I’m 17 and ever since I was young I have always had anxious feelings about those around me, and that I’m going to be murdered. It’s all I can think about. I feel that hearing about the vast number of horrific murders there are lately in society plays a big part in the way I feel. I have the constant feeling that in the night me and my family will be horribly killed, with a knife or an axe. I am terribly afraid of knives and freak out even when my father is holding one in the kitchen. It makes me feel out of control and that if somebody decided to stab me they could just do it so easily? Sometimes I will lie in bed at 2am trying to get to sleep, with the image of somebody coming up the stairs to kill me. I have to check around my room before I lie down, before and after turning off the lights! I can’t be in the house alone even in the day time because I feel like being murdered is inevitable. I can’t even have a shower without thinking about it. Lately it has kept me up at night and will bring me to tears, to the point where I will have to wake up my father to feel safe.

I feel like I’m going crazy. Even my heartbeat sounds like footsteps at night, and I freak out even more when I try to understand if I’m going mad or not. What I’m even more terrified about, is that if I lose control and lose my state of mind, I worry that I could sleepwalk and kill my family my sleep. Writing it out makes it feel even more ridiculous and pathetic than when I think about it, but I’m scared. What is wrong with me?

A: Thanks for writing in with your question. It sounds like your fears and obsessions are getting worse and you are becoming miserable. I cannot offer an official diagnosis without a formal evaluation, but it sounds like you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Especially since you mentioned that you have had anxious feelings since being very young.

The good news is that anxiety disorders are very, very treatable. The bad news is that they can get worse (as evidenced by your question) if they go untreated. I urge you to find a mental health professional soon so you can get your life back. You would most likely benefit from seeing both a therapist and a psychiatrist to get the most symptom relief.

Sometimes with anxiety disorders, small fears can eventually turn into obsessions. The more you try not to think about it, the more you think about it. It becomes a vicious cycle. However, most of the things we fear never really happen. 

Please seek out professional help soon. Depending on your situation, you may need to ask your parents for help with this. In the meantime, you might find it helpful to develop a positive self-statement or mantra that you repeat to yourself when you are scared. It makes it even more powerful to also think of a place or image that brings up feelings of safety for you. Good luck.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts