Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: A friend repeatedly sends me long e-mails about how her mom continually degrades her and drives her to hit herself and fall into mood swings. She sends me articles on symptoms of depression and asks me for advice. I suggested she seek advice from a health professional, as had been stated in the article she sent, but she got angry at me and accused me of not paying attention to her situation.

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I have run out of things to say to her. Every time I suggest therapy, she says she knows everything she needs to know. Help.

Answer: You've already told her - rightly - so that's not the issue here.

Now the issue is backing up your advice, because your friend doesn't want to get help, she just wants the warm, reassuring presence of her friend, and who can blame her? Therapy is difficult and scary and solitary, where having friends tell you how worried they are about you is so validating and it's right there on her phone.

Every listening session helps her avoid treatment.

So from now on:

She: Sends long e-mail and asks you for advice.

You: "I am not qualified to help you. Please talk to a therapist."

She: Gets angry. "You're not paying attention to my situation!!"

You: "I am paying attention, and I know I'm in over my head. Would you like my help in finding a doctor or therapist?"

She: "I already know what I need to know."

You: "OK, then. You're still upset and seeking my advice, though, so it does appear otherwise."

She: Some other expression of disapproval.

You: "I'm sorry to hear that. When you're ready to make an appointment, let me know how I can help."

End of discussion on this topic. Converse as usual otherwise.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.