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Could writing computer code help you avoid feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and despair?

Could writing computer code help you avoid feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and despair?

Today, I am going to unveil a theory I have been working on for over 10 tens years, but first I’m going to explain a little about how I arrived at this theory. I’ve worked in computers since the days when the PC was first invented and I am now nearly 50 years of age.

So we’re talking something like 25-30 years working around computers, whether this be installing them, programming them or managing them.

Now, I myself have an anxiety related illness that 10 years ago led to chronic panic attacks and finally to an emotional breakdown. I had learning difficulties as a child, again because of anxiety and an inability to concentrate. Yet, I had a very deep interest in learning and when computers came along took to them like a duck to water.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, as my career in computers progressed I found that my desire for programming got stronger and ended in me purchasing nearly every book on computer programming in the Waterstones shop. Equipped with such a library you would have thought that I would turn out to be a master programmer, yet the reverse turned out to be true.

As I read the book, my mind would begin to drift off elsewhere, I would suddenly feel overwhelmed and extremely tired and when I got back to the code I was reading I found I had lost the thread of the script and had to start all over again. If I did manage to learn an algorithm, my anxiety would come a day or two later and almost entirely erase the model in my head.

I found this extremely frustrating and my enthusiasm for computing began to wane, although I always remained hopeful that I would find a way to overcome this problem.

Well, it took me nearly 30 years to understand this problem and only a short time this evening to write the solution out to my cousin John on Skype.

Here is the problem and here is the solution.
With people who have emotional problems, memory can be a real problem and so can continuity of thought. It is like having a mind that has limited integrity. It means that you can be trying to work out a problem on one day and begin to get a result, but when you come back to the problem the next day, you have forgetten some of what you learnt the day before and so you have to start all over again, or at least further back than you should – and so it goes on. This is because emotional instablity is continously erasing some of you memory.

The only way I have found to ensure such a mindset remains consistent with programming is to have someone looking over my shoulder as I code, putting me right and being patient with me until such a time as the programming ability is burnt into my psyche.

People with mental disorders live in a world of abstraction and by helping them focus on using their hands and eyes to construct logical statements and build code that returns fantastic results, these people are effectively reprogramming their reality and in turn re-programming their way beyond their mental illness.
I believe that learning programming is a way out of my mental fragility. At least for me!

It brings cognitive alignment, concentration, increase in self esteem, potential income, interest, friendships and a sense of belonging.

If you are someone who would love to learn programming and have had difficulties with anxiety, depression and concentration contact me at

I don’t have any formal qualifications in the field of treating mental illness, but I have spent most of my life fighting with it and the majority of this time, working to alleviate it (until very recently) on my own.

All the best,


Written by Stephen

Steve Ryan is the co-founder of Young Web Builder with Oliver Neely.

  • Johnny

    Yes I really do get what you are saying Stephen.
    I am someone who has had problems with mental health but instead of programming I spend hours photographing everything from the cat to the sunset outside. I actually found a method called the Linden method which suggested doing this to cure my panic attacks and get me out the house. So I started taking photos of my bedroom and slowly moved outside and then last week found myself on a plane heading off to see my family in Dublin. So yes, it does work and I reckon if you are a guy into computers rather than photography this type of activity could really help you. Try it out, what has anyone got to lose.

  • testing

    I enjoyed reading this article and can relate to it in a way.
    I am in my mid 20s and have been on medication for depression the past 4 years. Last year I began to stop taking medication as my goal was to be off it completley. Now it has been about a year, and although I am coping better, I still get small symptoms of depression everyday- such as aniexty and racing thoughts-which lead to difficulty in concerntrating.
    I recently changed my major to programming and now concerned if I can do well in it or pusure a career in programming since I find myself struggling to think logically/solve problems when coding., mainly because of my inability to concentrate.
    I am happy to hear that you found a solution to your problem and will use it as an inspiration.