Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Bizarre Anxiety


So, this could be strange. And long, for which I apologize in advance. Also, if this matters, I'm seventeen.

This whole year I've struggled with what I know is depression. I've had no motivation, always felt miserable/apathetic, and generally wished to not exist (I was frustrated people wanted me to). I actually ended up failing a class or two because of it (I'm normally a "straight A" student). Although that's not so severe anymore (obviously), now the anxiety issues are coming back with my increase in energy.

Before this all started, I became horribly preoccupied with my intelligence. I was terrified of not being "smart enough", and if I didn't immediately grasp a concept, I was often sent into a rather agonizing spiral. Any reference to intelligence eventually became enough to set it off. With that said, I was always thinking about it, and took online "intelligence" tests constantly, and spent excessive time researching intelligence, but that only made it worse. I couldn't do anything without making sure I "understood" it. Even using a swingset could be difficult. Those issues are coming back to some extent, despite my taking a real IQ test and scoring rather well (performance 119 and verbal 147). This was to screen for ADHD.

Now, the same intensity is forming around OCD. I'm often worrying about it, and references to it just start the spiral. It makes no sense. I don't want OCD, but I'm terrified that I don't. The thing is, I've always had obsessive/compulsive tendencies. I've always had a paralyzing fear of being a "bad" person (usually this results in excessive analyzation of my thoughts). I try to "improve" myself, too, in ways I don't want to "improve", and end up wrecking myself. I've always been terrified of causing my parents' deaths (at its worst, I have to go everywhere they go and can't even decide what TV show to watch) I couldn't leave anything "trippable"/small enough to eat on the floor, which could be annoying. Sometimes I freak out that someone's died, too, even if there's no real reason to believe it. I have a tendency too to also "decide" someone hates me, despite knowing they don't, and spend a lot of time agonizing over it, et cetera. Also mildly crippling perfectionism. There's some more stuff, too, but that would take a while.

With all of this said, I'm afraid my mounting OCD anxiety will cause me to lie to myself and become a fake person.  Just like with the intelligence thing, I'm afraid I'll lose myself in it, but this time I have more power to change myself, and I'm so afraid that I will, as that would make me a bad person. But it's embarrassing. I'm afraid I'll develop those symptoms, or worsen my current ones, just because I'm terrified of not being something I don't want to be.

Well, thanks for reading. Sorry for the length. I'm so confused.

So, L, I'd call your anxiety not at all bizarre but circular, meaning that it feeds on itself. And breaking the circle will not happen overnight. I can't treat you, and I can't even prescribe your treatment. But I can offer some generalities.

The best results with what seems to be your kind of concerns is with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Let's consider each.

We don't understand the brain well, but some evidence points to the three conditions you mention being due to neurotransmitter abnormalities, and there are medications that set them right. But getting the right kind, dose, combination, and duration can be somewhat trial-and-error, which makes it good that you are so introspective. It also means that the best clinician to prescribe and monitor what to start with is a psychiatrist. They may be costly and inconvenient to access, but often a single visit suffices.

Psychiatrists also provide psychotherapy, but it's often easier and more successful with a clinical psychologist, where the focus is not on diagnosis and cause, but simply on working together to formulate both some rethinking and some adaptive coping responses.

To end with a more direct comment, I think a good part of your discomfort is a function of your age.  It is not easy being 17, but I can promise you and reassure you that seventeenitis is a self-limiting condition. And if you don't know where to start in finding the right practitioner(s), you could start by asking whoever administered your IQ test.

Thanks for asking us, and I hope you get the help you're entitled to.


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Alan Auerbach


Taught psychology for 30 years, authored four textbooks. Specialize in introductory and industrial/organizational psychology, but will tackle wider range of areas.

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