Need Help With My Psychosis Diagnosis

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have been hearing voices for about 12 years. Sometimes I can hear them very clearly and cannot determine if they are real or not. Other times they seem faint and I cannot clearly make out what they are saying. When I go to the store, I believe that I hear people talking about me in there heads, as though I can hear their thoughts. I became very depressed about 3 years ago and the voices were telling me to kill myself, and one night I actually tried.

For as long as I can remember I have felt as though someone is watching me all of the time. I’m even afraid to step out the house at times. I finally started seeing a doctor about a year ago. He prescribed Abilify for my symptoms and after a few weeks, my symptoms started to become minimal. I asked him for a diagnosis and he said that I have psychosis NOS. I don’t like this diagnosis because it does not clearly tell me what I have. My 13 year old daughter is starting to hear the voices too. She thinks that I am saying negative things to her or thinking them in my head, but I’m not. Is it possible that we have some form of schizophrenia? Thanks.

A. Psychotic disorder not otherwise specified (NOS) is a diagnosis often given to individuals who experience psychosis symptoms but who do not match the criteria for other psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. It may be possible that you have a type of schizophrenia and were diagnosed incorrectly. If you are unsatisfied with your current doctor you should seek a second or even a third opinion.

The fact that your daughter is hearing voices is a major concern. If you haven’t already done so, have her evaluated by a physician. During the evaluation, be certain to report your symptom history. This information can help the evaluator better understand what may be happening with your daughter.

Seeking out alternative opinions may help. The only way to know for certain would be to try. What I find encouraging is that medication has almost completely eliminated your symptoms. It is important to emphasize this great news.

Be careful not to spend too much of your time and energy searching for the “right” diagnosis. Psychiatric and psychological professionals use the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) as a guide for diagnosing mental health disorders but it is not a perfect system. Individuals often report being evaluated by several mental health professionals and each time, receiving a different diagnosis. Each evaluator believes his or her diagnosis to be the most accurate. It is difficult to know which one is the most correct.

Does the cause matter more than the cure? I am not certain. It is a difficult and perhaps impossible question to answer. Legitimate arguments can be made for both sides. In my experience, it seems that finding the best and most effective treatment is much more important and meaningful than finding the “right” diagnosis. I wish you the best. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Feb 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2011). Need Help With My Psychosis Diagnosis. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/02/03/need-help-with-diagnosis/

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