Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why Having An Anxiety Disorder Does Not Mean You’re Crazy

I'm always excited to hear and learn from members of our community. Today I am blog swapping with a fellow anxiety blogger named Paul from and I am thrilled to feature a really great post from him. Enjoy.

Hi I’m Paul Dooley from and today I’ll be talking to you about a subject that plagues many anxiety sufferers; the fear of going crazy. Not surprisingly this is one of the most common complaints from people living with anxiety and it’s a thought that never really seems to go away altogether.  And due to Aimee’s generosity I’ll be able to share with you what I think is a very important insight into this very common fear.
First and foremost I’d like to reiterate that the fear of going crazy really is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorder.  The reason I’d like to highlight this fact is because I hope it helps to put things into perspective for you. In other words, you’re not the one off weirdo that has developed an unheard of reaction to chronic anxiety, quite the contrary. Although you may sometimes have the sense that you are losing your grip on reality and that you are literally on the verge of a mental breakdown things are not as bad as they seem. The truth of the matter is that anxiety disorder(s) can cause a deep seeded fear that sooner or later you're simply going to go mad. However despite this overwhelming fear of possible insanity, the fact that you fear it and are aware of insanity as a state of being is precisely why you are not crazy.
Crazy means a lot things to a lot of people, however for the sake of clarity let's say that for our purposes crazy means a mixture of insanity and psychosis . Let's look at insanity first and how it is normally defined. In the United States insanity is no longer a medical term and in fact is mainly used in legal definitions. You have heard people say that someone is "legally insane" generally meaning that they cannot comprehend the meaning of "right" and "wrong". They simply don't understand what it means to do something horrible, like killing another human being for example.
Under this definition of crazy or insane would you qualify as such a person? If you have an anxiety disorder the answer is no. You have your mental faculties in order and know exactly what right and wrong mean. You know the social norms of society and you follow them. In other words, you don't walk around with your underwear on your head because you know that society views this as unacceptable behavior. The second and highest level of so called crazy is a mental state of delusion and abstraction known as psychosis.
In the past "insanity" was associated with conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These conditions fall under the psychotic types of mental illness. These conditions are debilitating brain disorders that can seriously hinder ones life. When someone is psychotic they may hear voices or have hallucinations. In addition they might have a serious paranoia and a feeling that everyone is out to get them.
When someone is deemed psychotic they exhibit disorganized thinking and strange behaviors of various kind. Their very perception of reality is not what you would call normal. It is seriously distorted and disconnected from normal definitions of reality. Moreover one of the most critical aspects of psychosis that does not affect anxiety sufferers is a lack of insight.
Having a lack of insight is just another way of saying that you don't know that you are behaving or acting strangely. As an anxiety sufferer you spend a lot of time thinking you're crazy or on the verge of crazy but if this were true than you wouldn't know it. You simply would not be aware of the fact that your thoughts and behavior were strange or "crazy".
When you have anxiety you are certainly filled with dread and worry. You experience psychosomatic sensations that make you feel terrible and frequent physical symptoms of all kinds. But the bottom line is that your level of mental fitness is not the same as someone that is psychotic or crazy - it's much better. You have the ability to make sound decisions, you don't hear or see things that aren't there, and you know the difference between real and unreal. Even if you experience feelings of unreality or dream like states you are still aware of them as such.
Unfortunately if you were to ask someone tagged as crazy if they were actually crazy, they would probably say something like "crazy, who me?". They just wouldn't know that they were in mental distress the same way that you would be able to know. As you can see you just don't fit the profile of an insane or psychotic person. So the conclusion must be that you are not crazy. When you have anxiety disorder will you have tricks of vision? Yes. Will you have strange sensations and worry all the time? Yes. But despite this your condition is a completely different tier of mental ailment. You have an anxiety disorder and you will not graduate to a greater and more terrible mental state. You're an excessive worrier racked with tremendous amounts of stress, but you are not crazy by any stretch of the imagination.

Paul Dooley



Bree said...

Really enjoyed this post!

Meredith said...

Thanks Aimee! I am so glad I found your blog. I just read your story and it is so similar to mine! The weird thing is that we look very similar too! (hubby saw me reading your blog and mentioned that) Please keep blogging! You are such an inspiration!

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