Psychosis (young people)

Peter

Male
Age at interview: 24

Brief outline: Peter experiences intrusive self-critical thoughts that can be so invasive that he cannot hear others talk. He has had depression and anxiety since his early teens and has social paranoia and delusions. He has not sought a diagnosis.

Background: Peter is single and describes his ethnicity as White British. He has graduated and is unemployed.

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Although Peter has always had depression and anxiety, he only started having counselling while he was in his second year of university after his father passed away. At the time he began having very invasive negative thoughts, hearing his “own voice”, which he could not stop. He also felt very paranoid, particularly in social situations, and had delusional thoughts that people were out to get him. The counselling he received focused on his grief and he did not mention the invasive and delusional thoughts to his therapist at the time. Later, when he was studying for a masters degree the paranoia and negative thoughts returned. He was spending a lot of time alone working on assignments and would find himself “talking back” to the thoughts. 

For Peter, the invasive thoughts, delusions and paranoia are particularly prominent in social situations and he continues to experience low self-esteem. In particular he worries a lot about what others will think of him and finds it hard to stop self-critical thoughts. Although he thinks this may be a common thing, his experience is on the extreme end. For example when he is speaking to someone on the phone, he hears his own voice telling him “that sounds stupid… you sound like an idiot”. These thoughts can be so invasive that he cannot hear what the person on the other end of the phone is saying. 

While he was studying for his masters degree Peter was offered CBT group therapy for anxiety. While he found it helpful having someone to talk to he didn’t think that ‘anxiety’ accounted for all of his experiences. Around this time he was interviewing people for a dissertation about the effects of talking therapies, and some people who had psychosis talked about experiences very similar to his own. As he researched mental health further, and met others with mental health experiences through volunteer work for a mental health charity, he began to think perhaps he had depression more at the extreme end, like bipolar disorder. When he researched online he found that his paranoia and the intrusiveness of his negative thoughts seemed to fit exactly within some parts of the definition of psychosis. It made him feel this was a “genuine issue” rather than something everyone has.

Peter doesn’t tend to see his GP about mental health issues and only mentioned his depression by chance a year or two ago. He has, however, seen his GP about a persistent stomach ache, which he thinks may be related to his anxiety. One of his GPs said that he could take medication for his anxiety and depression, but that he would have to take it for a long time. He would prefer not to take medication because he is afraid he would end up taking it indefinitely, and because his mother takes medication for depression. He has never mentioned his belief that he suffers from psychosis to his family or to his GP, or even to people in the mental health community, because he sees there being a presumption that people who experience psychosis are more of a risk compared to people who have anxiety and depression.

He can’t think of there being a time in the future when he won’t have intrusive thoughts but he is hopeful that in the future he will get support through counselling.

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