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Fear of Schizophrenia After a Panic Attack

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Hi, I’m a college athlete with no history of mental illness in my immediate family. I’ve gone to a couple therapists when I was a child because my parents thought I needed to “figure some stuff out” but I haven’t been in about 10 years. I’m a junior in college and I’m very panic-y when it comes to diseases. I’m gay and am in a 14 month stable relationship with my 25 year old boyfriend. For a long time, I thought I had HIV just because I was gay and had sex with other men before meeting my boyfriend. I would make myself sick thinking about it even though I am HIV negative.

I went into the doctor’s with a bump on my hand and when he assumed that I was gay and might have HIV, I panicked and told him every insecurity and flaw about myself: that sometimes I skipped class to lay around my apartment, that I kinda was feeling blah about being far away from my boyfriend. The doctor said I should get a depression screening. I rejected this idea because I didn’t like the way he treated me in assuming I might have HIV.

Anyway, I was really stressed out for my finals and worked out a lot, taking this special workout drink that elevated my heartrate. On Tuesday of finals week, I thought I heard something that sounded like “urngwurd” and I know that I heard it, and I’m not sure if it was really in the house or not. So I read up on schizophrenia (naturally), and from then on out, my mind moves very quickly. My thoughts are noisy and seem to fixate on anything from the TV show “Friends,” to bits of music from Taylor Swift to conversations that I had in the day or bits of dialogue from unknown people. I’m not hearing the voices, they’re in my running monologue. Like I can’t shut down my internal monologue. Whenever I think about schizophrenia, my body like shuts down and I freak out and think that I have it. I have no other symptoms except for these thoughts I can’t seem to control. I’m just sorta scared because I don’t like panicking.

Fear of Schizophrenia After a Panic Attack

Answered by on -

A.

The most common questions that I receive, come from people who seem to be experiencing health-related anxiety and fear they have schizophrenia. In all likelihood, they have anxiety and not schizophrenia. That may also be the case for you because nothing that you have written would indicate schizophrenia.

The underlying essence of anxiety is misperceiving or not believing in reality. For example, you believed that you were HIV-positive despite test results showing you to be HIV-negative. The negative test result should have ended your anxiety but it didn’t. You believed it despite objective proof to the contrary. Your refusal to see reality, inflamed your anxiety. Simply believing in the truth would have and should have diminished your anxiety.

You are also concerned about hearing voices and it being a symptom of schizophrenia. The voice you heard was internal and not external. Generally speaking, people who hear external voices may be experiencing a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia, whereas people who hear an internal voice are probably not experiencing a psychotic disorder. Hearing an internal voice is quite normal. It is commonly thought to be our consciousness.

People who have anxiety disorders often describe having difficulty “shutting off” their internal voice. Clinically, this is called rumination. Rumination is the experience of thinking about something distressing over and over again. It’s common among people who have depression and anxiety disorders.

Your doctor suggested a mental health screening. That was a very wise suggestion. A mental health professional will meet with you, collect a thorough psychosocial history, determine if a diagnosis is warranted and recommend treatment. If you do have anxiety or depression, they are highly treatable with therapy and medication. Click on the “find help” tab, at the top of this page, to assist you in locating a mental health professional in your community. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Fear of Schizophrenia After a Panic Attack

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Fear of Schizophrenia After a Panic Attack. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/02/09/fear-of-schizophrenia-after-a-panic-attack/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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