In a previous post, “I Think I’ll Forego Exposure Therapy,” I wrote about my fear of garbage disposals and hinted at my wobbly relationship with retaining walls. While these fears mean little in any world other than my own (and certainly mean less-than-little when compared with genuine life-and-death fears so many people endure day in and day out around the globe), I was trying, in my own adorably sardonic way, to get at something larger, deeper — and more relatable: that we all of us are inhabited by irrational fears that arise and withdraw seemingly of their own volition.
Where they reside when they are not making mischief is a great mystery. And even more interesting is why we have ended up with our unique configurations of fears in the first place. (Granted, though, that dread of being eaten alive seems a very reasonable terror if you happen to live in close proximity to tigers that enter your village at night in search of food.)
But fear of clowns? Or fear of parakeets, trees, rain, the color yellow, belly buttons, the pope, the number 13, beards, and holes — all well-documented phobias. From whence do these come? And what purpose do they serve individually and collectively?
Although my irrational fear of garbage disposals tilts in the direction of delusion because mine is clearly a false belief about the power these gadgets have over me, I actually live outside this belief and can laugh at myself whenever the fear tries to take hold.
For those who live with psychosis, however, these fears and delusions are all too real and intractable. Without early intervention and treatment, they daily live with what can be debilitating delusions, hallucinations, thought disorders, and other symptoms — with the onset of these symptoms typically occurring in those who are between ages 16 and 25.
Having worked since last summer with young adults in this age range who have experienced their first episode of psychosis, I have seen firsthand that, if treatment begins early, there is every hope they can be spared a lifetime of disability and can go on to live fulfilling, healthy lives.
For resources about first-episode psychosis programs, click HERE.