I am a 23 male veterinary student. I grew up with great parents in a wealthy neighborhood and was given and continue to be given everything I need in life. I am very social, have tons of friends and am able to fully function in everyday life. I have been trying to figure out what is wrong with me for a few weeks now, mainly because my problem is interfering with my life more and more. I have never discussed this issue with anyone, not even my doctor. Since I have been in second grade, in private, I have the urge to shake my hands in the air. While shaking my hands i am going through day to day life situations of another person. I have a house, furniture, kids etc all pretending to be this other person. I can only pretend while shaking my hands. I used to only be able to do this in private, but now, if I shake a pencil in my hand, I can pretend as well, which I do in class, while in public etc. I have no idea why I do this, I dont even think I want to be the person I am pretending/daydreaming about while doing this. Any ideas?
A. Two possibilities come to mind: you may be experiencing a state of disassociation or there may be a neurological explanation. Disassociation is characterized by a loss of the connection of an individual’s thoughts, memories or their sense of identity. People can experience disassociation on a continuum. For example, a minor to mild case of disassociation may be experienced when a person becomes “lost” in a book or a movie. This is a common experience that many people can relate to. A more severe and concerning level of disassociation may occur when an individual begins to believe that they are someone else and has difficulty “coming back to” who they are. It’s also concerning if an individual has difficulty deciphering reality and finds themselves increasingly living in a fantasy world.
I also mentioned above the possibility of a neurological disorder. It is important that you rule out a possible medical cause. My advice is to make an appointment with your primary care doctor, speak to him or her about your symptoms and ask to be referred to a neurologist. Neurologists are essentially brain doctors. Brains are their specialty. I would highly recommend that you be examined by a neurologist to be certain that nothing medical is causing the shaking of your hands and the accompanying disassociation. Seeing a neurologist to rule out a medical cause is the best place to start.
It would also be advisable that you speak to a professional therapist about this issue. You can do this while you’re undergoing medical testing or after a medical cause has been ruled out. I suggest professional counseling because as I mentioned above, this problem may be an issue of disassociation. If you choose to see a therapist, then you’ll want to choose one who specializes in dissociative disorders. I’m not suggesting nor could I know if you have a dissociative disorder, but if you are experiencing disassociation then it’s helpful to have someone who’s specifically trained to treat those types of issues.
It is important that you take action and be evaluated by both a neurologist and a mental health professional. The obvious concern is that you may have a medical condition that needs to be treated. As you noted in your letter, it does seem that this problem is increasing. I hope you will take my advice and be evaluated. Thank you for your question. Good luck.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Nov 2009
Randle, K. (2009). Shaking of Hands and Pretending To Be Someone Else. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 1, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/11/13/shaking-of-hands-and-pretending-to-be-someone-else/