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Bizarre Behaviours

Understanding schizophrenia

edited 20079674_xlSchizophrenia is a mental illness that can affect anybody. It tends to strike its victims between the ages of 17 and 35, and in rare cases even younger. It affects all aspects of the sufferers’ lives, i.e. the way they think, feel and behave. In particular, disordered thinking is the trademark of this mental disorder. A person suffering from schizophrenia is unable to properly organise his thoughts, which led to fragmented thinking and behaving, which the general population considers as “crazy or insane”. But for sufferers, their hallucinations make sense to them because they come to their minds the way all their other “normal” thoughts would. Therefore, it is difficult to decide what is real and what is not.

Jenny’s Story

Jenny, 21, had the time of her life as a happy teenager. Everything was fine at school and at home, and she felt good! Then at age 17, Jenny started hearing multiple voices – Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and numerous others were talking to her in a very unfriendly, threatening manner and not in a funny cartoon style. She started to get really paranoid because all these voices were shouting things at her, which disturbed her: “You are a dishonour to your family. You are ugly, and you do not deserve to live on this planet.” Jenny felt that she had a loudspeaker in her brain which she could not turn off.

Ultimately, she had her first breakdown, also known as an episode, when she was 18 years old. Suddenly, Jenny was talking bizarrely – sometimes almost like one of those cartoon characters she heard in her head. Jenny believed she was being controlled by these TV creatures. They commanded her to kick and stab the huge grey terrible monster in front of her HDB; otherwise, it would kill all her HDB neighbours. Thus, almost every day she madly hit and kicked the grey trash container – the monster – using vulgar and obscene words.

Pedestrians who observed her strange behaviour only shook their heads in bewilderment, but didn’t attempt to stop her. She became very disorganised and became careless with regard to her physical appearance. Her parents were stunned and shocked and had no idea what was going on. At times, she felt so sad and depressed and didn’t really know why. Despite all of this, Jenny didn’t recognise that anything was wrong with her. Due to this lack of insight, she resented her parents’ suggestion for early treatment, which led to a lot of arguing between her parents and herself. Her mother tried to convince Jenny that there are no talking cartoon voices and yelled at her: “Stop talking rubbish. Think of other things! You are so childish!”

Slowly but steadily, Jenny ended up alone and isolated. She wouldn’t speak to anybody for days, and her sudden lack of facial expressions left loved ones and friends puzzled. In an act of desperation, Jenny attempted suicide and as a result ended up in a mental health hospital. There it was found out that she was suffering from a “fragmented mind” – a mental disorder better known under the term ‘schizophrenia’.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is difficult to diagnose because most people with schizophrenia don’t want to talk about it, and because no two people have the same display of symptoms.

Most common signs of schizophrenia are what we call the positive symptoms and the negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are termed “positive” because something is added to the person’s usual behaviour.

In Jenny’s case, the hearing of cartoon character voices is known as auditory hallucinations. Individuals like Jenny often respond to them as if they were real or as if they have power over them. Also, her highly improbable belief that the monster on the street would harm her HDB neighbours became fixed in her mind as a certainty. Ordinary attempts to point out contradictions, for example, by her parents, couldn’t shift her delusion. These “positive” symptoms normally occur during an acute episode and are often responsive to proper medication.

The negative or deficit symptoms refer to things that are lost from the person, for example, Jenny’s loss of motivation. Jenny did not show any enthusiasm. Her activity levels were reduced to almost zero. Her self-care was neglected, and she did not want to get out of bed most days. She also lost her warm facial expressions and appeared emotionally flat. Sometimes, Jenny was behaving inappropriately, laughing in moments in which it was not appropriate at all. Jenny became unable to demonstrate appropriate feelings or reactions. She avoided social activities and became more occupied with internal, bizarre thoughts and voices in her head. Suicidal thoughts and behaviour are quite common among people with schizophrenia.

schizo table

Life after a Diagnosis of Mental Illness

At the hospital, Jenny recovered from her suicide attempt and her first episode. However, that did not mean the disorder had gone away. Left untreated, this illness will develop into a series of psychotic relapses and it will become increasingly more challenging to treat. Jenny and her parents accepted the fact that schizophrenia is a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment, even when symptoms have subsided. Jenny has been receiving medical treatment and ongoing psychotherapy which helped stabilise her condition. Now at age 21, her mental health situation has improved so much that she intends to become a nurse at the mental health hospital where she can share her own “mad” experiences with other schizophrenia patients!

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Dr Wolff von Auer, SAC registered Counselor and Certified Hypnotherapist, Author, Ex-Senior Banker, is a well-known passionate and acknowledged keynote speaker-cum-trainer. He is well-known for his Mental Wellbeing Workshops & Talks. He also is a Service Provider to the Health Promotion Board (HPB). For more information, www.CHH.com.sg.
Posted by ezyhealth on Nov 6 2013. Filed under Mental Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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