Psychology/Severe anxiety


QUESTION: Hi, I'm a high school student who has been diagnosed with severe generalized anxiety disorder. I was worried about how the early symtpoms of schizophrenia in teens can easily be mistakened for normal teenage behaviour like depression and anxiety, so misdiagnoses is common. I have depression and anxiety so it made me worried. I've asked my counsellors this question, but they didn't know that early symtpoms of schizophrenia in teens can be mistakened for depression and anxiety. This didn't really help me, so I'm wondering if there is a way to distinguish early schizophrenia symtpoms from depression and anxiety symtpoms in teens?

ANSWER: Anne -  While there may be some overlap in some of the early symptoms of schizophrenia and depression and anxiety, people with schizophrenia have a thought disorder.  That means that they are confused about what is real and what is not.  They often have paranoid ideas - that people are listening to their thoughts, or trying to hurt them.  In addition, they may hear voices telling them to do things.

People with schizophrenia tend to have a family history of schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder.

Here is a good article about early symptoms of schizophrenia.

How is your generalized anxiety disorder being treated?  You should be in therapy - preferably using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is the most effective treatment for anxiety.  You may also benefit from medication.

Are you worried that you have been misdiagnosed?  Who made the diagnosis?  You should be discussing your concerns with a psychiatrist or PH.D. clinical psychologist - a counselor is not qualified to answer your questions.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for your help. A family therapist diagnosed me with GAD, but he seemee confused when I asked him about these things, so I didn't feel very reassured at all that it's just anxiety. He flat out said that I'm not on the proddromal stage of schizophrenia and I just have anxiety, should I just trust him on this part? Hes sending me to a counselor soon for the anxiety. ih addition to speaking with psychologists, can I also speak to a family therapist about this since I read that they can also diagnose mental illnesses.

If the family therapist said that you are not in the prodromal phase of schizophrenia, then I think you should feel reassured.  The symptoms of schizophrenia involve a loss of being able to tell what is real and what is not - that is not a symptom of anxiety.  It sounds like you just got this diagnosis.  Ask the counselor about cognitive behavioral therapy - once you start working on your anxiety and your symptoms get better, you will probably be less worried about schizophrenia.


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Katherine ONeill


I can answer academic questions about psychology. I am not a clinician (therapist), I am a research psychologist with expertise in biopsychology, general psychology, cognitive psychology, research methods and psychopharmacology.


I have 25 years experience as a researcher in health behavior, biopsychology and psychopharmacology.

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Applications of Market Research for Small Business UMBC Activate Program, March 2008 HIV/AIDS: An assessment of Need in the Continuum of Care. Optum Health Education., 12/2008 Maximizing the online medium for market research: Best practices. Market Research for Pharmaceuticals Conference, 12/06/2006 O誰eill, K.A. APD, ADD, ADHD and AD/HD: Personal and scientific reflections. Audiology Online, 6/6/2005. O誰eill, K.A. et al, Hyperactivity induced by NMDA injections into the nucleus accumbens. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 34(4), Dec 1989, 739-745. O誰eill, K.A. and Liebman, J.M. Unique behavioral effects of the NMDA antagonist, CPP, upon injection into the medial prefrontal cortex of rats. Brain Research, 435(1-2), Dec 1987, 371-376. O誰eill, K.A. and Gertner, S.B. Effects of centally administered H2 antagonists on motor activity. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. 264, 1987, 683-686. O誰eill, K.A. and Gertner, S.B. Effects of centrally administered H2 antagonists in the behavioral despair test. 90(2), 1986, 190-192. O誰eill, K.A. Chronic desipramine attenuates morphine analgesia. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. 24(1), Jan 1986, 155 158. O誰eill, K.A. and Valentino, D. Escapability and generalization: Effect on 礎ehavioral despair. European Journal of Pharmacology 78(3), March 1982, 379-80. O誰eill, K.A. et al, An automated high capacity method for measuring jumping latencies on a hot plate. Journal of Pharmacological Methods, 10(1), Aug 1983, 13-18. O誰eill, K.A., Scott, C. and Weissman, A. Naloxone enhances nociceptive responding. Society for Neuroscience, Abstract 9: 274, 1983.

Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, University of Rhode Island, 1983. Post doctoral fellow dept of psychiatry, New York University Medical Center, 1983-1984. Post doctoral fellow, dept of pharmacology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 1984-1985.

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