Q. Hello, I was wondering if maybe you could help me figure out what is going on here. I have been having problems for awhile. They’ve always sort of been there, but in the past year or so they have gotten much more intense and I’m worried about it.
I’ve always been pretty paranoid. I’m convinced that people are always watching me, and talking about me, and dislike me. Even when I’m alone, I’m convinced that there are invisible people in the room, or they are just too small for me to see, and that they are watching and recording everything I do. I used to tell them to go away, to try to talk to them and make them leave, but I started feeling like by talking to them I made it worse. And then with regular people, I am always paranoid about them, too. I think they can read my mind, so I try not to think about stuff that would embarrass me. I feel like they are hearing my thoughts. I worry about their motives. I think everyone who talks to me is just setting up an elaborate plan to embarrass, humiliate, insult, or otherwise hurt me. The first boy who ever asked me out, I was convinced for months that it was all a ploy and that he was going to laugh at any second and tell me how stupid I am for believing that someone would love me. And even with my current boyfriend, I still believe he doesn’t love me and is just stringing me along waiting for the right moment to humiliate me. And furthermore, I always think that every time he isn’t around, he is flirting or playing around with other girls.
Other people I’m around, if I hear them laugh, I always instantly think they are laughing at me, something I’ve done wrong. I always feel like I’m being monitored. Even on a computer, a message board, if I leave the window open, the posters on the forum can see me and hear me and are making fun of me. I know it is wrong to think all of this but I can’t help it and I’m always afraid of it. And then there are the voices. It’s usually people in my head, I told my boyfriend about it and he said that I just compartmentalized my own thoughts. But they are still there, and they aren’t my thoughts. I am not thinking them.
There are only three right now. One who says the most, he is angry and hateful and he always wants me to hurt myself and he won’t stop yelling unless I do so. If someone says nice things about me it infuriates him and negates everything the person says. The other one is a woman who is very sad, very melancholy. She tells me how horrible life is, and that it’s not worth living, and that nothing is going to be better. And the last one is a boy, he is happy and bouncy and very active. When he talks to me, he talks so fast. He’s like a hyperactive person. They are usually always there, at least as some sort of background noise. They make it difficult to concentrate on things.
Then there are the other voices I hear that sound like they come from outside of my head. These don’t happen a lot, though, and they don’t say much. Just like segments of a sentence usually, so I think, does maybe this happen to everyone?
There is also the matter of shadows. When I go to sleep at night, the shadows turn into things. There is always one behind my door, and he wants to kill me. He has knives for fingers. He isn’t human. There is one on the roof; he just likes to watch me get scared. I usually have to sleep with the television on because otherwise they are there and I can’t sleep.
I also have very bad mood swings. I go through moods so fast-happy, very happy, like the day could not go wrong. And then at the drop of a hat, I’m so angry I want to hurt someone. But then I just get so depressed. And this happens all in a matter of five minutes. I know that mood swings are a big part of being a female, but is it normal to go so fast all of the time?
But then there are times that I feel completely nothing. I have no feelings, and nothing matters, and I don’t want to do anything. My face goes blank, and I’m usually like that in school. I stay with a blank face, and I stare ahead. Usually I stare like that when I’m thinking too, and people have said it looks like I am staring right through everything. Then there are other times I feel so fast like everything has to be done NOW. These don’t happen a lot though. It’s hard to talk then, because I try to do it so fast, my words come put messed up. I combine words on accident and sometimes I don’t make sense to the person I’m talking to. So I get worried that something is really wrong. I don’t know what it is though.
I talked to my boyfriend, and he said I need to go to a doctor, and I know. I want to but I don’t know where to go. I don’t have enough money for that, and I’m scared of my parents finding out because I don’t want to upset and disappoint them and for them to be ashamed of me. It doesn’t mean I am using you guys for diagnosis or whatever, I know, that is wrong, don’t do that. I just need help to find the right direction I think. Have I given enough information to get a clue of what might be wrong with me? Or can you point me where to go? Are there places that don’t cost a lot but aren’t scams? I just really need some help I think.
A. Thank you for the detailed letter. It helps to give me an idea of the struggles you face on a daily basis. All of the issues that you wrote about, hearing voices, paranoia, mood swings, confusing language, and so forth, are all symptoms that definitely need to be assessed by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. Your instincts to seek help are very accurate and perceptive. I am glad that you and your boyfriend recognize the need to seek treatment. Please do not put off going to seek help.
If you have your own health insurance, you can usually find a phone number listed on the back of the card that is labeled something like “mental health problems,” followed by an 800 number. When you find this number, call your insurance company and speak to them about which doctors you are authorized to see within your health care plan (i.e. inquire if you have to see certain doctors or can you see anyone you want), ask how to make an appointment, how many sessions and medication sessions your insurance company will pay for either with a therapist or a doctor, and finally, ask how much your co-pay will be for each visit. The information that you garner from this phone call should help get you started.
If you have health insurance under your parents’ plan and you want to seek help but do not want your parents to know, this will be difficult because in all likelihood, your parents will be sent a statement from your insurance company after your visit. I hope this does not discourage you from seeking help. You mentioned that you believe your parents would upset or disappointed. I do not know what your relationship with your parents is like but they would probably be more upset if they knew that you felt it was necessary to hide the everyday mental pain and suffering from them just because you did not want to upset them. It would probably be more unsettling for them to find out that their daughter suffered just to protect them. It is not your job to protect them; it’s their job to protect and help you. Consider talking to them about your situation before you seek help and if you are not comfortable with this, it is important that you seek help anyway.
If you do not have health insurance, or mental health insurance, (which even if you have health insurance is not a guarantee that you will have mental health insurance) consider a community mental health center (CMHC). CMHCs provide services oftentimes on a sliding scale fee or sometimes, if you qualify, free of cost. Lastly, if you attend college, you can also be evaluated by their university counseling center. Most university counseling centers have on-staff psychiatrists, along with social workers, and psychologists, and other mental health workers. These services are typically free of cost to registered students and their services are usually exemplary. I hope this answer helps you. Take care and be sure not to put off attending to your own health.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Sep 2007
Randle, K. (2007). Hearing voices, paranoia, mood swings. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 7, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/09/03/hearing-voices-paranoia-mood-swings/