Prodromal schizophrenia, or just anxiety/depression?
I'm a 23 year old male, and I'm concerned that I might possibly have some of the symptoms of prodromal schizophrenia, but the symptoms are also fairly similar to anxiety/depression. I was hoping that I could get some information that could possibly put my mind at ease.
I haven't really had a history of major mental distresses or illness, outside of panic attacks and general anxiety that set in when I was 19. I've never been on medication for any anxiety, and I've maintained and controlled my relatively mild anxiety for the past few years without much issue (managed to graduate college with great grades, no real impact on friends and family, etc.). I have, however, had a lingering fear, ever since I had panic attacks and anxiety, of ever becoming schizophrenic. I suppose you could say I have some anxiety about a theoretical schizophrenia diagnosis.
As of late (the last few months), I've noticed a marked decrease in my overall willpower to get 'serious' things done. After college, I managed to land an internship that lasted eight months, and kept me busy after moving to a town where I had acquaintances or friends. This internship ended about two months ago, and since then, I've been struggling with a kind of mental 'laziness', and an inability to focus on certain tasks. I have spent lots of time searching for jobs and applying, but starting the process is more difficult than it should be (I feel), and I've become a much more potent procrastinator. The same can be said for initiating the process of re-applying for graduate school (something I did last year, but didn't get in anywhere), where I just can't find the drive to start. I have no real problem doing 'free time' things like reading, watching videos, and wasting time on the internet, but certain intellectual tasks that were easy and fun to work on a year ago, are now a huge chore. I love to write and I take pride in this hobby, but recently I've not had much will to start a new work, even if it's for 'fun.'
I also tend to spend a lot of time by myself. I've always been a person perfectly capable of extended periods of 'alone time', and as long as I have access to some intellectual stimulus, I can go a long time without direct interaction with people (this isn't counting social interaction through the internet, which I do routinely every day). Without a job these last few months, and with only a handful of people in this town that I occasionally interact with, I spend the vast majority of my time alone. I'm not bothered by it, and I don't really have a huge urge to reverse this reality...but that's what has me a bit concerned. I've read that prodromal schizophrenia is marked by increased social withdrawal and lack of focus.
I should also note that there have been a lot of changes in my life this last year or so. My first, and only, long-term relationship ended after 3.5 years last July, and I took a very long time to get over at least some of it, and I haven't really had the desire to start dating again since. I have also been on and off depressed about the termination of this important relationship, and what the future brings (or will fail to bring) romantically. I'm also completely unsure of where my life is going, seeing as how I didn't get into graduate school last time around, and I'm not sure if the path I'm heading down, occupationally, is futile or not. This has caused an increase in anxiety and feelings of doubt. I also have very low self-esteem, and always have, in varying degrees.
So, I am unsure if what I am experiencing (lack of drive, contentment in being alone, physically, for days at a time) is typical of anxiety/depression, or part of the prodromal phase of schizophrenia. I've never experienced hallucinations (outside of hypnagogic hallucinations when falling asleep) or delusions, but I've experienced anxiety and worry about potentially having these symptoms, because the notion of having schizophrenia is terrifying to me. There is no one in my family history that I know of that has had schizophrenia.
I also have not had any of the prodromal symptoms associated with clumsiness. I regularly exercise and hiked in the wilderness (alone) around the town I live in all summer long. I sometimes have racing thoughts, but these are never of the odd, or strange kind, and are usually based in anxiety about something.
Is there a way to determine if these symptoms are just anxiety/depression and I'm overreacting, or am I just in a quarter life crisis and my life 'difficulties' are manifesting as stress and depression symptoms? I know that prodromal schizophrenia seems to be marked by a conscious effort to avoid people, even close family and friends, and I feel as though my situation is more akin to not having much social interaction because I don't put a high priority on face-to-face interaction (but when I do have an opportunity, I take it without hesitation, and I have plenty of internet-based interaction). I feel as though if I was living in a town with all my close friends, I would be socializing far more. But since I have no basis of comparison to my current status, all I can do is wonder if this introversion would interfere with those interactions. When I do visit my friends and family out of town, I spend the entire time socializing with ease. Up until my internship ended two months ago, I had no issues interacting with people at work.
I have a friend that suffers from depression, and my lack of drive, 'laziness', and contentment with just hanging around the apartment all day (as long as I have intellectual stimulation via an internet connection, books, etc.), sounds similar to what she dealt with....but again, I am unsure.
Am I worrying about something senseless, and I just have too much time on my hands to let my general anxiety towards schizophrenia run amok? Or is there some risk that I am in the prodromal stages of this affliction?
Having difficulty concentrating and problems with social interactions can occur in a variety of psychiatric disabilities. Schizophrenia has many criteria including psychotic thoughts, delusions and hallucinations. However only a psychiatrist would understand this in full. If what you are experiencing is worsening it would be worth seeing a psychiatrist so they could appropriately follow up within their clinical discretion. If at any time any symptoms worsen or new symptoms occur always call this to their attention and they can decide what the appropriate next step is.
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