General Question

live_rose's avatar

How do you explain to someone your mental disorder?

Asked by live_rose (1223points) August 19th, 2009

I have SA and GA both social and general anxiety. Basically I’m OCD without the ritualistic behavior (a poor and un educated comparison but it’s how i generally describe it). I have trouble conveying to others especially my boyfriend what it’s like and how it shapes my life. Is there a way I can sum it up and explain it or should I just deal with the fact that we have a misunderstanding when it comes to my mindset

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33 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There are ways – you can explain, they can read books…I know that (of all things) that MTV special True Life: I have OCD…helped me learn a lot about it

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I would imagine the best a person can do is be honest with their partner about their condition. In the meantime, a person with a disorder can treat the condition with the guidance of a professional specializing in that area of therapy or medicine.

augustlan's avatar

I have come to believe that despite my best attempts, no one who hasn’t experienced my issues can fully comprehend them. Metaphor works to give a little insight, but doesn’t really do it justice. I just do my best to explain, and hope that they do their best to understand.

live_rose's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic I cant really treat it with a professional my dad says that therapists and mental heath specialists are just paid friends so I stopped going 2 years ago. So i’ve learned to deal with it on my own . . . sort of kinda I guess

AstroChuck's avatar

When people meet me they don’t have to be told I have one.

drdoombot's avatar

I personally believe in only telling people what they need to know, but I’m generally a private person.

My suggestion to you is work through your issues. My anxiety is 95% better, mostly through self-coaching (with aids) and speaking to a therapist. I don’t agree with your father’s assessment of therapists: they’re not just paid friends. It’s their job to help you work through your issues and show you a perspective and a method that might not be so clear to you. They are professionally trained to do this, whereas “friends” are not. And there’s no burden of responsibility on you to be a “friend” to your therapist; it’s the one situation where you can be selfish and talk only about yourself.

I was down in the deepest hole, so low I thought I would never climb out. I’m so well past that now that I have a hard time believing it was actually that bad. Although most of the work came from me, it was very helpful to have a therapist to bounce ideas off of and gain a little insight.

You can help yourself and learn to enjoy life instead of fearing it. If you need more information, just ask.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@live_rose General anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder aren’t things you have to live with.
There’s alternatives.

live_rose's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic my life has been crafted to include as minimal human contact as possible i.e I wont go to subway because I don’t want to talk with the person making my sandwich out of fear i will annoy them or not make a decision fast enough. I just live a solitary life for the most part to live with it. and I don’t see myself changing any time soon it’s practically the core of who I am.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@live_rose Are you ok with living like that?

live_rose's avatar

um well I haven’t lived any other way since like lets say 6th grade maybe it’s gotten progressively worse but in increments i don’t notice/cant control

Likeradar's avatar

@live_rose To be blunt, your dad is wrong. Did you feel better seeing a therapist?

drdoombot's avatar

How do you have a boyfriend when you avoid social contact so ardently?

It makes me feel sad that you are limiting your life in this way when you can have more freedom and less fear.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@live_rose It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s help and there’s hope.
You’re reaching out to people on a social website… that’s a very positive thing.

tinyfaery's avatar

Your fears are running and ruining your life. Therapists are not paid friends. And it sounds like some sort of medication might be helpful. You will never know what it’s like to be different if you don’t try. If you can accept the way your life is now, fine. But it doesn’t sound like it.

live_rose's avatar

@Likeradar a bit i didnt change drastically but it was nice talking to someone who I wasnt afraid that they would leave me while I’m explaining it

live_rose's avatar

@drdoombot I do have friends not close friends but friends none the less and I met my boyfriend through a friend/chance encounter

Likeradar's avatar

@live_rose How old are you? You might be able to get free therapy at school, and your dad wouldn’t have to ever know. You do not have to live in fear.

I’m a big fan of therapy. It makes me sad when people don’t see the value or try to discourage people from going.

live_rose's avatar

@Likeradar im 19 but still on my dad’s healthcare so i cant afford a therapist on my own

Likeradar's avatar

@live_rose Not to press the issue, but there are free services you can seek out if you decide it’s something you want to do.

Even if a therapist is a friend you pay, what the heck is wrong with having a friend who really listens and gives you good strategies for what you’re dealing with?

Does your boyfriend try to understand what’s going on?

drdoombot's avatar

@live_rose I can suggest some unpaid resources that could be helpful to you. There are no therapists involved; it is self-therapy. If you’re interested, send me a message and I’ll be happy to help you out.

live_rose's avatar

@Likeradar yes he understands that nearly everything stresses me out but I think he doesn’t understand to the degree it stresses me out. He kind of trys to help me by when I say I dont want to do something or that something bothers me he accepts it and adapts. I lost my last boyfriend because of it. So I try to tell my boyfriend all the time that I greatly appreciate his patience.

loser's avatar

Just like you did above. That was just fine. I just tell people, “Hey, I’m Bipolar.” most people don’t really care and if they have a problem with it, screw ‘em. I don’t need them as a friend anyway.

live_rose's avatar

well bipolar is something fairly mainstream everyone knows what bipolar is general anxiety disorder sounds so . . .well general and not that intense when it really is at least to me. I have trouble describing what it is not telling people that I have it.

augustlan's avatar

One of the ‘metaphors’ (or is it a simile?) I found a little helpful was this one:

The mind is like a camera lens, and mine is always in wide angle mode. Everything comes into my brain… all at once, all the time, and at the same level of urgency. Not only can I hear what you are saying to me, I can hear the TV in the other room, the traffic outside the window, the cat meowing in the kitchen, the kids fighting upstairs, the hum of the computer and the crackle of that bag of chips. And it’s all at the same level of intensity. It is very overwhelming and it makes me very anxious. Add flashing lights, lots of motion, and/or a crowd of people and what we have here is a panic attack!

live_rose's avatar

I have had a handful of panic attacks and that describes it very poetically

augustlan's avatar

Guess who I learned that description from? That’s right… my therapist!

Seriously, as soon as you are in a position to do so, get back into therapy. That and medication changed my life, and I really wish I hadn’t waited so long to do it. Best of luck to you!

dpworkin's avatar

I think that your word choice (Mental Disorder) sounds pejorative on its face. It sounds to me as if you suffer from some features of certain psychiatric syndromes. “Suffer” is not an inapt word. No loving companion will want you to suffer, and he will do what needs to be done to assist you in your recovery.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I also have GAD although when I am explaining it to people I feel that it sounds like something I just made up!!!

CMaz's avatar

I think you did a great job explaining it.


wundayatta's avatar

I grew up in a family that believes what your father believes. They think that mental problems are something you can overcome if you just set your mind to it. I grew up thinking that way, and when I got diagnosed with bipolar, I still thought that way. I blamed myself for being seemingly unable to get better. I thought it was because, deep down, I didn’t really want to get better.

My wife and my psychiatrist both assured me that there was an organic problem. My brain chemistry wasn’t working very well, and that I really didn’t have to blame myself for being depressed. My shrink prescribed drugs, and as I got better, without ever changing my thoughts, I came to believe it is true. It is organic. It’s not something I made happen. It doesn’t mean that I’m lazy or incompetent if I can’t handle it all on my own.

And yet, my wife had never felt depression. I told her over and over again what it was like, and she still didn’t get it. I understand. I didn’t get it either, until I had it. It is impossible to imagine not having control over your thoughts, unless it happens to you.

People think of their thoughts as volitional. We make up our own thoughts. If we don’t, then who are we? Are we really human? Does being human mean anything if we can’t make up our own thoughts?

Since we experience thinking that way, it can be very difficult to come to grips with the idea that chemicals make you think what you think. It’s not volitional, at least, not completely. Chemicals program our behavior to some, perhaps a large degree. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t experienced my mind changing what it could think under the influence of medicines. It wasn’t just emotions that changed, it was the thoughts I thunk.

There is evidence that brings up the possibility that all mental disorders are related to each other. There’s one (out of 26) alleles that all the disorders share. It’s not clear what this means, yet, but it does raise interesting questions. In any case, we now know that mental disorders all have a genetic component. That, in combination with environmental stresses, can bring on the disorder.

We also know that it is possible to change the way the chemicals work in your brain, just by thinking. It works both ways. Chemicals change your thoughts, but thoughts can also change your chemicals. It is possible for people to cope with mental disease on their own. Very difficult in many cases, but possible.

If it’s genetic, then your mother or your father may have experienced similar symptoms. Or they may have had another mental disorder. Perhaps your father has something he was able to fight on his own. Maybe your mother has (had) something, and your father got mad at her for giving into it, or she was able to fight it, eventually. Or maybe she went to a psychiatrist, and, from his perspective, it seemed like all she got was a paid friend.

I thought that therapists were paid friends. Now I see they are like teachers. There are mental techniques you can learn that will help you cope. Perhaps if you explain it to him that it is not a friend you want, but someone who can teach you techniques to cope. If that fails, at the very least, you can probably get him to spring for a book or two that offer techniques for coping with OCD. Of course, if you’ve never been diagnosed, you may have something other than, or more complicated than OCD. Seeing a doctor (not necessarily a psychiatrist) helps. It can also be more convincing to people who don’t understand if the doctor prescribes the meds. Then it seems more physical.

When I try to describe my feelings, I try not to express it as emotional feelings, but as physical events. When I first started getting symptoms, my chest started feeling as if there was a weight on it. It was quite physical. I also felt jumpy and nervous, as if something bad was about to happen, even though there was no reason to think that. The doctor interpreted this as anxiety.

Depression felt like there was a heavy fog all around me. My mood was bleak, of course. I felt like I was living a few feet under water. I was just floating there, unable to get close to the surface. After I got my first meds, I moved up a few feet, but still not close to the surface. My second med moved me up to within a few inches of the surface. Finally, when my third med was added, I got to the surface, where I have remained.

OCD has physical activities, too. Let’s say you must wash your hands over and over. You spend half an hour washing them every time you go to the bathroom. Your hands grow chapped and red from this. Do you want this to happen? Of course not. But you honestly can’t control it. If feels like you’re some kind of puppet being manipulated from the outside. Or whatever it feels like (I’m not OCD, so I can only imagine). You have no choice. You know it’s unnecessary, but if you don’t do it, you simply can’t think about anything else.

If you make these things as real as possible, then perhaps your father can start to feel some empathy for what it is like. If you show him books and articles about it, he might come to believe the science of it. Education is the only weapon you have in combating ignorance. When you are under the control of a parent, you have no choice but to try to get them to understand that it is real, not made up.

You are, however, of an age to control your own medical future. You can check yourself into a hospital, I believe, without your father’s consent. Then the insurance has to pay for it, if you get the diagnosis. Of course, he can’t see your medical records unless you choose to show them to him. You may not want to. However, you can bring him to meetings with your doctors, if he’s willing to go.

Also, if worst comes to worst, there is a network of people out there who will share their meds. Why, I have some clonazepam lying around that I haven’t used, and have no plans to use. ;-) (that’s a joke, btw—I would never take someone else’s meds unless I knew and trusted them very, very well)

Judi's avatar has a Family to Family class that does a really good job of explaining to loved ones what it’s like to live with mental illness. When I took the class it was free. It probably still is.

valdasta's avatar

Your experience at Subway sounds a lot like the way I used to be. I have never been to a therapist, but I deffinately had some issues. In high school I hated wearing new clothes (and some I never did…left em’ in the closet); I didn’t want to attract any attention to myself. The clothes that I did wear, I had to ‘OK’ them with a freind first. I ran out of gas several times because I didn’t want to go to the gas station and deal with the whole process of getting it. I never asked a teacher for help nor did I ever ask my coache’s for help (had trouble with my position in football – recognizing the def.). I am sorry that this is almost turning into MY question, but I am wondering what I was struggling with.

Now, there are still some traces of whatever was ailling me, but I have learned to get around it or overcome it. I attribute some (and perhaps the bulk of it) of my victory to my faith in Jesus Christ. When I became a Christian, much of my focus was turned from self (because that was what I was really wrapped up in) to God and others.

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