Hello, Thank you so much for all of the help that you provide. I’m a 23 year old male. For many years I have occasionally felt what I would describe as a "creepy dark cloud" over me. This feeling typically comes on only in the later evening hours before bed. I just don’t feel "right" at such times, although I am able to function normally, just as if I were simply in a ‘bad mood’. It is a very foreboding feeling. Back to normal when I wake up in the morning. A few months ago I had a bad day, and experienced some sort of an "attack" in which I felt like I was losing my sanity; slipping from my grip of reality briefly. I felt like I needed to speak with someone immediately – someone to ground me. I felt like I was losing control over myself. In recent months since then, I’ve begun to struggle with intrusive thoughts which often involve the worst things I can imagine. The idea will occur to me to kill someone I love, or a friend, or myself. I am *extremely* troubled by these dark thoughts and feelings. I feel so guilty, like a monster. I try to redirect myself, but sometimes that is of little comfort…These thoughts seem to be the product of my own mind – I’ve never had any auditory or visual hallucinations that I am aware of. No dreams of murderous acts or anything like that, either. I feel like whatever is wrong with me preys on my greatest fears. These thoughts represent the antithesis of what I *want to be*. I don’t think I am capable of ever hurting anyone, but I am very disturbed by these intrusive ideas. I hesitate to call them compulsions, but there is an element of that, I think. In recent weeks, I have improved a bit for no apparent reason… I’ve finally started to feel "normal" again on most days. Please, any thoughts or educated guesses you could offer would be really appreciated. I’m so scared that I’ve begun to slip into some psychotic zone here. What all might be wrong with me?
- Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
- Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
- Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
I am inclined to agree with you that you are experiencing "compulsive thoughts" better know as "obsessions." Of course, I cannot be certain and that is why I want to encourage you to see a Clinical Psychologist for evaluation and treatment. However, let me continue:
Intrusive thoughts or obsessions result from extreme anxiety. It is possible that the strange feelings you have a few hours before going to bed may be in response to having to face something the next day that is uncomfortable for you. Something uncomfortable can range from looking for a new job, facing a daunting task at work, fears about losing a job, family or romantic problems, economic problems and so on, the list of possibilities is very long.
It is very common for someone under a severe anxiety attack and under a panic attack, to feel like they are "losing their mind." However, you state that you do not experience hallucinations and that you continue to be able to cope.
I suspect that you are frightening yourself when you entertain ideas about "losing your mind." Rather, think of it as something is troubling you that you are unaware of. On that basis, look for and find a psychologist and let’s see what may be going on with you. You may need psychotherapy and/or you may need psychotherapy and medication.
Remember, we are living in a tough world with difficult times and everyone is experiencing some level of emotional discomfort. On that basis, do not ignore your symptoms but do not scare yourself either. Get help.
Lastly, if you have a friend or relative you can call and talk to when this is happening, call that person. Best to pick someone you trust and with whom you can be honest. Your girlfriend or wife would be a natural. Talking usually helps ground all of us when feeling upset.
Best of Luck