I’m afraid of going crazy: what to do?

Some people come to the psychotherapy consultation explaining that the reason they went to the psychologist is the fear of falling into madness.

While experiencing this fear does not in itself prove that this person has a psychiatric disorder, the truth is that it is almost always a valid reason to start a process of psychotherapy. Let’s see why.

    What is the fear of losing your mind?

    People who are afraid of going crazy often suffer a great concern for the hypothetical psychological alterations they have noticed in themselves. These can be quite varied, but they usually have to do with difficulty controlling one’s own actions, understanding the intentions of others, making decisions appropriately, perceiving environmental stimuli undistorted. , to remember things well or to concentrate on specific tasks.

    In short, the fear of falling into madness affects these psychological areas:

    • Concentration and attention management skills
    • Memory
    • social skills
    • Management of impulsivity and emotions
    • Rational thinking and decision making

    These are very different mental processes, which already indicate one of the characteristics of this fear: they point to an extremely diffuse problem, madnessThis allows us to continue to feed this fear of pure confirmation bias more easily.

    And does insanity exist, but only to the extent that there is the popular definition of insanity. In other words, madness is not a valid psychological construct, but rather an idea that can be approached from the social sciences; in the same way as according to the science of biology, there are no different races of Homo sapiens, but there is a concept of human races which can be approached from sociology, anthropology, etc. .

    This means, among other things, that people who are afraid of going crazy do so by reflecting on concepts inherited from previous generations and which, still surviving in popular culture, do not explain anything from the point of view of the health sciences.

    What is traditionally considered a “crazy” person may exhibit behaviors similar to symptoms of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or it may simply be behaviors that do not fit social conventions. We would all have been considered crazy at other times, for example, simply because of the type of clothes we wear, or because of our 21st century thinking.

    With all, fear of losing your mind is a form of psychological distress that should not be underestimated. In situations like this, it’s not so much the soundness of the concepts the fear comes from that matters, but how that fear affects a person’s quality of life. Attacking the former by getting the person to question their fears (among other psychotherapeutic intervention measures) will be a way of responding to the latter.

    Possible causes of the fear of going crazy

    There are many different causes behind the fear of going mad, and these need to be investigated in therapy, from personalized attention. However, as a general description of these issues, we can say that the most common causes of this type of fear are as follows.

    1. Anxiety problems

    Suffering from anxiety makes us more likely to fuel fears that are not based on anything real. As our nervous system is in “alert mode”, we easily fall into giving undeserved importance to indications that something is wrong with us (beyond the anxiety problem itself).

      2. Tendency to hypochondria

      The tendency to hypochondria occurs in people who are generally worried, easily accepting the belief that something bad will happen to them in the health field. In that case, this would be to assume that a disease affecting the brain might develop. It doesn’t have to be a disorder, but it results in distressing situations relatively often.

      If this tendency to hypochondria reaches psychopathological extremes (for example, it occurs in those who do not break away from this fear even after undergoing various medical examinations), a phenomenon known as the anxiety disorder of the disease occurs. . We do not speak in this case of insanity either, among other things because the symptoms of this disorder affect a well-defined aspect of a person’s life, and they do not invalidate it making it incapable of being functional in other contexts.

      3. Psychotic disorders

      It is possible that the causes of the fear of going mad are symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia, in which the problems with perceiving reality as it is intensify, sometimes endangering the person and others. however, the line between the symptoms associated with schizophrenia, on the one hand, and the mental processes of people without mental illness, on the other hand, is surprisingly blurred in various ways. For example, auditory hallucinations can occur relatively frequently in people who never eventually develop psychopathology.

      In any case, as we have seen, the concept of “insanity” does not correspond to the nature of psychiatric disorders either, nor does it serve to describe or understand them. These health problems are very diverse and with the right treatment often do not completely negate a person’s ability to make decisions and adapt to daily challenges, nor to “absorb” their identity.

      4. Vital crises

      Radical changes such as moving to another country, getting divorced or changing careers involve immersing yourself in a whole host of new experiences that arise at the same time and which they can give the impression that you are losing control of what is being done.

      The need to adapt to these new roles without having references that are familiar to us feeds the perception that everything is vacillating around us.

      5. Drug use

      Addiction and substance abuse can also cause this feeling. This is a serious health problem that should be treated as quickly as possible with the help of a professional.But luckily, it usually ceases to affect perception and rational thinking after it has been stopped for several months (although the risk of relapse is still there).

      6. The suggestion received through third parties

      The social pressure and contexts of psychological manipulation inherent in the dynamics of harassment and abuse can lead the victim to believe that she is insane. This is something that happens for example with gas lighting, A set of manipulative strategies sometimes used by abusers to make the victim believe that all the bad things that happen to them are from not being able to think well.

      What to do?

      The fear of going crazy is, whether or not there is a diagnosable psychopathology, a reason to go into psychotherapy. Through psychological therapy, it is not only possible to tackle the root of the problem that generates discomfort, but also to learn what mental health is., And on the limits that are the labels used historically to stigmatize those who show abnormal ways of behaving and perceiving reality.

      So, in case there is any psychopathology to deal with, it will be approached understanding that the problem lies in the specific ways in which it compromises the person’s quality of life, and not in the mere existence of an ambiguous phenomenon called ” madness “which would theoretically be part of the identity of the person.

      In the field of psychiatry and clinical psychology, essences do not exist, which implies that no one is condemned to carry on their back a certain “psychopathological” identity: both the behaviors that shape the disorder to be treated and the thought patterns through which we perceive this psychopathology can be altered.

      On another side, if there is no psychological disorder, therapy will also be useful; in this case, to clarify doubts, improve self-esteem and prevent possible problems of stress and anxiety caused by these insecurities in oneself, for example.

      Bibliographic references:

      • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
      • Sants, JL; Garcia, LI; Calderon, MA; Sanz, LJ; of rivers, P .; Left, S .; Román, P .; Hernangómez, L .; Navas, E .; Lladre, A and Álvarez-Cienfuegos, L. (2012). Clinical Psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 02. CEDE. Madrid.

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