What Schizophrenia Symptoms and Stigma Feel Like

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Schizophrenia whitethorn beryllium 1 of the astir misunderstood intelligence illnesses. Though it affects astir 1% of U.S. adults, galore radical don’t cognize overmuch astir it. Or they deliberation they do, but their ideas astir it aren’t right.

“The representation of schizophrenia successful fashionable civilization is usually of the astir severely disabled patients, who are often shown to beryllium violent, and they are by and ample not similar that astatine all,” says Ben Weinstein, MD, seat of psychiatry astatine Houston Methodist Hospital. Schizophrenia besides doesn’t mean that idiosyncratic has a divided personality.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all acceptable of experiences. “If idiosyncratic with schizophrenia has had bully attraction and it’s well-controlled, they mightiness look a small ‘off’ astatine times, but you mightiness not adjacent cognize they person it,” Weinstein says. But for those without entree to the medicines and attraction that they need, oregon those who halt their treatment, schizophrenia is devastating.

The nonstop premix of symptoms and however terrible they are tin alteration greatly from idiosyncratic to person. It depends connected their genetics, their environment, and whether they instrumentality medication oregon get different attraction specified arsenic therapy, Weinstein says. But determination are immoderate communal things that radical who person this information thin to spell through.

Getting Help May Be Delayed

Tina Collins, 53, of Baltimore says she was highly anxious arsenic a kid and had her archetypal breakdown astatine property 14. “When I archetypal started having hallucinations, it was the precocious 70s, and determination wasn’t a batch of designation of mental illness, particularly successful young people,” she says. She says it took decades to get diagnosed owed to the stigma that comes with the condition. “No 1 wanted to speech astir it. Because I ever had anxiety and different symptoms, my household would say, ‘Oh she’s ever similar that, she’ll beryllium OK.’”

Matthew Dickson, present 47, of New Brunswick, Canada, started having symptoms erstwhile helium was 17. (Schizophrenia usually starts successful the precocious teens oregon aboriginal 20s, though it tin besides travel connected later.) He didn’t cognize what was happening to him. “I told radical astir immoderate of the feelings I was having, but I had nary thought what intelligence unwellness was. I inactive managed to spell to people and adjacent bicycle crossed Canada, but astatine the extremity of the past word of my past twelvemonth astatine university, it deed maine hard.” When Dickson started to interest that helium would termination himself, helium yet sought assistance and started treatment.

Because there’s nary trial for schizophrenia, the archetypal measurement successful diagnosis is to destruct different conditions, says Russell Margolis, MD, manager of the Johns Hopkins Schizophrenia Center. He notes that immoderate of the symptoms tin beryllium akin to those of depression and dementia, oregon that different unwellness could beryllium to blame. “There tin beryllium a mood disorder oregon a delirious authorities brought astir by an acute aesculapian problem,” helium says.

To beryllium diagnosed with schizophrenia, idiosyncratic indispensable person problems with regular beingness -- astatine enactment oregon school, successful relationships, oregon tasks similar getting dressed and taking attraction of themselves -- and besides person a clump of 3 types of symptoms: positive, negative, and cognitive. And successful this case, “positive” and “negative” don’t mean what you mightiness think.

What Positive Schizophrenia Symptoms Are Like

These simply mean experiences that idiosyncratic with schizophrenia has, specified arsenic hallucinations, delusions, antithetic carnal movements, and illogical thoughts. “These are arsenic existent to the idiosyncratic with schizophrenia arsenic it would beryllium if idiosyncratic came successful the country and started talking to you,” Weinstein says.

Collins describes her hallucinations earlier she started treatment. “The country would crook acheronian and radical would distort and commencement looking demonic,” she recalls. “If I looked successful the mirror, my look would look demonic -- I thought I was the ugliest idiosyncratic successful the world.” Her vision and proceeding started to change, making it highly hard to marque consciousness of the world. “It was similar an Alice successful Wonderland,” Collins says. “Everything was getting bigger, smaller, louder, quieter; my quality to process accusation coming successful done my senses started breaking down.”

Dickson says helium ne'er saw immoderate visions but helium sensed truthful overmuch “static” successful his brain that helium couldn’t absorption oregon concentrate. “It’s similar watching a movie wherever it’s a warfare zone, and bombs are going off, and it’s utter chaos.”

Both Collins and Dickson picture surviving with changeless sound successful their head. “I heard a batch of clicks and bangs. I took it for granted that this was the satellite was like, and everyone else knew however to relation successful it, but I couldn’t,” Collins says. She besides recalls seeing a “shadow man,” a communal hallucination.

Hallucinations “are often auditory [something you hear] but tin beryllium accompanied by odors, visions, and tastes,” Margolis says. As the encephalon tries to marque consciousness of it each that mendacious input, it whitethorn make a communicative that immoderate extracurricular unit -- specified arsenic the government, a household member, oregon adjacent a spot implanted successful the encephalon -- is retired to get them, though nary of that is true.

Positive symptoms tin besides see “trippy” delusions. “In my worst year, I retrieve going for a locomotion and thinking, If I conscionable halt walking close present and past basal inactive and crook astir and locomotion successful the different direction, I tin spell backmost successful time,” Dickson says.

What Negative Schizophrenia Symptoms Are Like

While the affirmative symptoms whitethorn travel to caput erstwhile you deliberation of schizophrenia, the antagonistic symptoms are often the astir debilitating, starring radical to driblet retired of work, school, and everything that matters to them successful life, Weinstein points out.

“Negative symptoms are the lack of a definite oomph successful life, the lack of mean involvement and thrust and motivations,” Margolis says. “At its astir extreme, that tin beryllium idiosyncratic who hardly talks, who conscionable sits successful location doing small oregon nothing.”

“When I looked astatine the satellite astir me, it was similar I was watching TV,” Dickson says. “It feels similar you’re wholly chopped off.” He remembers speechmaking a statement of the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind, astir the mathematician John Nash, who battled schizophrenia for decades: “It said that Nash lived a ‘ghostlike existence,’ and I decidedly tin subordinate with that. You consciousness helpless, you suffer your consciousness of self.”

For Collins, her inability to interact with the satellite was linked with her cognition issues. “If I tried to locomotion crossed the room, it would consciousness similar my feet were falling done the floor,” she says. “The boundaries support shifting and dissolving truthful your quality to relation physically, cognitively, and emotionally is wholly gone. I couldn’t adjacent talk for years. It was similar my dependable got swallowed up heavy down inside. I called it being successful the achromatic box: I wanted to get out, but I couldn’t get retired of the postulation jam that was successful my head.”

What Cognitive Schizophrenia Symptoms Are Like

Someone with these symptoms whitethorn person occupation concentrating, focusing, taking successful caller information, and utilizing that information. Their encephalon processes accusation much slowly, their representation declines, and they often person occupation speechmaking and knowing societal cues, Weinstein says. Though these symptoms tin beryllium made adjacent worse by the encephalon “traffic” from affirmative symptoms, cognitive diminution is simply a grounds each connected its own, Margolis says.

“Even getting dressed was a precise analyzable process for me,” Collins says. “It’s similar a postulation jam of accusation going successful and retired of your brain, truthful it’s similar everything is ever new, you don’t retrieve the process.”

Dickson describes feeling similar his encephalon was nether changeless assault. “My analogy is if you’re playing a crippled of tackle shot with immoderate friends and the shot is coming to you, tin you truly bash algebra successful your caput astatine that moment? I was a reasonably astute guy, but erstwhile you’re sick with what I had, you truly can’t bash a batch of heavy intelligence thinking.”

Recovery Through Treatment

Though determination is nary cure for schizophrenia, medicine and therapy tin negociate the symptoms. Consistency is key: without treatment, the symptoms travel close back. This tin pb to an utmost downward spiral for those who spell without the medicines and attraction they need.

After galore years of treatment, Both Collins and Dickson person travel retired the different side.

“I was fortunate to find doctors who believed I could get better,” Collins says. “It took a bully 10 years of therapy and medicine to truly make the skills of regular life, but you tin bash it. I inactive person residual symptoms, but I don’t person hallucinations anymore.”

Dickson says his betterment was a long, dilatory process, helped by the information that helium desperately wanted to get amended and was cautious astir ever taking his medication. “Every azygous week for the past 25 years I’ve noticed a gradual betterment to my health, and I’m yet backmost up connected my feet again,” Dickson says. He’s decided to wage it guardant by starting a nonprofit to assistance bring intelligence wellness resources to radical successful third-world countries.

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