From a teen in the U.S.: I’m 19 years old, and I have a great fear of developing schizophrenia. It all started when I watched a video about Marina Joyce and her supposed mental illness, and being the idiot that I am looked up the symptoms and noticed something I sometimes do (thought blocking), but I stopped myself from doing that.

Anyway, I have had this fear since August of last year, and it is crippling me. I don’t think I’m developing it because I still laugh, care about my hygiene, quite organized, do my homework, completely self-aware of myself, and I certainly don’t blow up on people for no reason.

The only problem is is that I don’t know if I am seeing things because I can’t remember if I saw anything – I don’t know if it’s my brain playing tricks on me or if I’m creating a false memory. I’m not experiencing any delusions or paranoia, and I do not hear voices.

One day I’m completely fine, and the next day it’s all I could think about, and I don’t know if I’m going crazy or not.

I’m scared that if I have it that my life will be ruined and I won’t be able to do the things I want to do. I want to be happy and normal again like I was last year, and I wish I hadn’t looked up the symptoms, and I wish I could forget about it and move on.

A:  I really don’t think you have schizophrenia. What you may have is an episode of obsessional thinking. You apparently can’t let go of an idea that is distressing to you. Even when you tell yourself not to think about it, you are thinking about it. Your mind has become trapped in a loop of thinking about it, wishing you weren’t thinking, thinking about how not to think about it, which means you are thinking about it. No wonder you are upset!

You need help finding an exit ramp off the loop. The way out is to see a cognitive behavioral counselor who can give you some practical tools and some support to stop the loop. Really. A few sessions is likely to put an end to it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie