What your friend or family member with schizophrenia is going through

I have been trying to get people with schizophrenia to describe what they are going through. It is usually difficult for them to tell someone what is happening with them. It could be because:

  1. They have formal thought disorder:

What happens is that a person’s Train of Thought is disrupted. If you have seen the movie Inside Out, the animation of the Train of Thought is very appropriate. Now imagine that train stopping suddenly and not starting again. Imagine that the sequence of the coaches in the train is disorganized. Imagine the train going at the speed of an aeroplane but instead of going from point A to point B, it goes from point A to point X to point D to point V to point B to point Z and so on. If you are wondering why this is happening, the circuits in the brain are misfiring. (This is the easiest way I can put it).

Photo credit: Disney’s Inside Out http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Train_of_Thought

2. They have delusions:

Please note that I am not writing “They are delusional”. I am writing they HAVE delusions. It is not that a person becomes the disorder, it is that he/ she develops a disorder. It is not his/ her identity.

To put it in the simplest way, people who have delusions start believing a fact which is not true. Now, this can happen with any of us. Sometimes, we believe that walking under a ladder brings bad luck. But we brush that thought aside, knowing that it may not be true.

In the case of delusions, this false thought is not brushed away. It is fixed and firm, unshakeable. It starts affecting everything a person does. So, a person cannot live a normal life due to that thought/those thoughts.

Let me give you an example. A person starts getting the thought that there is something happening around him, and whatever is happening is in relation to him. Whenever someone talks, the person starts believing that those people are talking about him (This happens to most of us at some point, but we brush the thought away or we only get it once or twice and it does not progress to anything more). The person starts believing that the people talking about him want to harm him. It becomes so fixed, that even if you give proof to the contrary, the person does not stop believing it. This does not stop here. The thought is so pervasive, that the person will stop going out of his/her house. He/ she will stop working, will stop talking to his/her family members, stop taking food from anyone thinking it might be poisoned.

Can you imagine being in this person’s shoes? Imagine believing the whole world is trying to harm you. Imagine the fear. Imagine being so disabled that you lose the power to earn, eat, sleep, live a normal life. And yes, it is a disability.

3. They have hallucinations:

While reading this article, there is a voice going on inside your head. Don’t be afraid, this is not a hallucination.

Now imagine a voice outside your head, as if someone is actually talking to you. But when you look around, there is no one there. You try to search everywhere, outside the room, outside the house, everywhere. But you cant find who it is. You put your ear to the wall, thinking maybe its coming from there. But its not.

So you sit and listen. It can be a man talking to you, a woman, a child, a bird, an animal, the president, the prime minister, anyone. The voices keep coming all day, every day. What do you do in such a case? You talk back. People see you talking and ask who are you talking to? You become quiet because you can’t tell them, because they can not hear what you can hear.

Auditory Hallucinations. Photo credit: http://www.viralnova.com/schizophrenic-art/

Please try to understand that I am not saying delusions and hallucinations lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Please DO NOT use this to diagnose yourself or anyone else with schizophrenia. There is much more to the diagnosis.

My aim of writing this article is to help you understand what a person with schizophrenia is going through. This is to reduce the stigma against the disorder. Whenever something is unknown, we tend to be afraid of it. This is to let you KNOW. To reduce your fear of this disorder.

4. Negative symptoms:

Delusions and hallucinations are something that is happening. So, these are positive symptoms.

When something does not happen, it becomes a negative symptom. For e.g. the will to care about something. When a person loses the will to care, he/she become apathetic. There are similar symptoms like anhedonia, alogia etc. These are one of the most difficult symptoms to treat.

When we give medicines, we can see a person’s delusions and hallucinations resolving. Slowly but gradually, the false thoughts stop and the voices go away. It is much more difficult to treat negative symptoms, but not impossible.

This is an attempt to explain one of the most complex disorders in the field of medicine. If you are reading this and you have a friend or family member who is going through these symptoms, know that you are not alone and that there is help available.

Please don’t hide them. Understand what they are going though. Get the right help and you may get your friend or family member back.

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