Hi, I have many schizophrenic symptoms such as hallucinations (auditory and visual), delusions (I feel as though someone is always watching me), and (just minor) paranoia (I don’t trust people). However, I am a very level-headed person. I never have mood-swings or feel overwhelmed at random times. I have had these symptoms since I was a baby. (I began to voice them at 3 years old.)

I have just recently started seeking counseling for the first time. However, the few psychiatrists I have spoken to have been unable to diagnose me. I am wondering what branches of schizophrenia I should look into; if any at all. I’m not entirely sure that what I’m dealing with is schizophrenia, but it seems to be the closest guess. Thank you in advance for reading this/offering your advice.

A. I would caution you against self-diagnosis. Leave the diagnosing to the mental health professionals. They undergo many years of rigorous training and schooling to properly understand the nature of psychiatric diagnosis. The mental health professionals you have consulted apparently do not believe that schizophrenia is the appropriate diagnosis at this time. Trust their judgment.

In addition, I would also caution you against narrowly focusing on diagnosis in general. Arguably, what matters most is if you are receiving competent mental health treatment. Do you leave counseling sessions feeling a little better then when you came in? Are you better able to function day-to-day? Are you seeing a reduction in your symptoms? Ultimately, improvement in your symptoms is what matters most.

You said that your treating mental health professionals have been unable to diagnose you. It’s possible that they are hesitant about diagnosing because of your age. Many mental health professionals are reluctant to prematurely label young individuals as having certain psychiatric disorders. At 15, it may also be too soon to know exactly what is wrong.

Entering counseling was a wise decision. Be proud of yourself for having proactively sought professional help. It significantly increases your chances of overcoming these early life challenges. I wish you continued success. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle