So I’ll start by saying that about a year and a half ago I suffered an intense panic/anxiety attack whilst on cannabis. This was catalyzed by an intense fear that I’d somehow triggered schizophrenia by smoking and I was basically doomed. Since then I would say that I’ve developed a phobia of having schizophrenia, I guess you could call it a schizophrenia OCD, where I always fear I’m developing delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, etc; a fear that i’m in the prodrome of schizophrenia essentially.
After this panic attack I felt spaced out and dissociated (depersonalization/derealisation), which led me to continue to worry that I was becoming insane. I sought professional help via a psychologist, who diagnosed me with GAD and health anxiety after an evaluation and an extensive 200 question screening test that came back to show that I undoubtedly had an anxiety disorder. I continued to see him over the course of a few months and even at my worst, when I definitely thought I was delusional, he still maintained that I had anxiety.
My concern is (now) this: about 4-5 years ago, around the age 20-21, I went through a pretty rough time in my life where I was pretty down and had low self esteem. I guess looking back you could say that I was self medicating through alcohol and cannabis, but I thought I was just living it up with my friends and “being young” at college. During this time I was receiving benefits from the government for my degree and also working a cash-in-hand job, so I was earning a decent enough wage. I began to worry that I would eventually be caught for this tax evasion, as I had earned a sizeable amount of undeclared cash, and I was concerned that the tax office would somehow find out about my indiscretions and I would either receive a hefty fine or have some sort of criminal punishment if I couldn’t pay the fine (which I couldn’t). I even was hesitant to speak on the phone about my hours and how much money I was earning incase the tax office cracked down on tax evasion and obtained a bunch of phone records etc.
I wasn’t delusional/paranoid beyond rationality, and when I spoke to my friends/family about my concerns they were able to talk about the options and the likely hood of this actually happening, which helped. It didn’t rule my life or significantly impact on my life, but I guess I just felt really guilty that I was breaking the law?
My question is…maybe this worry/paranoia that I experienced a few years ago is somehow linked and I was experiencing prodromal psychosis way back then, but I didn’t realise. I chalked it up to being pretty down and feeling pretty worthless, coupled with the fact that I WAS in fact doing the wrong thing.
I receive many letters from people who experience similar fears about having used drugs and subsequently developing schizophrenia. It seems to be a relatively common fear.
The letters that I receive are anecdotal evidence of the danger of drug use. The most dangerous aspect of using street drugs is that they are unregulated. They may contain any number of poisons and you simply don’t know where they come from and how they have been treated.
Your episode of concern occurred years ago. You became “paranoid” about your engaging in tax evasion. Strictly speaking, your paranoia was warranted. You were engaging in illegal behavior and were worried about getting caught. Your concern was justified.
The difference between your paranoia about tax evasion and the paranoia that people with psychotic disorders experience, is that yours was warranted and theirs is not. People with psychotic disorders are frightened of something occurring to them that in fact has very little or no chance of occurring. Their concerns are not based in reality. They believe something to be true that in fact is not true and has no basis in reality.
The diagnosis of schizophrenia requires a certain set of symptoms for a specific length of time. I cannot provide a diagnosis over the Internet but what you’ve written does not seem to be suggestive of schizophrenia. To further support that, you were evaluated by a psychologist who asked you over 200 questions and it was determined that you had anxiety and not schizophrenia.
If you continue to have anxiety, then it would be wise to begin counseling. Counseling can be quite effective for anxiety, particularly by helping you stay focused on reality. I hope that I’ve answer your question but if you have additional concerns please don’t hesitate to write again. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle