What Do My Diagnoses Mean?

So, some of you may be wondering what exactly does Schizoaffective entail? Everyone knows what anxiety is, but what about when it is clinical, an actual disorder? Is OCD more than just checking the door or washing your hands too much? Do you really understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? And last, what is Dissociative Identity Disorder, really?

So, let’s start with the less “serious” of them all, if one could really qualify them in that way.

Anxiety – so what is it? Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is when someone worries uncontrollably. They could be worrying about something normal like money or a test they have to take in a week for school. But for them, they are worrying multiple times a day, for weeks or months on end, about the same thing. They cannot stop themselves. Sometimes, they are worrying about nothing at all. They are just worrying and cannot explain what they are worrying about to someone else when asked. They could be worried that something bad is going to happen, or have a sense of impending doom. GAD can make it hard to concentrate, cause insomnia and fatigue, irritability, sweaty palms and shaking. It can raise the heartrate and even cause numbness or tingling in parts of the body. Recommended treatments for GAD are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, certain medications, and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding things like caffeine.

Agoraphobia – this is a type of anxiety disorder, characterized by being afraid to leave home for long periods, to not be alone in social situations, to lose it in public, not being able to escape (cars and elevators are examples of places, but unfamiliar places, not knowing exits can also be a manifestation, this is me), and being “detached or estranged from strangers.” It causes severe anxiety and panic attacks, which leads to avoidance behaviors. Agoraphobia can be caused by depression, other phobias, other anxiety disorders, a history of abuse, among other things. The usual treatment for it is therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and exposure therapy, primarily.

OCD – So, in basic terms, OCD is when an obsession leads to a compulsion. Obsession is defined as “a persistent thought, idea, image, or impulse that is experienced as intrusive or inappropriate and results in marked anxiety, distress, or discomfort” and compulsion as “a type of behavior … or a mental act … engaged in to reduce anxiety or distress,” (APA Dictionary). OCD is much more than just checking the locks or oven before bed, every night, because you can’t sleep otherwise. OCD involves doing behaviors that the person doesn’t want to do or enjoy doing, the behaviors do not make sense often times, and the person usually cannot stop themselves, without extreme effort, if they are able to stop themselves at all. Treatment usually includes therapy and medication, and using both is more effective than using only one or the other.

Schizoaffective – People with Schizoaffective Disorder experience both psychosis and mood disturbances. Schizoaffective is separated into two subtypes, depressive and bipolar depending on whether the person experiences mania or not. Mania would put them under the bipolar type. If they only have depression, they are under the depressive type. Psychosis is a loss of touch with reality. With psychosis, a person can have paranoid thoughts, delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thoughts and catatonia, which is an inability to move normally (I get this from time to time). Treatment includes antipsychotic medications, antidepressants and mood stabilizers when needed, and therapy.

PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is caused when a person is exposed to a traumatic event. These event could include, but are not limited to, natural disasters, active military combat, physical or sexual assault, or an accident. When someone has PTSD, they can go into fight-or-flight at something that is not a real threat, but reminds them of the event that was traumatic to them. They have flashbacks, vivid memories of the event, frequent nightmares, sometimes to the point they are afraid of going to sleep, and distress when they even think of the event. They will avoid anything that is a reminder of what happened. If it happened in a certain part of town, they will not go anywhere near that area, for instance. They will startle easily, and be on edge constantly. They may feel bad about themselves, blame themselves and feel guilty about what happened. PTSD can also bring on depression and panic attacks for some. Cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are two methods used to treat PTSD. As for medication, in the United States, the FDA has approved sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) for treatment of PTSD.

Dissociation – Dissociation and depersonalization, for me, is where the world and myself seem fake and distant. Nothing seems real. Everything is in a tunnel, of sorts. The best definition of how it feels is the definition of depersonalization on the APA Dictionary. It is defined as “a state of mind in which the self appears unreal. Individuals feel estranged from themselves and usually from the external world, and thoughts and experiences have a distant, dreamlike character.”

DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is one of the three main dissociative disorders. The name was changed in 1994 to give a better understanding of the disorder, as a dissociative disorder, not a personality disorder. The biggest symptom of DID is that the person’s identity is split between at least two distinct identities or personality states. Other symptoms are dissociative amnesia, which is a type of memory loss beyond just being forgetful. There is also dissociative fugue, which is not having memory of certain personal information or even wandering off or being detached from emotion. Another symptom would be a feeling of blurred identity. This is when the person feels like there is more than one person living inside their head. They may even feel like they are possessed by one or more people. Statistics show that 90% of people in the US, Canada and Europe who have DID have childhood abuse or neglet in their history. It is the common assumption that abuse or neglect in childhood is what causes DID. The most common treatment, and pretty much only treatment for DID, is talk therapy. Some people have done hypnosis, and have found it helpful. I have not tried it, and have some hesitation about it, myself. The goal of treatment is to teach the person to cope with the disorder and to understand the cause of it, not necessarily to get rid of it or cure it.

So, there ya go. A brief synopsis of the psych disorders I have… I hope this is helpful to some of you, even if it’s only helpful to one person, it was worth it.

All the info I put in here was found on Healthline, unless otherwise cited.

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