Worry that is not psychosis

I have a bit of a paranoid streak to my personality. Not something that in itself can be diagnosed, but it impacts how some of my anxiety comes out.

Today I was walking home and a young man asked if I knew the area well. In a city a stranger initiating any contact can be a sign of a scam or other nefarious activity. But many a time I’ve rudely brushed off a lost tourist in error. He stood a little closer to me than was comfortable. We never broke walking pace. I didn’t stop and neither did he. I think he may have brushed briefly against my coat. I gave him directions. I slowed my pace to lose him via slow-walking.

Walking past the police station, should I go in to hide?

He went the wrong way based on my directions. Did he misunderstand or did he never really want directions? If he didn’t want directions what was his motive for talking to me? Is he looping around to follow-me?

I wasn’t pick pocketed. He didn’t rob me. I’ve long lost site of him, but keep looking back to make sure I’m not being followed. 2 blocks away from my home I step into the entryway of a building and look back and forth. There are people, it’s dark but I think none are him. Did he plant a tracking device on me? Should I not go straight home? I get home and search everything. My bag has many pockets. No tracking device. I have some coins in the pocket on the side of my coat he’d been near. What if a tracking device looks like a coin? What if it is microscopic? What if he followed me and I didn’t see? I toy with the idea of throwing out the bag, just to be safe. What if he was trying some kind of RFID theft? I don’t have anything which could be stolen with RFID readers.


Another incident from over a year ago:

I was late for my bus. I ran towards it, only to realize I had run towards the wrong one and past my own bus. There are two that look similar. Embarrassed, I turned around and walked back towards the people I had just run past, the people who were boarding my actual correct bus.

This isn’t a public transportation bus. It’s a shuttle bus, because my work has multiple locations and buses people between them. The buses are primarily used by employees.  It’s a large organization so I don’t know everyone, but it’s not as anonymous as public transportation.

My heart was pounding. I had to take a seat in the very front, because I was the last on before the bus left. I usually sit more towards the back.

I put on my headphones to listen to my ipod so I could calm myself down. It’s a half hour to one hour bus ride depending upon traffic.

These buses are always eerily quiet. They don’t play music, no one talks. There’s not much engine noise.

My earbud headphones were loud, but not so loud that people could hear them. I had a gap between songs. Everything felt very quiet.

The contrast freaked me out. I wondered, “What if I was thinking too loudly? Could they hear me thinking?”

There are some reasons why this isn’t such an absurd thought. I have a tic-like problem with talking to myself (I have a post in more detail about this) The line between my brain and my mouth gets blurry and I don’t have 100% control. So the idea that my thoughts could come out in a way isn’t that strange. But usually I realize what’s up with the fist syllable out and can take some control. I don’t think it happened without my awareness that it happens at all.

But obviously no one is able to really hear my thoughts.

It started evolving.

No. No one is listening.

But what if?

Maybe it’s not the whole bus, maybe it’s just one person

No no no, no one is listening to your thoughts

I thought really hard to myself Hey you listening! Stop it!

Just in case.

There was a postsecret about this. I was glad to see someone else could identify with this.

The thoughts got more detailed

Yes the whole bus wasn’t listening. It was just this one person, a guy. He was sitting behind me. I couldn’t look back. But he was there listening. I didn’t even know if a guy was back there at all.

Well maybe. Probably not. But I persisted in my demands that he leave my brain. Just in case.

And then I got off the bus and continued my day like nothing had happened. No more thought listening fears.

But now whenever I get on that bus. I have to sit in the back, because sitting in the front freaks me out.

There’s a nagging worry that people might maybe be able to hear my thoughts. But only on this bus and only if they sit behind me. And I’m not sure, it’s just a precaution I’m taking. Just in case.

I felt like I was finally losing it. Going up to the next level of crazy. But no it didn’t count, right? Because I knew it wasn’t real. I was just worrying. Just in case.


I think now that this is less of a psychotic symptom and more a sign of extreme anxiety.

I know my brain is out of control, I struggle to turn it off. But I know it is not real. There is no tracking device and no one is reading my thoughts. The ‘What if’ possibility taunts me. My worry gives too much weight to improbable situations.

Search terms answered #5

This is part of a series where I answer interesting questions that come up in my search terms, that are not already clearly answered in this blog.

I feel less able to write some of the personal topics here that I used to discuss. You may have noticed that in the past I commented about how small the field of psychology seems, but it seems the more I am immersed in it the more it shrinks. This blog still gets a lot of search engine traffic so I will try to help out in a small way with some interesting search terms.

“is it okay to go back to the same therapist”

Yes. You can go back to the same therapist. A professional should not see this as a problem. But do carefully consider the reasons you left before when you choose to return. Often when I returned to previous therapists similar problems which led me to leave the first time around caused me to leave the second time.

Of course many people have left their past therapists on good terms and might want to return for a “tune up”. This is not a problem and it’s very normal to choose to come back for a couple of appointments or to return for a longer period of time if things in life have become more difficult.

“i miss my appointment today”

This search term and variations of it are pretty common reasons for how people end up at my blog (Second to the ones looking for help self-harming or hiding SI. If you want to SI I’m sure you can find a way without my help).

Missed appointments happen. It’s not a good thing for you to do, but if it has already happened call the clinician as soon as possible to reschedule. This is something that happens all the time. Don’t drop out of treatment over fear of their reaction. Just call, apologize and reschedule. If the clinician gives a reaction that seems out of proportion, then this is probably a warning sign that you should seek treatment elsewhere.

Some clinicians may charge for missed appointments if you didn’t cancel in advance, so check with your provider for their policy. Remember, when you no-show you have taken away a billable hour from their day which may impact their ability to support themselves.

“do psychology majors require you to do alot of presrntations”

As an undergrad, I don’t think  psychology majors do more presentations than any other major. This all really depends a lot on the professor more than the subject mater. If you do decide to purse a PhD in psychology though part of that involves research which involves presenting findings of that research. But these are not every day events. However, if you have a public speaking phobia, treatment for this may be beneficial for many careers (Not just psychology) because in most jobs there will be some need to talk in front of groups from time to time.

“self mutilation included in dsm?”

They’re calling it Non-Suicidal Self Injury (NSSI), but yes it will be in the new DSM. There’s concern in the field that use of the term mutilation may be stigmatizing so it’s generally not used now in academic circles.

ritalin cancels out adderall

This sounds like it might be less about one drug canceling out the other and more that high doses of stimulants can cause paradoxical reactions which make people sleepy. So mixing the two together may not double the effect.

“is plucking armpit hair a sign of trich”

It could be, but remember it needs to also cause impairment and/or distress. If you have a symptoms that does not cause impairment and/or distress it’s probably more of a personality quirk.

“methamphetamine triggering trichotillomania”

It’s very possible that methamphetamine could exacerbate existing trichotillomania or create symptoms that resemble trichotillomania since stimulants can cause problems with compulsive behaviors.

However  in the DSM IV for Trichotillomania criterion D is: “The disturbance is not better accounted for by another mental disorder and is not due to a general medical condition (e.g., a dermatological condition). ”

Current Methamphetamine abuse would likely exclude a trichotillomania diagnosis if the behavior only occurred in association with the drug use. If the symptoms remained after withdrawal criterion D would no longer be applicable. Whether Methamphetamine could create trichotillomania after the drug use is open for debate. It’s difficult to tease apart if it is something that was underlying before the drug use or something created by the drug.

“how do you know if you are grade obsessed”

If you are googling this it is probably a hint that you might be.

“should i date a pysch major”

Psych majors come in many forms. Ranging from crazy people like me to people who had no idea what to study. If you think you want to date the person, do it. Their academic major isn’t very informative for determining whether you should date them.

“is it normal to go through many therapists”

It’s a good question. I’ve certainly gone though an above average amount, but I’d love to know what amount is typical. I think it’s very normal to go through more than one. It can be really hard to find a good fit. At a certain point (like the point I’m at) you should think about the ways you contribute to going through so many therapists (too picky, trust problems?)  but some therapists may just not be very good and there’s no reason to stay with someone who can not help.