ETCETERA / ANgST: Expert advice on your problems

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The 13-year-old son of a very close friend is using cannabis, but I don't think she realises. I feel very worried about what to do, because I don't know whether it is something she wants to be told, or how she would feel about the fact that I know and she doesn't. I feel it could damage our friendship. On the other hand it seems negligent not to tell her, as her son may be putting himself at risk. What should I do?

Would you, as a parent, want to have this information? If so, the responsible thing is to tell your friend what you know. The parents of the boy are ultimately responsible for him and if he may be damaging his health or getting involved in a dangerous drug culture, they should know so they can decide what they want to do. But perhaps you should look at your concerns about telling your friend - is there a competitive undercurrent in your friendship? Do you fear she will feel you are implicitly criticising her parenting? Would you feel like this if she told you your child was using drugs? It should not be a problem if you tell your friend in an unemotional and non- judgmental way what you know. She should be grateful and see it as an act of friendship.

Janet Reibstein, Doctor of Psychology, Cambridge Consultation Centre. Tel: 0223 359260.

I am 37 and divorced. I had an intense 18-month affair with a man who used to work in my office. He left the office soon after it started, and that made things more relaxed. We had a lot of fun together and he really seemed to care for me, but then he told me he didn't want the affair to continue. I was terribly upset and friends were very supportive, but they told me I'd feel fine in a year. It's now 2 1/2 years since it finished and I still think about him every day. I know he has a new woman in his life and I am obsessed with painful thoughts about it. I even sometimes phone and hang up when there is an answer. I do want to get over this affair but I don't know how to do it.

When an affair comes to an end it can be intensely painful. The fact that it was sudden and not of your own choosing makes it worse. It sounds as if you were never given the opportunity to talk it through with him and at least understand why the affair had ended. This makes it more difficult to come to terms with. It could be that you are suppressing a lot of anger over the end of the affair which can result in depression and could be contributing towards the obsessional thoughts you have about your ex-lover and the new woman. Try rebuilding your dented self-confidence by seeing your good friends and also making new ones. Pursue interests where you will meet people in a natural setting. If you feel this is too hard without help, consider counselling with Relate to help pick up the pieces of your life again.

Zelda West-Meads, counsellor, Relate, Herbert Gray College, Little Church Street, Rugby CV21 3AP.

I am coming up to 15 and so preparing for my GCSEs. I hoped that by this time I would be used to exams as we have quite a few tests at my comprehensive, but I still get very nervous and terrified that my mind will go blank. I get quite bad stomach aches when I know we are due to have a test. It worries me a lot as I don't know how I am going to cope with GCSEs when the time comes. Can you help me?

You probably feel very alone with this problem, but in fact it is extremely common for people of your age to worry about exams. It is a good idea to talk about your anxieties with a parent, teacher or friend who may be able to help you feel calmer. There are also some strategies you might try. Taking exercise can use up nervous energy, so perhaps you could walk to school instead of taking the bus or getting a ride on the days when you have tests and exams. Eat a proper breakfast, because this will feed your brain. And food can settle a worried stomach. Many people sit up late the night before an exam, but this may mean you go to sleep feeling anxious and do not get proper rest. It is far better to finish, say, early evening; do something enjoyable, relax and perhaps get a bit of exercise before bed. If it is allowed, take something reassuring like a mascot into the exam with you. And try to avoid panicking about having only a short time, because your mind may go blank then. Read the questions twice, jot down notes and be sure you have thought through the answer before starting to write. If the anxiety persists and is too problematic, you might like to see an educational psychologist.

Dr Debra Roker, Trust for the Study of Adolescence, 23 New Road, Brighton BN1 WZ. Tel: 0273 693311.

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