If you’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, BPD traits, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, or complex cPTSD), it’s very likely that you’ve had the worrisome thought, “Am I crazy?” If you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks on top of emotional sensitivity, it’s even more likely. You may also from time to time have thoughts such as, “Am I losing my mind? What if I go crazy? Is there something fundamentally wrong with me? I think I’m worse off than people think.”
It’s understandable that if you’re suffering from any of the above listed mental health issues that you might have these types of thoughts. It makes sense, as I’ll explain in a moment. Hopefully, this article will bring you some comfort and encourage you to have some self-compassion around these distressing types of thoughts and worries.
More than likely that “crazy” feeling — the feeling that there’s something “wrong” with you, that you’re “off,” “abnormal,” or “weird” comes from an overstimulated, hypervigilant nervous system.
If this is the case, this may have developed as a result of traumatic childhood experiences or an invalidating childhood environment (abuse, neglect, abandonment). In their book, “Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder,” psychiatrist Dr. Blaise Aguirre and psychotherapist Dr. Gillian Galen talk about how there are detectable neurobiological differences in the brains and nervous systems of those who go on to develop BPD, including an overactive amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for our most basic safety through the fight-flight-freeze response.
Sometimes we get stuck in the fight-flight-fear response — a protective mode that our brains and our nervous systems as a whole default to when we’re in danger or when it perceives we may be in danger — to the point where our nervous systems are on red-alert nearly all the time. This can lead to episodes of intense anxiety and panic and sometimes dissociation (a sense that we are disconnected from our physical bodies and not fully present).
In response, it’s natural to have thoughts come up regarding our sanity, whether we’re crazy, or whether something is wrong with us.
If we’ve experienced abuse, neglect, or abandonment, there may be further messages that we came to believe about our self-worth and whether there is something fundamentally wrong with us.
Between the overactivation of the amygdala and these thoughts, we set ourselves up for a vicious cycle of re-triggering the nervous system back into that fight-flight-freeze stage. Even fearful thoughts about whether we are crazy or going crazy can be enough to continue to fuel and reinforce this circuitry.
The good news is, we can learn skills and work on recalibrating our nervous systems as adults and learn how to cope effectively with intense emotions and distressing thoughts.
Definitely check out Mindfulness for Borderline Personality Disorder, and if you’re wanting to go even deeper, check out DBT Path, an online DBT group and skills class for those wanting to learn dialectical behavior therapy skills, somatic practices, and other nervous system recalibration techniques from the comfort of their homes, anywhere around the globe.
Can you relate to this article? Do you find yourself being very self-critical and fearing that you are crazy?
As a gentle reminder, if you’re having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, it is essential that you seek local emergency psychiatric support. Call or go to your nearest hospital.
Debbie DeMarco Bennett, BSc., CLC
Debbie is a DBT-trained certified life coach who teaches at EmotionallySensitive.com
She is also the author of the popular BPD books, Stronger than BPD and The Stronger Than BPD Journal under the name Debbie Corso