Am I Mentally Ill?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I know I’m only 16 but the reason I’m sending this in here is because I’m afraid of not being taken seriously by anyone close to me I talk to because of my age.

I haven’t been diagnosed but I have suffered from depression for the last year – I don’t feel a diagnosis or talking to a counselor would help and I don’t want to worry my mother by telling her and seeming melo-dramatic etc.

I’ve learnt to get along with feeling sad most of the time, though sometimes I can’t explain my behavior to. I’ve always been very eccentric especially when with friends, though I enjoy being alone much more than being with friends as I enjoy my own company and find it easier to cope when not in front of people (I often find myself crying or bursting out at those around me when around people for too long – I can’t handle intimacy.)

Throughout the last three months things have gotten much better but at the same time much worse. My bouts of depression have become mellower – but lasting for longer and progressively build up (During abouts three weeks) and by the end I completely isolate myself, cannot handle any form of face to face communication and feel suicidal. This severe stage lasts for about two days then within minutes I will literally be happy as ever and stay this way for about a day. I know this sounds like I’m bipolar but I feel I can deal with that – I’m not going to do anything rash, doing that to my family wouldn’t be fair.

It’s the other changes in my mind I can’t deal with. I’ve always had nightmares like every other person but over the last couple of months they have gotten to really worry me. One night I was dreaming of being strangled to death by someone I couldn’t see in my bedroom and woke up to find MY hands gripping my throat. This has happened a few times since but has not been an overwhelming worry as it’s happening less and less. It is at night time when I’m worried the most though. I have constant trouble getting to sleep at a decent time even when in bed for hours (it’s now getting in the way with school work) as I’m up all night in bed scared to fall asleep in case I’m attacked by something. Recently I’ve been full on hallucinating which is really what has driven me to do something about what’s going on.

There was a woman lying next to me the other night, I could literally feel her next to me and hear her plain as day when she said “You don’t have to do it”. There have been other times when I see reflections of myself moving in the reflection of my tv when I’m sitting dead still in my bed. I’ve since started sleeping with a lamp on.

I just want to know what I should do, I implied my night terrors and the happenings to my mum and she didn’t take me seriously. I only wanted to know what she thought I should do.

Letting things get worse is the last thing I want to do, but I don’t want to over react and worry everyone and suddenly proclaim I’m unstable. I know I have tendencies to be, but that’s my business. Is there anything you would suggest to help me? What’s wrong with me? And how can I stop it?

A. You believe that asking for help is not necessary. You don’t think it would be beneficial and you worry that it could make you seem melodramatic. I understand your reasoning for not wanting to ask for help but it would be ill-advised to rule it out.

You also mention that you “implied” to your mother that you are having problems. She didn’t take you seriously. I’m not certain what you meant by the term implied but I take it to mean that you did not provide her with many details about your issues. Perhaps she did not take you seriously because you withheld many important facts from her. I suspect that you did not tell her the full truth. If you were to speak to her and tell her exactly what you are experiencing then she may take you seriously. I would strongly encourage you to do this. If she does not know that there is a problem then it is going to be difficult for her to provide you adequate help.

I think counseling would be very beneficial to you. You should consider it. As you mention in some ways you are able to handle your problems but on the other hand they seem to be getting worse. When you have bouts of depression they last longer than they used to and are more severe. The periods of depression also include thoughts of suicide. These are signs that help is needed.

I’m also concerned with your sleep disturbances and hallucinations. The hallucinations may be related to the inability to sleep but it also may signify an underlying mental health disorder. The only way to know what is in fact occurring is to be evaluated by a mental health professional. A sleep study may also be in order.

It is encouraging that you have periods in your life when you feel good. Ultimately you’d want to have only periods of positivity and happiness and to eliminate the bouts of depression. It is not unusual for individuals to feel sadness from time to time. Those feelings happen to everyone and are relatively normal. It is not normal or healthy to have extended periods of depression that are characterized by suicidal thinking. That is why it is important that you consider counseling.

You asked about what you can do to address your problems and I believe the best course of action would be to speak to your mother. Have an honest conversation with her about what you are struggling with. Don’t imply what you’re problems are, tell her the complete truth. Maybe then she would take you seriously and get you the help that you need and deserve. Thank you for your question and I wish you the best of luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Dec 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Am I Mentally Ill?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/12/20/am-i-mentally-ill/