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Do I Have Schizophrenia?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From a teen in Malaysia: I don’t know whether I’m being paranoid or not, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Since I was young (started around 10) I’ve been talking to people that aren’t there. I’ve never had any hallucination or delusions, I know what is real and what is not, and I can control whenever I talk to myself. I never do it in public, only behind closed doors. I don’t fully talk to myself, it’s more like I mumble. The strange thing I noticed is that most people with schizophrenia have fixed people in their heads and regular hallucinations. However, I can make the “people” I talk to in my head whoever I want them to be. The “people” I talk to are never fictionally created by me, they’re always people who actually exist in the world. I also tend to create scenarios in my head, and these can affect the conversations I have with myself. I remember that when I was younger I used to come up with outrageous stories to impress my friends, but I wouldn’t consider them delusions because I knew they weren’t real.

I noticed that signs of schizophrenia start at around my current age, but this has been going on for several years already. I’m frankly quite confused because I know something is wrong with me but I don’t seem to share similar symptoms with schizophrenic people. I’m also too afraid to tell my parents about it, I know they would overreact and think I’m insane. I can’t seem to figure out what my problem is, but the closest thing that it comes to is schizophrenia. I want to know what kind of issue I might have before I go see a specialist and get a full diagnosis, so that I know what it is I’m looking for.

Because something isn’t usual or isn’t usually known doesn’t mean that it is a symptom of a mental illness. There may be nothing “wrong” with you except that you have a talent or a way to solve problems that isn’t well publicized.

Many people talk themselves through a task or a problem. Sometimes it is audible to others. Often, they manage to keep it to themselves. Many people create scenarios and stories as a way to think about people’s interactions with each other or to problem-solve. Sometime people who practice dialogue this way become novelists or screen writers or play writers. Others simply use their well practiced skill to entertain their children and friends.Your letter suggests to me that you are an especially creative person who, at a young age, happened on a way to entertain and help herself.

I am concerned that you are causing yourself a great deal of distress by looking for a diagnosis. I’m not as concerned as you are. You know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t. You aren’t hearing consistent voices in your head. You report that you are not having hallucinations or delusions. From what you said, your story telling isn’t hurting you or anyone else.

I can’t, of course, discount a mental health issue on the basis of just a letter. It’s always wise to get concerns checked out — if only for peace of mind. If this continues to be a concern, do consider an evaluation by a mental health professional to settle the question once and for all.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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