things in a new light. He is brought up only believing what his parents told him about religion—he does not actually have any proof or evidence telling him what they have been telling him is correct about Hinduism.

I am just tired of this as we are going around in a circle and cannot seem to agree. I already am taking a big step by marrying him even though he is of a different faith. Please help.

Family feuds over furnace

Dear Alice,

Please help a family dispute. What is the optimal temperature to keep the furnace at during the day and night during the winter months, and can keeping the temperature too high result in increased illness?

Family history of breast cancer: When do I need to get a mammogram?

Dear Alice,

If there is a strong family history of breast cancer in the family on the mother's side (including the mother), then how often should the daughters get mammograms and when should they start?

How can I help my family member who struggles with alcohol?

Dear Alice,

My granddad has been an alcoholic for ages — way before I was born. I am really worried about my granddad’s drinking. My father doesn't like me to see him when he is drunk, but that is kind of hard. What are the best groups for alcoholics? And most importantly, what should I do?

Needing A Lot of Help

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