I Feel Like I am Going Mad and I’m Afraid I Might Hurt Myself, My Room or Someone Else

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Reader’s Question

I am 19 years old and a student. I have been living with roommates for the past year.

I feel like I am going mad lately. I have always had a vivid imagination, as I was an only child, but lately I feel like it is going too far and I feel like I will have some sort of meltdown. I’m afraid that when that happens I might hurt myself, my room, or someone else.

I’m going to write down what I feel. It’s not a really coherent story, so it’s hard for me to describe. I feel as if my mirror image does not belong to me; like it’s a look-a-like, and sometimes when I look at her, all of a sudden I’m afraid that she will get angry with me for staring at her, or that she might change into something or someone else. Rationally I know this is impossible, but I don’t feel like it is; it feels very true to me.

Also, I can’t watch any scary movies or anything. I just can’t. I’ll believe them to be true, and I never quite get over them. I forget about them sometimes, and then I remember and I’m scared all over again.

I have always had a great imagination, but lately it’s just been going too far. Sometimes I feel like I will meet someone who will change my life, or that I wouldn’t die if I jumped out the window, or that I’m supposed to be ruling some country somewhere. I usually feel confident and happy on days like that, and if someone makes a funny joke I start laughing and I want to laugh so hard that the windows will shatter. And after that I become reaaalllly irritated with everybody and I just want to kill them all. Then I feel guilty and become sad; after that I become numb. And I feel like I’m not even here.

Then I recover and feel normal for a couple of days, and then it starts all over again. I try very hard to conceal it, but it is so hard and I put so much pressure on myself, that I feel like I’m ready to scream and beat the mirror to pieces. It scares me a lot. And I don’t want to be like that, but I can’t help it.

The angry days are the worst. Sometimes someone asks me a question they have already asked, and I just can’t take that. I hear myself answer with a tongue like a razor, and then I feel guilty. I really can’t deal with the anger; it’s unnecessary and hard to hide. The smallest things get on my nerves, and I feel as if everyone is being really stupid.

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I don’t really feel a lot of emotion towards others in general. I used to self-harm when I was 16 but haven’t done that in years. I do have suicidal thoughts occasionally.

Psychologist’s Reply

You did well to write for help rather than hurt yourself or someone else. Let’s take some time and talk about this. I hear that your angry days are your worst. However, it sounds like the problem starts with anxiety. Something makes you anxious, perhaps it’s the pressure of being an only child who is now thrust into this close living arrangement with roommates. Perhaps it’s the pressure of adjusting to school and your new role among friends and professors. Maybe it’s a combination of things. The symptoms you’re describing sound like symptoms of anxiety. That is where I think you should focus your attention.

Adjusting to new living situations is one of the specialties of college counseling centers. You may be surprised to learn that you are not the only one struggling with high anxiety. If possible, get yourself to the counseling center right away and see if there is a counselor available for you. If it is an issue of adjustment, then talking therapy can help you through. If there is something more going on, such as a reactivation of the stressors that used to cause you to self-harm, then the counselor may advise you to consult a medical doctor as well. Medication might help you in the short run to contain some of these disturbing emotions and thoughts. In the long run, it’s reasonable to expect you can find a way to adapt and adjust to the very real stress you are under without the help of long-term medication.

Bottom line: you are not alone. Don’t struggle in silence. There is tremendous help available, just take one more step to find it and use it.

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