A Friend Told Me I May Have Schizophrenia

Reader’s Question

My friend told me that I might be having a disorder of the mind called Schizophrenia or Dissociative Identity Disorder, but I’m not exactly sure if I do or not because I haven’t been to see a doctor about it. I experience hallucinations which do scare me sometimes, for example I’ve seen a car going up in flames on the street which no one took notice of so I assumed it must be a hallucination. I’ve also seen a foot appearing out of nowhere, and my most recent hallucination is that I’ve seen a girl who appeared in my room, and that really did scare me.

When I was younger I used to have a voice in my head telling me to do things and ordering me around. It was a man’s voice and I’m sure it wasn’t mine, or it didn’t seem so. This voice told me to do such things as to kill my mother which I refused to do so. Since refusing it wouldn’t go away so I used to hit myself over the head to make it stop and it feels as if I’m going crazy.

I also experience paranoia. I assumed that people were watching me and spying on me, planting cameras everywhere I go. I’m less scared of it now because my friend told me that it’s not real, but knowing this fact sometimes I still feel as if people are watching me and it scares me because I feel so distracted by it and I always have to check things around me to see if there are any bugs implanted.

I also have trouble in telling the difference between reality and thoughts because I can remmber everything I’ve done so far but they don’t seem real. I only feel like they are a dream just like yesterday. I can’t really express how I feel about it because it’s very hard to do so, and I don’t feel real. I feel fake like I can just close my eyes and wake up to a dream of all this but it’s not a dream. The one thing that really annoys me is that in my head I talk to myself. I know this is just like normal people thinking inside their heads but I talk to myself so much in my head that I get constant headaches from it and it even wakes me up at night because of the constant voice in my head. Sometimes I can control it but other times it won’t stop, and it keeps talking and talking even when I plead with it to stop. Sometimes it won’t and just talks about anything there is to talk about. I apologise for writing so much but I am really desperate for an answer. Thank you.

Psychologist’s Reply

You are describing some very serious psychiatric symptoms such as voices (auditory hallucinations), visual hallucinations, paranoia, and feelings of unreality. In clinical practice, we feel these symptoms are linked to an increase in a brain chemical (a neurotransmitter) called Dopamine. As the level of Dopamine increases in the brain, we first experience suspiciousness, followed by mumbling then “voices”, followed by paranoia and visual hallucinations. By the time we experience paranoia and visual hallucinations, we also experience “delusions” or false beliefs — usually that we are being followed or plotted against for some purpose. As your friend mentioned, these symptoms are commonly found in Schizophrenia.

While having these symptoms is extremely uncomfortable, we do know how they are produced in the brain and have medications that lower Dopamine and thus lower and control the symptoms — just like other medications prevent seizures or control our diabetes or blood pressure. Some medications stop the brain from developing new paranoia but you’ll still remember what you’ve experienced so far. Medications can also control the voices, sometimes eliminating them and other times lowering their volume and decreasing how often they are heard.

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I would recommend consultation with a psychiatrist. Once you begin treatment, you may try a few medications before finding one that works best for you. Counseling would also be helpful as you need to understand the nature of your symptoms (the voices, paranoia, etc.), the brain chemistry that produces them, and how we manage them with medication. The sooner you begin treatment, the quicker you can return to a life without distracting noises and hallucinations.

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