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Is It Anxiety? Is It Normal To Be Like That?


Hi, Dr. Schwartz, Ive got some issues that I don’t know what they are, and that, well they have a big impact in my life. To make a long story short, here’s the deal. I have three main "fears" in my life.  The weirdest one is that I’m afraid of and totally intolerable of cotton. Not the cottton in clothes but the cotton pads and cotton balls, q-tips, and that sort of stuff. I can’t have it my hands to feel it, to think about it makes me scream and shake, like goosebumps. You wanna torture me, you might as well make me hold some cotton. I really don’t understand why. On the other hand, my hands need to get wet every 30 min or less. It’s a very unsanitary tick my mom says, because if there is not a bathroom or water near me, by instict I lick the tip of my finger and rub them together. I really try not to do it but I don’t even notice unless someone else tells me. And last but not least, I’ve been awkwardly growing afraid of dark, even in the day if I open my closet and it’s a little dark I feel the urge to turn the lights on. If I open a cabinet, under my bed, under my desk, any place that’s not lighted gives me the creeps. One day, my brother, thinking it was funny, locked my up in his walk in closet. It was the worst experience in my life and I cried, screamed, scratched myself and pulled my hair (the first min. I was sort of calmed, but then desperation ate at me). My brother knows I’m scared of the dark, but he as well as me, freaked out. Please, help me out. Just tell me how unsual these behaviours are. What should I do? I´m 19 years old, and right now I’m living in NY as an exchange student, so having family support isn’t really an option. I just want to get over this. Thank you soo much, Pilar

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Hi Pilar,

I tend to think that you have an anxiety disorder. In certain ways in could be a kind of phobia with regard to the dark and to cotton. There could even be some obsessive-compulsive aspects to what you are dealing with, as for example, your need to have wet fingers and rub them together.

Let’s not worry about the words such as normal and abnormal because they are irrelevant with regard to you and most people. Rather, let us say that you are not the only one struggling with fears and phobias. These are very common but they make life really uncomfortable.

You are in New York City, one of the world centers for mental health services. I urge you to find one of the excellent psychologists or clinical social workers around that town to help you learn how to reduce your anxieties. You would be best off with Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy and not psychoanalysis or psychodynamic therapy. I am certain that, through the student health services department at your university, you can be referred for help and I am guessing that you might just be covered by student health insurance through the school.

Tell your brother, in fact, order him, never to lock you in a closet or anything, not ever again.

Best of Luck

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