Schizophrenia or Isolated Incident?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hello, I’ve been diagnosed with depression since I was about 16 years old and I have dealt with the problem on and off again for the last 7 years. When I was 18 years old, my father was murdered and my family was emotionally devastated. I wasn’t close to my dad but I felt the impact it had on my family, before the people responsible were found and arrested, my family and I became worried about potentially being followed by and hurt by the same people who killed y father. To make matters worse, media and news outlets were broadcasting images of our home and I personally became extremely paranoid and fearful of my family and I being harmed by the men responsible for killing my father and feared being persecuted by them and these thoughts eventually dissipated soon after a few weeks or months. Fast forward three years later just before I turned 21, I became incredibly obsessed with death and dying and I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I did fairly well from the end of 2011 through 2012 but at the beginning of 2013 another death in the family shook me up and I had another depressive and anxious episode. This has continued through most of 2013 but has not been as intense as it was two years before. Over the past few months, since about September I’ve become very worried that I may have schizophrenia or perhaps an undiagnosed personality or obsessive compulsive disorder. I do not experience hallucinations or delusions but sometimes before falling asleep I do sometimes “hear” or experience loud feedback like sound or bangs and this has further made me worry about the possibility of being schizophrenic. Recently I remembered my fear of being persecuted or watched after the death of my father but this was an isolated incident and I’m not sure if it is indicative of a possible issue with schizophrenia or not. I do see a talk therapist and have shared this fear before but have yet to go into detail with them ( I can only see them while school is in session). Am I schizophrenic? Or is it just anxiety or maybe OCD making me think things that aren’t true? Is my situation more “legitimate” as the possibility of being in danger was more real? Thanks.

A. You have raised some good questions. With regard to your fear and paranoia about your family being in danger after your father was murdered, I see this as “legitimate” fear. At the height of your fear, the killer had not been caught. Your home was being featured on the nightly news and thus everyone watching knew where you lived, which may have included the perpetrator of your father’s murder. Your fear was perfectly justified in that situation.

In recent months, you have become worried that you have schizophrenia or another mental health disorder. Your primary reason for believing that you may be developing a mental health disorder includes hearing noises before falling asleep. That is not an uncommon occurrence. Many people have similar experiences when they are on the verge of sleep. I would not consider that a symptom of schizophrenia or any other mental health disorder (in the absence of other symptoms).

It’s impossible to provide a diagnosis over the Internet. Given the information you have provided, schizophrenia seems like an unlikely possibility. I would recommend having a mental health evaluation. The advantage is that the evaluator can collect all of the necessary information about your psychosocial history and determine if a diagnosis is warranted. It would also be advantageous to speak to a primary care physician about your sleep concerns. He or she may suggest having a sleep study to rule out a possible sleep disorder.

You’ve experienced a great deal of trauma in your life, perhaps more than the average person. It’s encouraging that you are undergoing counseling. You’re doing what you should be doing but it’s important to be completely open and honest with your therapist. The more information you provide to your therapist, the more he or she can help you. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Jan 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Schizophrenia or Isolated Incident?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/01/24/schizophrenia-or-isolated-incidence/

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