Teen Feels “Different”

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am 14 years old, I am female, and I have known I was different ever since I was about seven years old. When I was seven, these “voices” started talking in my head. I didn’t know any different, but what they were saying scared me. When I used to watch television and people would come on the show, the voice in my head would constantly say “I hope they die” or horrific things like, “I hope they get cancer”. I used to talk back saying “No. No I don’t. Go away, leave me alone”, and it upset me. I spent a whole year being scared and feeling terrible when the voices started talking about my mother. They still come back sometimes, and I always have to reply saying “No, i don’t” or “No, go away”. I used to have compulsions, such as tapping things that I already touched once a certain number of times (usually even numbers, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc), and before i was ‘allowed’ to sleep, I had to recite the alphabet (in my head) about 16+ times every night, as well as opening doors over and over again and lights. There are more compulsions but there are too many to list. These went on and off for about four years.

When I was eleven years old, I had a very bizarre and strong fear of not being able to sleep. Around new years time I could not sleep at all, and I started getting paranoid that i would never sleep again. So the compulsions came back stronger and I HAD to go to bed at the same time every night; 8:00 PM. This overtook my life, and i would be in constant fear of not being able to fall asleep. Again, these died down after about a year.

This year, (now 14 years old) the obsessions have worsened A LOT. I have been in constant worry about things that won’t happen, i have had false memories, i’ve had to constantly confess to my mother (stupid little things), I’ve had horrifying thoughts and images in my head, i am paranoid, and a lot more. I also went through a period of thinking I was a monster, the scum of the Earth (even though I would never EVER do anything like the thoughts), I was afraid I liked the images and thoughts (but I don’t, they were horrible and disturbing). I still have daily compulsions, and I have periods of being afraid of getting diseases. I also have hoarding issues (i keep everything, because i worry that i will regret getting rid of them) and I have a special order for some possessions. I’m scared writing this will trigger it all again.

I have also always felt like I was different. I have a huge imagination, and am generally curious. I create worlds in my mind, with characters, some with strange names like “No” and “9″. I sometimes get confused as to whether I am in fantasy or reality (I prefer fantasy), and I believe in magic and the paranormal a lot. Anyway, there is this wolf that follows me around and “protects” me called Fate. He controls the future and what will happen if I do certain things. He is the good friend. “No” is the bad friend. He puts the bad thoughts and images into my mind and I can sense his presence (I feel uneasy, often like I am being touched by some unseen force. I talk to them a lot, usually telling “No” to leave me alone. I don’t physically see them, but I can imagine them and sense that they are here. I believe in a lot of magical beliefs (that no one else does) including psychics, aliens, ESP, ghosts and future reading (which has happened to me before). I have some sort of paranoid personality. I am constantly scared about hidden cameras behind mirrors, people watching me or looking for me, the government listening in on me, things in outer space watching or listening to me. I was convinced there were hidden cameras in the toilets at school, and I therefore would NEVER go. I always thought people were talking and laughing about me, and people always seem to be looking at me. I don’t like mirrors because I am scared people are behind them, watching me, or they are portals into another dimension or my reflection will move when I don’t etc.

Last year, I had an extreme anxiety that people were plotting to kill or attack me, and I thought they would. I couldn’t sleep or eat, I was always afraid. Some of these obsessions have interfered with school, and I have tried to tell my mother, but she said I will “grow out of it” or “seeing a psychiatrist will not help you get a job”. Please help me.

I can get very irritable sometimes. I have a low self esteem and do not really care for personal hygeine like I should. I am very shy and I talk to myself a lot. I frequently I “zone out” and forget where i am for a minute (often like you are when you first wake up). I can block out people talking and all noise when this happens and I don’t blink during this. My speak patterns are weird too; sometimes I can be very talkative and have a lot to say (not in front of strangers though), sometimes I stutter or completely miss words out of sentences and sometimes I completely forget what I was going to say. There are times when I am shy, withdrawn and “empty” and I won’t say much if anything at all.

Also, sometimes I feel extremely angry, and my moods change, one minute I am very sad, and the next minute I am happy. I don’t know if it is because I am a teenager or something else. I am also scared of attacking people, sometimes I get a sudden urge to and it scares me. (I don’t mean seriously attack them, I mean hit loved ones etc). I frequently get headaches too.

Earlier this year my obsessions were weight-related. I HAD to burn off thousands of calories each day. This became a serious compulsion and interfered with my school. I lost a lot of weight too. I also started self-harming. A voice in my head kept telling me “nobody likes you”, or “you are ugly and deserve this”. It made me feel better. It was like a release. I have stopped now though. I still have compulsions which are a part of my life now.

Is this OCD? Paranoia? Schizophrenia? Schizotypal? I’m so confused, I just want to understand myself.

I know there were more things I wanted to talk about, but I have forgotten. Please help me. Thank you very much, take care. :)

A: This is an incredibly well-written and articulate letter for someone who is only 14. I’m afraid I’m not going to be much help. As detailed as your letter is, I have too many unanswered questions. There are a number of both medical and psychological illnesses that share some or all of the same symptoms. I therefore can’t tell you what’s wrong. I can only tell you what you already know: What you are reporting is not typical or considered “normal.” The thoughts and compulsions take up a lot of time and interfere with your ability to function in regular life. I imagine it’s hard to make and keep friends, to do your school work or even to develop your interests.

You didn’t mention whether you have shared any of this with your parents or your doctor. You need to. No one should have to go through days of fending off threatening voices. No one should be such a prisoner to her own compulsions that she can’t do life.

Fortunately, there is medicine and therapy that can tone all this down. But in order to get treatment, you have to be willing to see a mental health provider and to be as honest in the initial interview as you have been in your letter. In fact, a good way to start is to simply share your letter with the counselor. You did a fabulous job summarizing the issues.

Writing this letter was an important first step in getting the help you need and deserve. I hope you’ll follow up and make the next step. Ask your parents to help you find a counselor who specializes in teen issues.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jan 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Teen Feels “Different”. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/01/04/teen-feels-different/