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I have been scribbling in class since I've been a freshman in college (i'm in my fifth/final year now). It started out in one of my classes where we were all facing each other in a circle. Before that I was used to most of my classes being in rows. I had (and have) a fear of facing people while I'm sitting in a desk. I don't feel claustrophobic, it's more like I feel trapped and I find it really hard to look at people.

Anyways, to not deal with looking at people, I started just spending more time taking notes. I don't really *have* to take a lot of notes to understand what's going on in class. I feel like I do understand most of the time what a professor is saying and don't have to furiously write verbatim, it's just that I don't know what to do with myself. It seems like everyone else is relaxed, but when I get in an environment like a large or small group circle of people in a class, I feel tense like I'm about to lose my mind.

I don't think it's what you call a panic attack, because I don't have the physical symptoms like sweating, but I do feel like I'm losing control and losing my mind because I just *can't* interact like I see everyone else doing. So for example, while everyone else in class is having a group discussion without even paper or pen in front of them, I *have* to have my notebook open and my pen in hand or else I can't cope.

What started out as crazy scribbling my freshman year has turned into something that's making my life miserable. I write crazy and obscene things that basically berate myself for feeling the way I feel (nervous), and doing what I do (writing uncontrollably). Some days my writing is fine, and my notes on my paper look as neat as can be. Other days, it's ridiculous ... I become afraid of myself because the words I write are suicidal in nature, HOWEVER, they're not suicidal at the heart of me. I've attempted suicide once, years ago, and will never do that again. It's just the way I'm feeling at the moment, constricted in a classroom, constricted by my observations of others behavior but my inability to physically and emotionally express myself when I'm around others in that environment.

I am also frustrated at myself because the more I try to tell myself to relax, the less I can. It seems like nothing helps whatsoever. I see a psychologist and psychiatrist, I take risperdal for mania-like symptoms, depakote as a mood stabilizer, and sertraline (generic zoloft) to help cope with anxiety.

Although some friends know about what I go through in classes, I feel so useless when I'm in class and just can't keep eye-contact with the professor or other students because I'm so nervous. I want to offer input but it's a struggle.

I know to some it might sound like this is just something I'm making up, but this is so real. Everyday I walk into the class with a quietly optimistic attitude, a smile in my heart and (trying to show) composure on my face, but once I hit the desk seat, I become a different person plagued with fear.

Is there anyone else out there that writes uncontrollably where it is NOT a positive experience?

*Edit* Because of the lack of response I got, I guess a better question is can anyone relate, or is anyone here even remotely familiar with compulsive writing/hypergraphia?

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You label it like it's something bad: hypergraphia. That makes it sound like an illness! When you consider some particularly destructive ways that people deal with stress and anxiety, compulsive writing isn't so bad.

It's what you're writing that harmful, because it sounds like you are your worst enemy. Why do you berate yourself for feeling anxious? You probably know by now that berating yourself won't make you any less anxious. If you feel anxious, just let yourself feel that way. Write about how it feels to let yourself feel anxious and be okay with it. Practice this if it's not so easy at first. Write what you like, but make a rule that you won't berate yourself anymore.

Back to this "hypergraphia". I am aware of many artists and songwriters that kept sketchbooks or notebooks that they wrote in at a rate that you could call compulsive (Vincent Van Gogh and Thom Yorke of Radiohead are among them). Problem with calling it compulsive is that it makes it sound like there's something wrong with that. It really is a harmless way of processing your environment and confronting your feelings.

When I was in college, I wrote in sketchbooks and notebooks many times per day, every day. I majored in art, so I took them everywhere I went and drew out visual representations of whatever was happening in my life. The notebooks were more like diaries, and I would just write out whatever I was stressing about. I've since thrown out all the diaries, but I still have the sketchbooks. They're stored in a large footlocker, and the ones that won't fit are on my bookshelves. I filled up many, many sketchbooks.

In fact, I'm realizing that it would probably help me a lot as an artist to start keeping sketchbooks again. Compulsively, even.

So, compulsive writing, or hypergraphia, is not inherently bad. Writing about feeling suicidal is fine. Putting yourself down for how you feel is not. Bear in mind that sometimes the most relaxing thing you can do is just to accept how you feel at the moment.

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That sounds really hard. What have your psychiatrist/therapist said about it?

Can you substitute anything else? Like fidgeting or worry beads or something else to pump your unrest into.

Would asking for a note-taker for accommodations help?

Does it happen if you take notes on a computer instead?

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  • 2 weeks later...

In classes, especially when the seats are arranged in a staredown circle, I write incredibly tiny, intentionally-indecipherable notes to myself. Words can crawl over the lines and heap themselves in asyntactic piles; just as long as I keep writing. I know that in my case I'm discharging anxiety while avoiding eye contact with others, just like you describe doing. The negative content may indeed have little to do with your current self-esteem. Instead, it seems like the violent writing is a way of shouting down the anxiety. Beyond that, I will abruptly utter phrases like, "You can kill me..." "F*ck me..." "I want this dead..." "Hit me..." in times of acute stress, without feeling that I am expressing my true opinion of myself. Likewise, if someone could distinguish the content of my squiggles, they'd find what I write to be overwhelmingly negative. The overlap of symptoms between Tourette's and OCD suggests that intense anxiety provokes the release of embarrassing mental material. These words or behaviors do not necessarily reveal hidden self-hatred so often as they eventually engender it for the shame they bring.

So, I think resonance is right to suggest some way of coping with the stress. Some people do use worry beads, stones, fabric, etc. Perhaps the content of your writing is giving you more worry than it should (since it sounds as though you feel you are not suicidal and that your outlook is not consonant with what you write). I hope you can talk with your doc about reducing the stress of social/school interaction. Long ago, Zoloft did nothing for me in that area. Diazepam, different benzos, and beta-blockers (respectively!) helped some. I found that emailing professors or visiting office hours (sometimes a painful thing to do) helped a great deal. "Participating"/sharing outside class with the instructor or other classmates may make the more formal group discussion less frightening, since you'll have already expressed yourself in a more comfortable setting.

Worrying about worrying comes naturally to anyone aware of their OCD (and/or panic disorder: I just found a lot of comments in the Panic Disorder area of this site regarding experiences in classes that I think might give you some consolation). I write uncontrollably in the same setting as you, with similar negative content. I try to separate how I feel from how I worry what I write or say might suggest I feel. I hope that makes sense--I am repeating some of what mad_genius ended with. And, I hope that you can find a therapy/strategy to reduce your anxiety, so that your coping mechanism (writing) doesn't produce additional anxiety for you. I hope you'll post again to say how the term is going. Sorry it's been such a tough time.

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