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Dr John B
Dr John B, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 557
Experience:  PhD in Clinical Psychology, registered clinical psychologist.
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I have some scattered symptoms of mental illness and Im not

Customer Question

I have some scattered symptoms of mental illness and I'm not sure what I have. I get nervous while driving to the point that my throat tightens up and I feel like I will choke. I also worry about loved ones. I have a fear that someone I care for will have a car accident and sometimes when my phone rings, I dread that it is morbid news. Recently, I have been experiencing trouble sleeping. I lay awake in bed criticizing myself for things from my past that I am ashamed of and worrying what people that I used to know must think of me. These are things I have outgrown and would not do anymore, but I am having trouble accepting that I ever did them in the first place. Sometimes, I perseverate on an idea. My sister jokes that I am a hypochondriac, but it's not just diseases that I will google and think about for days. I do this with all kinds of things-- even things that have nothing to do with me, like a historical fact or time frame or an artist or a scientific theory. I may think about one thing like this for days and search it to find all kinds of information to the point that my partner gets aggravated. I also need to monitor my drinking. If I drink too much I become wild and over-animated. Then I worry the next day that I embarrassed myself.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr John B replied 5 years ago.


Sorry to hear of the situation. The range of symptoms you describe sound most like anxiety-type problems and I'll ask a few questions so we can see if we can get a clearer idea on what it might most likely be.

Firstly, have you ever been in a serious car accident or experienced any other major trauma (e.g. an assault)?

You describe problems with worrying, would you say you worry only abut specific things or do you tend to worry about a very broad range of things most of the time?

Do you ever feel a strong urge to perform small rituals or actions as a means of reducing your anxiety?

Is there a family history of mental illness and if so what is that history?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi, Thank you for getting back to me so soon!

Yes, to all questions above.

First, a close family friend died in a car accident about three years ago and I think it may have been shortly after this that I started to worry about my family and my own driving.

I do sometimes feel that I need to do small rituals. I check all of my appliances and my stove before I leave and I always double check that my door is locked. I also used to be sort of messy but in recent years I have developed a strong need to have everything be orderly.

Unfortunately, there is mental illness in my family, which is one of the reasons I just started therapy. I am having trouble dealing with coping with a parent that has several Borderline personality traits. That parent's sister is a diagnosed schizophrenic.

I worry about a lot of things. Almost everything causes me to worry. Mostly, I worry that I am crazy like the people in my family-- specifically my parent. I worry about accidents, I worry about health problems, I worry about my friends and family staying safe, I worry that I may have hurt someone's feelings or offended them-- for example, if I get into a political discussion on facebook I may delete the whole thing for fear of someone taking offense to something I may have said. Broad spectrum.
Expert:  Dr John B replied 5 years ago.

Ok, thanks for the extra information.

You are describing emerging difficulty in a few areas; possibly Obsessive Compulsive Disorder type rituals, possibly anxiety based avoidance (driving), mild panic (while driving) and pathological worrying typical to Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It is actually quite common for people to develop a range of different anxiety symptoms and the key issue is that your anxiety levels are getting way to high. We usually look to treat the primary diagnosis (the underlying problem) with the view that this will also reduce other problems.

It is impossible too diagnose someone via Just Answer but I can tell you that in my experience Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - pathological worrying - is often the underlying problem that needs to be addressed as the primary diagnosis. GAD usually begins to develop quite early in life and then chronic worrying tends to drive people's anxiety levels higher and higher over the years until they begin to have secondary problems like panic attacks or OCD rituals.

You can find good descriptions of GAD and its treatment here and here. You can also find the specific criteria required for a diagnosis here.

The main problem people have when trying to control their own worrying is that whenever they try to make it stop they find they often can't. Trying to stop thoughts is called 'thought suppression' and as you are no doubt finding out it not only doesn't work often it can also make it worse. The reason for this is that when you try and stop thinking about something you have to actively think about that thing!

Sound a little strange? Let me give you a light hearted example. For the next two
minutes I want you to try really hard NOT to think about a white Polar Bear.
Give it a try. For two minutes do everything you can NOT to think about a White
Polar Bear. Go. What happens? You think about the bear right? Apply this to
worrying and you can see why it becomes a problem. When you are in the middle
of worrying about something and you try to make it are actually
thinking about it even more.

The good news is that there are really well established and effective treatments for
intense and excessive worrying. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is widely
regarded as the gold standard therapy for problematic worrying and in the
United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
recommends CBT as the treatment of choice for GAD, see here. I would strongly recommend that you consider CBT as a treatment approach. You could start by taking a look at this excellent CBT based self-help program . I use this with patients who have difficulty with worrying and I find it to be very helpful. If after working through this you think you need further assistance then I would recommend you consult with a CBT trained therapist.

CBT is usually offered by Psychologists (although not exclusively) and i the therapist yo have stated seeing is not a CBT therapist then you can contact the American Psychology Association for assistance in finding a suitably trained clinician. Take a look at the American Psychology Association's locator service here. You can use this to find other Psychologists in your area and there is a phone number you can contact if you want a referral arranged for you. Also, take a look at an article published by the APA here. It's an interview with a senior Psychologist and covers some of the things you should consider when you looking for a Psychologist.

Alternatively you could access some CBT based self-help material and I can
recommend a book titled Mastery of Your Anxiety and Worry to help you begin to tackle your worrying. You can find it at

I hope this has been of some help. Please let me know if you have further questions or would like me to clarify any part of my answer.

Dr John B and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you!!! :)
Expert:  Dr John B replied 5 years ago.
You are very welcome.

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