I am 21 and I was diagnosed a few days ago with severe anxiety. My psychiatrist told me I covered all the bases of anxiety except social anxiety because I love being around people. I have GAD, OCD, phobias, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and attachment issues. This all started four months ago when I was laying on the couch and suddenly had the overwhelming fear of getting hallucinations or hearing voices. A few days after that I decided to look up what mental illness has hallucinations or hears voices. I found that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder hear voices and have hallucinations. I have a very sensitive mind so I started thinking if I had the fear of having hallucinations then maybe I would get schizophrenia. I read that schizophrenic people feel they are being controlled by things/people, they hear voices, have hallucinations, and sometimes even think to kill people. Ever since I looked up how a schizophrenic person thinks I began to have thoughts like them. Id have intrusive thoughts if I was washing the dishes with someone and had a knife Id think of killing them. If I looked somewhere Id be afraid of having a hallucination pop up there. If I’m alone Id be afraid of hearing voices. And many other things that a schizophrenic person thinks. However, I know none of these thoughts are real. I am well aware of my reality and that this is probably just a massive fear and brought on by my severe anxiety. It’s also very confusing to me because if I’m with people or my mind is highly occupied I do not have any bad thoughts, but when I’m alone or my mind is not being occupied these thoughts swarm my mind. Ever since this all started though, I have had to quit my job, I hardly leave the house because almost every move I make I think thoughts of a schizophrenic person and it freaks me out! So I have some questions about all this. Can me fearing becoming a schizophrenic so strongly make me a schizophrenic? Why did I suddenly have the thought that I was going to have hallucinations or hear voices? Why won’t these thoughts stop? why do I constantly think thoughts that a schizophrenic would think? Why is it when I’m talking to people and my mind is occupied I don’t think these horrible thoughts? (age 21, from US)
Thanks for writing in with your questions. From what you are describing here, I would agree with your psychiatrist that it is all part of the anxiety disorders. Fearing that you could become schizophrenic cannot make you have schizophrenia. It is a biologically based disorder and no amount of worrying about it could cause you to develop it. Many of the other fears you mention are common to anxiety disorders, even the fear about harming someone with a knife. Both anxiety disorders and depression can cause something called rumination. It is when certain thoughts loop through your mind over and over to the point of obsession. Your best bet is to work with your psychiatrist and therapist if you have one. If you don’t also have a therapist, I would recommend that you get one because medication alone can only do so much. The therapist can help you learn techniques to better control your thought processes, giving the medications time to work on the biochemical level.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts