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How Can I Break Free from My Constant Paranoia?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Jan 01, 2019

Question

Assalamualaikum,

My problem is quite complicated. From a very young age I was very shy, not confident, isolated, very naive and an innocent child. I was never able to make friends and was always studying hard. I was always very good in studies. But from the start I was very afraid, sensitive, and a stressed out child, I would get stressed out even at the slightest matters like if I didn't complete my homework whereas my other school fellows were not so tense from such a young age of 8 or 9.

Moreover, I used to get bad thoughts and voices since I was 8 or 9 years old. When I was 9 years old my eyes were hurting, and I thought I was going blind and I spent 2 days in complete depression. Then when at 10 I thought I had contracted breast cancer and I spent some days in fear and depression. But as I was so young, I forgot about it after some days. I never came to know why I got such thoughts. They would dissipate after some time.

I knew nothing and was very naive till the age of 18. Even though class fellows used to bully me a lot in school and college, I never even knew how to answer back. I would just listen and forget it. Then at the age of 18 I suddenly discovered that I was masturbating for the past 3 or 4 years. I was doing it, but I never came to realize that I was doing it. I came to know about it through an article online. My problem was that I had zero sex education and had no knowledge about it. That was the time that devastated my whole life.

I am now 23 years old. From that day I have spent my life in complete depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. My immediate reaction was that I thought I committed a very grave sin and now Allah will never forgive me. Then I complained to Allah why did this happen to me. I thought I had broken my hymen and would search through the internet all day and night the symptoms of broken hymen. I became mentally very ill and through searching my problem I ended up watching some wrong stuff, but I left it immediately before it became an addiction. From that day on my fear has transformed in many ways.

Sometimes I get fear someone is going to kidnap me, or someone is following me. Then I get paranoia that I had contracted a dangerous disease. Then I developed an excessive fear of death. I cannot sleep at night because of the fear that I would die. All of this has ruined my life. I am still mentally not sound and very stressed out. Now the problem is that an acquaintance at university used to say some weird things about my character to me under hidden words. I cannot tell but from it I judged that she knew I watched something wrong. Now I have developed fear that there is something about me on a vulgar website, but I don't know what it is. I am so fearful that now I don't even go out without covering my face.

I have completed my master’s degree. My problems are increasing day by day. Sometimes I become so practicing that I pray Tahajjud and make supplication for everyone along with my obligatory prayers and some days are such that I don't even offer any prayer for the day. I have spent a very clean life. I never indulged in anything wrong deliberately. That thing happened to me and has disturbed all my mental peace. I was living quite a peaceful life till 18 years of age. I was, although stressed out at that time, but I never had to listen to anything related to my character. I was never a characterless person. I am very conscious of God and did not do anything wrong deliberately. Even though I had very little knowledge of Islam till 18 years of age and was not practicing Muslim at all, I am now more practicing than before.

I don't want to visit a psychiatrist as I cannot tell this anyone face to face. I think my life is ruined and I cannot study anymore or have a career. I do not know what to do. I have only one good friend from school, one from college and one from university. But I don't want to tell them anything. I am always very sad and hopeless. I always complain to God. It was not my fault that no one guided me from the start or that I was not close to anyone that I could have told my problem to when it happened.

As I have stated above, I was a very cool, calm, and patient person. But after that day I have become very aggressive and impatient. I get very angry on past events. In university, I was very isolated although I had a group of friends. I have developed several sleeping and eating disorders. Moreover, I have lost all my focus and concentration in studies although I was a good student. Now my job exam is approaching, and I cannot even focus on anything. Please give me some tips to focus on studies. And how can I get out and break free from my constant paranoia.

Please guide me and help to make my life better.

May Allah bless you

Counselor

Answer


How Can I Break Free from My Constant Paranoia?

In this counseling answer:

• Make an appointment with a therapist in your area for an assessment and ongoing counseling.

• I would kindly suggest that you do gain a complete and full knowledge about human sexual development, sexual feelings, and Islamically appropriate ways to handle them.

• You may have had some form of an anxiety disorder going on since you were little.


As salam Alaykum sister,

Thank you for writing to us and explaining the issues that you are concerned about.  You are going through a lot right now, trying to deal with your mental health issues, eating and sleeping disorders as well as focusing on your job exam. You have a lot to handle dear sister, but from what you wrote, I think you have great insight and ability to get through this Insha’Allah.

As a child, you described yourself as being afraid, sensitive, and stressed out. You also described a time when you were about 8 years old, that you had pain in your eyes, and you thought you were going blind and this caused you to be depressed for a few days. A year later it was a fear of breast cancer. You also reported getting “vulgar thoughts” from the age of eight and you didn’t know why. You did not have any education or information regarding the changes you would go through as a pre-teen, teen, and young woman.

 Lack of Sexual Education & Fears

At 18 you discovered that what you were doing for the past three or four years was called masturbation. You got your education about sexuality from an article on Facebook. Sister, I’m sorry that you had such a lack of education and knowledge regarding the changes you would go through both physically and emotionally during adolescence.  Sister, it is natural to have sexual feelings and desires. As you were not taught what these feelings were, it seems that you were clueless as to what was happening to you. Sister, given that you did not know, I would not worry about it too much. I would kindly suggest that you do gain a complete and full knowledge about human sexual development, sexual feelings, and Islamically appropriate ways to handle them. 

You are very worried that masturbation could have broken your hymen. You appear to become obsessed with searching the internet all night and day for the “symptoms of a broken hymen” as you stated. You also said that it made you very mentally ill and through your searching, you came across some things that were haram and you immediately left the information “before it became an addiction” for you.

I would like to address the hymen issue first. Sister, young women and girls can break their hymens through sports, exercise and other vigorous physical activities. They don’t even know that they have broken it. I know this is a very important issue, as an intact hymen is a sign of virginity. However, the fallacy lies in the fact that a hymen that is not intact does not always represent someone who’s not a virgin either. As stated above, hymens can be broken other ways that do not deal with sexual intercourse. I would not concentrate and worry so much on that aspect of your body but do look into trying to control your sexual feelings and masturbation. While what you feel is perfectly normal, human and natural (Allah created the desire within us) it is to be confined to marriage.


Check out this counseling video:


I’m not sure how much reading you have done on human sexuality, but I would kindly suggest that you seek out an educational class, preferably in an Islamic setting such as a class at the Islamic Center or a study group with other women. This way you can get more correct information Insha’Allah about how your body, mind, and spirituality function together. As everything is rather new to you, I am sure these feelings and acts (masturbation) seem very strange, scary and you are uncertain about a lot of things. Education is a very empowering sister and I encourage you to get educated concerning this matter.

Fears vs. Reality

You also wrote that your fear is transforming into many things. You fear somebody one is going to kidnap you, you fear somebody is following you. You get paranoia that you’ve contracted dangerous disease. You have also developed an excessive fear of death. All these fears especially the fear of death, is causing you to not be able to sleep at night. You discussed a friend at the university who used to say some “weird stuff” about your character under “hidden words”. You felt that there is something vulgar about you on a bad website. Sister, I cannot diagnose you. However, I would examine your thoughts relating to these perceptions. Often in some cases of anxiety, panic, and delusional disorders, our minds can make us think something is one way when, in fact, it is not.

You stated that you were living a quiet and peaceful life until 18 years of age, yet earlier in your question you refer to your childhood as one marked with fear, “being sensitive, and stressed out”. Even at the age of 8 and ,9 you would become very worried and obsessed if your eyes had pains in them, or if you thought you had a disease such as breast cancer. It appears to me sister that you may have had some form of an anxiety disorder going on since you were little.

While it may have not been present your entire life it, the possible anxiety seems to have manifested in different forms at different times. Perhaps when you are under stressful conditions it resurfaces. It went from a fear of a disease at 8 years old to hearing or thinking that people were talking about you, hidden messages, paranoia, and fears of being followed or kidnapped. Insha’Allah, hopefully you can see a pattern in your thinking and the anguish it is causing you. There is a pattern of unrealistic thoughts and fears. There is a tendency to worry and obsess over your health and other things. I can imagine these thoughts are very scary. And I’m so sorry that you are experiencing this.

I am wondering if you have anyone in your life whom you are close to. If so, I would encourage you to confide in your mom, a sister, or another close friend who can help you through your fears and help you to see the reality of situations insha’Allah. More importantly, I would kindly suggest that you consult with your family doctor and get a referral for psychological evaluation. If you are open, a good therapist who evaluates you can give you more insight as well as a diagnosis. With this would come regular counseling sessions and possibly medication as part of your treatment plan. Mental Health illnesses are very prevalent in our world today sister, many people suffer needlessly because help is available. Just like if you had stomach pains-you would get treated yes? The same goes for emotional pains and fears. We need to utilize the resources of caring, qualified professionals to help us as Allah SWT has provided these caring professionals for us. Please do make an appointment with a therapist in your area for an assessment and ongoing counseling.

Regarding preparation for your job exam, please do try the following Insha’Allah:

  1. Make supplication for Allah to grant you ease
  2. Sit in a quiet place for at least 5 minutes a day (work up to 30) and do dhkzir (remembrance)
  3. Start a Stress Reduction Program at home
  4. Promise to love yourself and nourish your body with good and healthy foods, exercise, and water.
  5. If thoughts about a website (or other thoughts) come into your mind, imagine a huge red stop sign-and halt the thought. Immediately engage in an activity or think of something happy. Read Qur’an. Don’t feed into the thought but dismiss it.
  6. To help focus better, ensure you are well-rested, nourished, and hydrated. I realize you have eating and sleeping problems sister but Insha’Allah you will see a therapist as well as test the tips above which may help. Look at the study material as a section, not as a whole. Divide it up into different parts and give yourself a time limit for each part. Do something good for yourself once you have completed each part. For more tips please see here.

Sister, please do make an appointment for an evaluation as well as start working on the points I have outlined. Insha’Allah these points will provide some relief until your appointment with the therapist. Please know that if it is anxiety that you are suffering from, it has a high rate of successful outcomes. You just must take the first step.

We wish you the best, you are in our prayers.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Mental Illness Drives Me Away from My Faith

Mental Illness… Real or Sign of Weak Faith?

Ashamed of My Mental Disorders

 




About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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