Are psychology majors crazy?

crazypsychThe above image shows some search terms people have used to find this blog.  This tells me two things.

1. People want to know if psychology majors are crazy.

2. There are people who don’t realize a “?” is unnecessary for a search engine.

This post will focus on the first observation, rather than the second. Though I do think the second is also important.

Please note: This post is purely conjecture. I have not met every single psychology major in the world or interviewed a sufficiently sized random sample. I can’t draw real conclusions about an entire group. Everything I am saying is just based on personal experience.

The title of my blog is intended to be a little tongue in cheek. I’m a psychology major and I might half-jokingly refer to myself as “crazy” so it seemed like a good blog title. Humor is a useful defense.

So are psychology majors crazier than the average person?

I think everyone is a little crazy, just in different ways and in varying amounts.

It takes a certain amount of sanity to be able to be in college. I think a better question is “Are psychology majors crazier than the average college student?”

I can’t really answer that. I don’t think anyone can.

I believe that I am probably crazier than the average psychology major as well as the average college student.

I know a lot of “crazy” psychology majors. But I just in general associate myself with fellow crazy people. Some of them just happen to be psychology majors. The majority are not.

Looking at my peers in class they don’t seem particularly crazy. They could perhaps be excellent at hiding it. People have many different motivations for an interest in psychology. Personal experience is just one of them.

A psychology major who happens to also be “crazy” likely has greater insight into their problems. I believe that insight helps a person function better and thus makes them less crazy. It blows me away how little some non-psychology majors know about the problems they are suffering from. Knowledge is very beneficial.

A non-psychology major who I know was recently diagnosed with social anxiety. When I first met her, I assumed she already had been diagnosed with it, because it seemed obvious to me. Last semester she was struggling with her classes. A large part of the problem was her fear of talking in class for oral presentations (she’d skip class when she had one or put off doing the assignment) and she skipped appointments she made to talk to the professor for help because she’d get too anxious. Eventually she went to the school counseling center where she was diagnosed with social anxiety. She hadn’t had a clue there were treatment options for her problem and is now getting help.

A psychology major might not have needed to wait so long to realize there were options available for help.

Hypothetically, if psychology majors are psychologically different from other majors this would pose a problem for some research being conducted at universities. Many psychology classes at colleges offer small amounts of extra credit for participating in one of the school’s research studies. While many psychological studies do have specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, often (at least at my school and others I have heard of) the ones available for extra credit are open to all. If psychology  students are “crazier” this could potentially be hurting the results of the study and making them less able to be generalized to the whole population.

In conclusion, I don’t have evidence to say whether or not psychology majors are crazier than the average college student. I just think those that are, are more aware of their personal crazy. This might cause them to be more vocal about it and maybe seem more crazy, but in the end the additional insight they have is able to help them.

What do you think?

Talking to myself

I involuntarily repeat words and phrases. They forcefully crawl their way out of my throat. I hear my voice talking, but I didn’t chose for it to talk.

I don’t mean the things I say. They just pop out.

I’ll try to keep my jaw clenched tight to prevent them, but I can’t hold my mouth like that all day.

Lately the most common word is “Dead“. Others include “I’m gonna kill myself” and “Fucking hate you“. Sensing a pattern? There’re many more than just those few. A lot are minor variations on the same phrases.

Often they come out in the third person. In the phrase “I’m gonna kill you” the “you” refers to me. This is a little confusing, because I don’t mean these words when I say them. Why would I be able to explain the intended meaning of the words? I can’t explain why, but I with 100% certainty know that the “you” is me. In a way it makes some sense for them to come out in the 3rd person. While my mouth is involved in the process of producing the sounds my consciousness is not involved in the decision to make them.

When I was in a french immersion program they switched into french “Je veux me tuer“. If only they could have stayed in french after the program ended. That would have been nice.

I do have some levels of control over the words. Not to much with the decision to make them, but more with minimizing the way they come out.  For example: I can reduce a phrase to a shorter nonsense sound. Suppose “I’m gonna kill you” starts to come out. I can compress it into “mmmgn“.  It takes a level of concentration, but is worth it since a nonsense sound is much less socially damaging than what would otherwise happen. Unfortunately for me psychologically I know what was supposed to come out.

I also have some control over volume. Well, not consiously. The volume when I am alone at home is a normal speaking level. In public it is generally only whisper.  It happens all the time to me in public, but it’s quiet enough that no one has ever commented on it. I’m just the crazy person walking down the street muttering to herself. Problems can occur when I forget I am not alone and the words come out too loudly. Then I feel anxious worrying that I might have been heard.

It’s pretty impressive how little I have been overheard. Or at least how few times I’ve been called out on it. My brother hears me all the time, I don’t hold it back as much around him. He thinks I just get really angry at my computer and talk to it.

Being overheard is a major worry. There are times I’ll be walking somewhere with my headphones on and be struck with panic. I’ll be convinced that it might happen and I wouldn’t know it had because of the headphones blocking the sound. This has not to my knowledge ever happened. I’ll keep my jaw clenched shut preventing sounds from escaping until the fear passes.

So what triggers it? It only happens when I’m being spacey. It would never happen while in conversation with someone or while in deep focus. My mind will be off doing something and then suddenly I hear words coming out of my mouth pulling me back down to earth. If immediately after it happens I scan my brain for what I was thinking about I can locate a specific thought that triggered it. If I don’t do that the thought is gone. The thought is always something anxiety provoking. Saying the words serves the function of forcing an unpleasant thought out of my mind.

I imagine it works by taking advantage of the limited capacity of working memory. By throwing a distraction at me older items get pushed out of working memory and forgotten.

The thoughts are always more minor anxieties. It doesn’t happen for bigger stressors.

Around a month ago I decided to keep count how often it happened. Therapists kept asking the number and I had difficulty answering. Unfortunately the act of counting manipulated how it presented. Knowing I was counting made it happen less so I didn’t get an accurate number. I became better able to stop it while I was keeping count. I noticed my body often tenses in specific ways right before it happens. With that warning I could hold my jaw shut to stop the words.

My body is tricky and wouldn’t accept that. The ways my muscles tensed before the words broke free from the speech. They started happening independent of words and became more exaggerated.

One day I noticed that everything was uncomfortably quiet. And realized it was because I wasn’t talking to myself as much. I realized that the words also served an additional function. I spend most of my time alone and they break up the quietness.

I decided to stop counting and things went mostly back to normal. The muscles tensing are still happening independent of the words sometimes, but I guess this isn’t so bad. Less crazy looking than talking to myself.

Whether this is OCD or a Tic disorder all depends on who the therapist I’m talking to is. Tic disorders run in my family. Some think OCD because I can, with effort, identify a specific trigger. The words are “undoing” the thought. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter too much to me though it would be nice if for a change I could have a diagnosis that could be agreed upon. Both are obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders so combined with my trichotillomania someone should invent the diagnosis “Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorder NOS” for me. It’s probably already been invented I bet. Nope. I just googled it no one has. DSM-V committee members, get on that, will you?

I wonder about the relationship this has with my ADHD. It happens at times when I’m spacey. Tic disorders have high co-morbidity with ADHD. Do other people with similar problems find attention is a factor?

If anyone can recommend a good memoir about tic disorders I’d be interested in reading it. I want to read about subjective experience. I’ve read about the outward presentation in technical literature, but I’ve been unable to find much on the experience.

“I don’t know”

I say “I don’t know” in therapy a lot. This isn’t a very good thing. It’s equivalent to someone in improv saying “no”. Everything comes to a halt. It messes up free association pretty badly.

The majority of the time I legitimately don’t know how to answer the question. Sure there are times when I say that to get out of answering something I don’t want to talk about, but most of the time this isn’t the case. Unfortunately people don’t tend to believe me when I say “I don’t know”.

There are certain types of questions I have trouble answering. Broad generalized questions that I hadn’t considered the answer to before.

For example I would have trouble answering “What was your favorite thing about yesterday?

Things from yesterday might pop into my head while I strain to try to figure out the answer and they’d feel just out of reach. My mind goes blank and gives up.

But if the question was rephrased to “What was one thing you found enjoyable about yesterday?”  I could answer that. It’s a similar question, but not the same thing. The first requires accessing all of the memory about yesterday’s events and examining it in a new way to come to a new conclusion. This second question only requires accessing my memory and finding one that is already associated with being enjoyable. There is no manipulation of the old information.

If yesterday you had told me “Tomorrow I will ask you what your favorite thing from today was“. I could go about my day making mental notes as I went of a hierarchy of favoriteness. Then when asked “What was your favorite thing about yesterday?” I’d be able to answer the question. The problem is with accessing the old information and manipulating it into something new.

This is not a problem in my day to day life. Generally when a person responds “I don’t know” to a question the conversation is able to continue. In therapy however it is a problem, because it is a mostly one sided conversation. Just one of the many reasons why I’m a pain in the arse to work with.

One therapist suggested that it was a problem with executive function. Unfortunately executive function is a very vaguely defined term. I do think this is an interesting idea though.

I’ve taken many neuropsych tests and one of them is a test where the person needs to name as many words as they can all beginning with a certain letter within a time limit. This is one test used to assess executive function. I never do well on it.

The context of where I take the test though impacts how I score on it. I would do worse in an empty room than one with more items in it.

Supposed the letter I am trying to find words for is “W”. I would look around the room for visual clues when I get stuck. If I see something that begins with that letter I’ll say it. The more interesting part is how I can use the visuals to get to words that are not in the room. If I saw a computer keyboard I could use that to get to the word “write”. The visual information can act as a launching pad. Clues can help me find information that I had all along but couldn’t access.

This same concept can be applied to answering the generalized questions. Suppose I’m asked series of specific questions that hover around the topic of a question I can’t answer. This can help me gather enough information to answer the original difficult question.

In my first week of college I had a class where the prof decided to start off with a icebreaker game. Ew. The game she chose was for her to pick a color and each person had to come up with as many things that were that color as he/she could. She wasn’t aware that this was similar to a popular psychological test. I got orange. The only thing I came up with was the fruit orange. I had a panic attack when I got stuck. Not really the greatest way to start off college.  Of course after class on the way home I spotted orange traffic cones.

The Therapist List

I mentioned in my previous post that I had met with “many” therapists. The word “many” fails to capture the vast number of therapists I have met with. I’m at the point where I repeat office buildings when looking for new one.

I have met with 20 outpatient therapists. This isn’t counting the ones I met in partial-hospital programs, the ones who I met with only once for the purpose of a referral, or the ones who I met with for neuropsychological testing.

I have an appointment with number 21 for Tuesday.

Here’s the list:

1. ADD Guy –  I met with him a handful of times in early high school when my parents wanting me on medication for my ADD. I wasn’t really clear on the purpose at the time, but my parents signed me out of school to see him so I didn’t complain. I liked him. My parents had me stop meeting with him to switch to someone closer.

2. ADD Woman– I don’t remember much about her except that I sat in the appointments being pouty with my arms crossed while my parents talked.  She prescribed me adderall which was a disaster and I stopped meeting with her when I stopped the adderall.

3. Family Therapy Lady– It wasn’t really family therapy, it was just my mom and I. We’d each meet with her individually for part of the appointment and then we’d all talk together at the end. It was awful. My mom and I would arrive not fighting and leave fighting. It ended when I sat through an appointment and refused to talk.

4. M.S. – I met with her for most of high school, sophomore year though senior year. Initially I didn’t really talk to her about much. But Junior year I told her about my self-injury and things changed. She helped me in a lot of ways, but there was a point where I hit her limit. I stayed meeting with her past the point where she could still help me. At the end we got stuck with her trying over and over the same things that didn’t help. I left and came back a couple of times and a few months before graduating I left for good.

5. Lady with the office near school – I met with her briefly when I had angrily left meeting with “M.S.”. She was so much worse, that I came running back to “M.S.”

6. DBT Guy– “M.S” asked me if I wanted to do a “group therapy” it sounded like an interesting idea. The group therapy turned out to be DBT. The group was full, so it was decided I’d meet individually with the group leader until a space opened up. I didn’t stick around long enough to get into the group. I couldn’t stand it. I met with him 2x a week for a bit over a month. He said things like “If you’re depressed you should be grateful that the ground is there to hold you up”  which as you can imagine wasn’t helpful. The final straw was that he wanted me to phone him before I was going to cut so he could talk me out of it. I have anxiety about phones, so the idea of calling when already anxious wasn’t appealing. I also don’t really 100% know if I’m going to cut until after it happens. So if I had called and then not cut after the call. I’d have felt guilty like I had been faking it. He didn’t understand this and said he couldn’t meet with me unless I could agree to that. So I stopped meeting with him.

7. College Therapist– I met with him as soon as I began college. It was convenient becase he was in the school’s health center. The first appointment I was visibly shaking. I ended up liking him a lot. But then he broke my confidentiality and got me kicked out of my school as a result of it.

8.Quick Diagnoser– She was a psychiatrist who I met with a couple of times when meeting regularly with “College Therapist”. She was very quick to throw diagnoses at me without getting the fully story. I only met with her a handful of times. She prescribed me Seroquel and Wellbrutrin. I ditched the Wellbrutrin pretty fast because I hate being on a drug regularly, but took the Seroquel as needed for awhile. When I was in the hospital she told my doctors there to lie to me about the Borderline diagnosis because she thought I’d freak out about it. I stopped meeting with her after “College Therapist” got me kicked out of school.

9. Social Worker– I met with her once after returing to my hometown to live with my parents after being kicked out of school. I was horrified that she didn’t know what Trichotillomania was and didn’t make another appointment.

10. Fake Therapist– I met with her during the time I was kicked out of school. I needed her letter to recommendation saying I was okay to return. I had a lawyer working on it too, but the letter from a therapist would help my case as well. The problem is that meant I couldn’t talk about anything without worrying that it might hurt my ability to get get good letter out of her. I had to say enough to make her think I was cooperating, but hide enough to protect myself. It was fake therapy. I didn’t tell her about my friend killing himself during the time I was meeting with her because I was worried that could be used against me. After all having a friend kill themselves is one of the classic items on the list of warning signs that that person might also be at risk. The one thing she did do that was helpful was switch me from Seroquel to Klonopin. Klonopin is much better because it doesn’t make me sleep all day. I left meeting with her when I returned to school.

11. S.M.- He was the best therapist I’ve ever met with. He introduced me to the psychodynamic approach, a refreshing change from things like DBT. I can’t really sum up how awesome he was in this little paragraph. He restored my faith in therapy after having had it destroyed by “College Therapist”. He helped me realize that majoring in psychology was an option. He doesn’t realize that though. I’d had an interest in it before, but had so much anger over bad therapy experiences that I felt studying it wasn’t an option. I left him when I decided to transfer schools to switch majors and to escape the drama that had followed my return to the school after being kicked out. I thought for sure that as long as I had a psychodynamic therapist near my new school that they’d be near as awesome as he was. I was sad about leaving him, but not anywhere near as sad as I was later when I had trouble finding a good therapist. If/When I move back to the area where he works I’d like to meet with him again.

12. Couldn’t afford her fee – “S.M.” recommended her.  Then it turned out my insurance didn’t cover her the way I thought it had so I couldn’t meet with her. So I only went a few times then left.

13. Home Office Guy – I met with him once and liked him even though the idea of  a home office seemed creepy to me. I was prepared to meet with him regularly, but then at the end of the appointment he said  he ‘couldn’t meet with me’, gave me a list of two names and sent me out the door. I have not a clue what happened there.

14. Repeat after me– I met with her for about a month. I tried to give her a fair change, but she drove me crazy (more so than I already am). Al she did was rephrase back to me what I had just said. In moderation I don’t have a problem with that. I understand that it can be soothing, but there is a limit and she went far beyond it. I told her that I wanted therapy that was more on the expressive end of the expressive-supportive continuum and she repeated that right back to me, not grasping the irony that repeating what is said is a supportive strategy.

15. Guy who couldn’t hear– He was old, his hearing was going and I speak softly. It was a bad match so I didn’t last long.

16. K.L.– He was a convenient walk from where I lived. I met with him for about 6 months. It got stuck fairly early on though. I stayed largely because the security of knowing I had a therapist can keep me somewhat stable even if the actual therapy doesn’t help. Early on in therapy I bought a book he had written. I didn’t like it much. I never told him I’d bought it. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if he wasn’t a good writer he could be a good therapist. But things got stuck. All it felt he did was ask me what I fantasized about. And when I said ‘I don’t know’ (I have trouble with generalized questions. More about that later.). He’d rephrase it and ask what I daydreamed about. As if the minor word change would change my answer.

17. Nice Smile Therapist– I found him on a online therapist finder. I liked his smile in his photo. It seemed really genuine, not fake the way a lot of therapist smiles look. So I made an appointment. I went through my life history. And he told me that I made him “too anxious” for him to be able to work with me. I was really crushed, because it’s rare for me to go into an appointment with a new therapist feeling positive about it.  I think that because I was feeling more positive I may have shared things more quickly than I would have normally. I guess though that it is good he decided that on the 1st appointment rather than on the 10th.

18. Secret Agent Therapist– I called him this because the instructions to get to his office were very complex and involved secret codes. He scared me a little bit because he didn’t put up with any crap from me. But I also appreciated that. The problem was that he didn’t have a regular time in his schedule open for me. He assured me there would be one soon. So I met with him whenever there was a cancellation. I liked him because he actually believed me when I said “I don’t know” in response to a question.  He helped me figure out that it’s generalized questions I have trouble with and that rephrasing to something more specific can help. For example, not asking me ‘what’s your favorite type of movie?’ and instead asking ‘Did you like that movie?’ He theorized that it was related to a problem with executive function. Which seemed logical because previous neuropsych testing I’d had found problems with that. The problem was a space never opened up for me. He eventually told me he couldn’t meet with me because it didn’t seem like he’d have a regular time or me anytime soon. And this turned out to have probably been a good thing, because my dad didn’t like him. He’d done something that my dad considered shady with how he’d billed the insurance company an my dad is still trying to untangle his mess.

19. Rock Band Guy– “Secret Agent Therapist” referred me to him. I had trouble talking to him and spent the entire appointment talking about the video game rock band. I figured that if in even the first appointment he couldn’t get me to talk about real things, then in the long run it wouldn’t work out.

20. M.G. – I met with him a few months. Up until a week and a half ago. I mostly was meeting him him because I felt worn out from the whole searching for a therapist process. He didn’t believe me about the whole having trouble answering generalized questions thing which was frustrating. He just didn’t get me. Every interpretation he made was way off base. He’d jump to conclusions and I’d tell him they were wrong and give a reason and he wouldn’t budge. When I’d vent about  a problem he’d make me leaving feeling much worse. So I got frustrated and left.

Wow that took much longer to type than I thought it would. I should be doing my Cognitive Psych HW.

Anyways I hope I’ll like the new one I see on tuesday. I’m not sure if I can afford her though. I have to figure out insurance stuff.

Every time I see a new one they feel more disposable.If this one doesn’t work I’ll go buy a new one. I try to give people a fair chance. It just keeps not working out.

I keep thinking ‘this one is the last one if they don’t work I’m done with therapy’ and then I still end up going looking for a new one.

Updates:
21. No clever name – I left saying i wanted to take break and then she reacted so negatively to me wanting to take a break that I decided I just didn’t want to come back at all.
22. Scared him off– Post about it here
23. C.H.– Post here and also here.
24. CBT therapist– Basically setting this therapy up to fail by picking a therapist who has loads of traits I’d normally avoid.
25. Post here
26. Post here

27. Therapist who I travelled really far to get to.

28. Therapist who I started seeing upon moving for grad school

29. Current Therapist

Starting off

I have decided to give this anonymous public blogging thing a shot.

Perhaps it’ll help fight some of the isolation I feel about hiding the less pleasant aspects of my life from the world.

Hiding takes up a lot of energy.

So an introduction is in order I suppose:

I’m a psychology major. My interest in psychology began through my personal experiences. I worry that I’m studying it for the wrong reasons, but I’m in love with the subject all the same. It helps with my personal problems by letting me be an informed patient, but also hurts me because it fuels my preference to use intellectualization as a defense.

I don’t know what my diagnoses is. I have met with many therapists outpatient and been hospitalized 3 times. That equals a long list of diagnoses., because everyone differs in their opinion of what’s wrong based on personal bias (if they specialize in helping a specific diagnosis) or just based on what is bothering me the most at the time I see them.

Here’s a list of the things that at some point in time a professional has diagnosed me with:

-Dsythymic Disorder

-Major Depression

-Bipolar type 2

-Bipolar type 3 (I know this doesn’t really exist and that everyone who has ever used this term defined it differently. That didn’t stop him)

-Social Anxiety

-Generalized Anxiety Disorder

-Panic Disorder

-OCD

-Trichotillomania

-Tourettes

-ADHD (inattentive type)

-Sensory integration Disorder

-Auditory Processing Disorder

-Borderline Personality Disorder

-Mood Disorder NOS

-PMDD

What ones do I really have? I don’t know. Not that is really matters much. In a few years when the new DSM comes out I may have to begin collecting diagnoses all over again when new ones get added and old ones eliminated.

I wonder a lot if I have schizoid personality disorder. But I probably don’t. I probably just want to think that so I can believe that I don’t need people. I definitely have an avoidant attachment style though. No question about that.

When I write while feeling intense emotions the result is usually an incoherent mass of typos and sentence fragments.  When I write at times I am calmer, my writing becomes emotionally detached. I’ve tried to write a book a few times, but it always ends up reading like a case study by an observer, rather than like a subjective experience. I tend to edit out emotion. Whenever I look back on my writing showing emotional extremes both positive and negative) I cringe. I’ll try with this blog to find a happy medium. I want this to be readable, but hopefully not too detached.

I am an awful speller. Without spellcheck I get nowhere. I apologize in advance to all the spelling errors I’m sure I’ll miss.

I’ll end this for now I guess. Comment if you read it?