OCD & Fear of Schizophrenia

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

As a kid I had two large episodes of anxiety, once when I was 9 and once when I was 12. Both times were due to fear of religion, afterlife, death, etc. I had been exposed to a junior camp counselor that informed me of all these things and I would go home scared, often thinking about death and how I would not have my family with me. I would break down and cry regularly. Both instances lasted around two weeks to a month.

I am now 21. The period of my life between 12 and 21 I always called myself the “overthinker”. If I have a close friend that I regularly text and he/she doesn’t respond and I know they were out late that night, I start to worry that something might have happened. I would also have thoughts like, “what if I end up gay one day?” or “what if I end up being a serial killer one day?”. These thoughts and questions would not plague me consistently as I would brush them off after a few minutes of thinking, until recently.

Two weeks ago the question came up again. “What if I end up gay?” I started to worry more and more. I started to “check” myself when I went out when I see a man walk by to see if I would be sexually attracted to them. Shortly after this begun, I read online about someone who had a similar fear, but with pedophilia. Unsurprisingly, after reading his personal story, I started getting worried, “what if one day I become a pedophile?” and started checking myself in a similar manner. As the days went on, my fears grew and now they encompass a greater variety unfortunately. I saw a man that looked familiar the other day and my mind told me “what if he’s the cause of your fears? what if somehow he’s conspiring against you?”.

At that moment, I grew very anxious. I was very scared because I don’t know why my mind jumped to that conclusion and I was also scared because a part of me asked “what if my initial thought was right?”. After a few hours of stress, the anxiety wore off and I had a moment of clarity where I started to worry..what if I’m developing schizophrenia? Today at my mother’s office, a few clients would stop by or people would be sitting on the benches outside the window and in my head I would say to myself, “could these men be out to get me?” but I would battle it and say “that’s ridiculous, stop worrying, stop stressing about it” yet the thoughts keep coming. Of course the thoughts wear out later on and I feel my head clear up again.

Either way, I’ve read that schizophrenics have very similar if not the same fears. Fear of people “out to get them” etc… do I have schizophrenia? I tell myself these thoughts are irrational and not possible, but I don’t know if I’m telling myself that to remain sane or if I’m telling myself that because I don’t want to be schizophrenic. Someone please help.

A. I’m not certain if you’ve ever been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but anxiety seems to affect your life. That was the case for you as a child. It was a problem then, and it seems to be a problem now.

It’s not uncommon for people with anxiety disorders, especially those with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and those who are focused on health-related problems, to believe that they have schizophrenia. For people with high anxiety, they tend to fear what they perceive to be the “worst-case scenario.” In their view, schizophrenia falls into that category.

A diagnosis of schizophrenia requires that an individual experience a certain number of symptoms for a specific length of time. I cannot provide a diagnosis over the Internet but nothing you have written suggests that you have schizophrenia.

If you have not done so already, I would recommend consulting a mental health professional about your concerns. Anxiety is highly treatable with both medication and psychotherapy. Counseling could help you to stay grounded in reality and objectively determine if your fears are realistic. Untreated anxiety can significantly disrupt your life but treated anxiety ensures that won’t happen. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Aug 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). OCD & Fear of Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/08/11/ocd-fear-of-schizophrenia/