Daniel J Vance

“Eric” lives in Florida, and reads this column weekly. About ten years ago, a psychiatrist diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia.


A National Institutes of Mental Health website states, “Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder affecting about 1.1 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.” In addition, paranoid schizophrenia involves a person having “over-the-top” mistaken beliefs about the need to protect themselves from people plotting against them.


“First, I was diagnosed with depression in high school,” said Eric in a telephone interview. “A few years later, I was diagnosed with the paranoid schizophrenia.”


He had tried killing himself twice.


“I did it because I didn’t want to think anymore,” he said. “I feared bad thoughts and wanted them to stop. But trying to control your thoughts is hard. The less you want to have a certain thought, the more you have it. Also, my whole life seemed boring. I hated thinking about that fact, and so I thought the only way I could stop thinking about it was to kill myself.”


A personal breakthrough came when Eric realized through therapy that having a bad thought was bad, but not the end of the world. Suddenly, he didn’t feel the pressure to always have “good” thoughts. He also learned that when over-focusing on what he fears doing, sometimes pressure builds, and he does what he fears just to stop the internal pressure.


“Occasionally, I think people are watching me,” he added. “Also, in the last few months, I must have had conversations with about eight people and we exchanged telephone numbers. Only one called back. I’ve called that person five times and they’ve returned only one call. I feel frustration with relationships. Maybe they are a little afraid of me.”


He said daily jogging has helped his mental well-being, as has better managing of his television viewing habits.


What does he fear most? “My big paranoia over the last decade has been with technology,” he said. “I foresee fuel prices being so high that there will be regular blackouts in the future. I’m pretty dependent on my computer and telephone. So I fear blackouts shutting down my computer and telephone. A lot of times, I’m trying to think of ways to combat that fear.”


Then he paused, and said, “Maybe I just fear change most of all.”