Four Things I didn’t Know were Symptoms of Schizophrenia

 

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One of the features of being crazy is often not knowing that you’re crazy.

Over the years, and even quite recently, I’ve come to recognize some of my behaviors and experiences that I thought were just either normal, or me being dumb, as actually being symptoms of schizophrenia. It’s funny how reassuring that is to me. I would rather be crazy inside the box I was given than be crazy outside of it, so I find it comforting when I discover that something is just a symptom.

Here are four things I recently realized are symptoms of schizophrenia:

(Titles are linked to sources. 🙂

1. Visual distortions that are not specifically hallucinations.   Last night, we had the washer and dryer going, the furnace was running, and my hot husband was riding his bike on his trainer. (For those of you who don’t know what a trainer is, it’s this.) For some reason, my brain decided to process all that background noise visually. I started seeing what I can only describe as TV static, only the particles were larger and colored. And it covered my whole range of vision, but was heavier in an arch over my eyes. It was so distracting (and exhausting) I had to just go to bed. This happened once years ago, and I thought something was wrong with my eyes, so I went to the emergency room, where they told me I had a migraine. Last night, I didn’t have a headache, and I knew what it was this time, so I just went to bed!

There are a lot of other kinds of visual distortions. I often feel like things are much bigger or smaller than they are, I see double, colors are too bright or things move inordinately fast or slow. Flat surfaces move. I think the most common thing is that I see colored splotches like when you press your hands to your eyes, and this happens most of the time.

2. Harmonics/ Sound excess. So, this is in addition to hearing voices, which is very common. The link above is to a Buzzfeed article and near the end of the article is a video that simulates auditory hallucinations. The simulation doesn’t include the ringing and banging that I often hear. When I’m listening to music, I hear a lot of sounds that can’t be a part of the music, since there’s a limit to what a four-dude band can produce. I often have a hard time telling whether a certain component is part of the music. This goes beyond the level of what the brain typically produces in terms of harmonics. For example, I’ll hear a constant telephone ringing sound, but it will be at a pitch that goes with the music. I’m very sensitive to volume (a serious issue with three small children at home), and get very easily overwhelmed with the combination of noises inside and outside my head.

3. Flat affect/ inappropriate affectual responseI was chatting with a friend who was telling me about how she had lost 30 pounds. A normal reaction is a smile, raised eyebrows, and a verbal response of “Good for you!” You know, with variation, but basically. I realized later that I hadn’t reacted. At all. I don’t think I even commented on her achievement. I was very busy mentally processing the information, and I had no emotional reaction. When Heath Ledger died (He’s my movie boyfriend. I am a normal girl. I have a movie boyfriend.), I couldn’t stop grinning and laughing. It wasn’t that I was happy he had passed away. I certainly wasn’t. But I couldn’t stop giggling. In retrospect I realize that these kinds of inappropriate emotional reactions (which happen often) are a negative symptom of schizophrenia, but at the time, I just thought I was incredibly stupid.

4. Adding unrelated information into the mix.  This one gets me in trouble. It’s called confabulating, and it’s when you take the information in front of you and add in information that you think is related but might not actually be, and draw a conclusion. The problem is that when it happens, I’m absolutely certain that the added information is both correct and relevant, and if those things were true, then my conclusion would follow. Here’s an example.

My friend tells me that she went to the store, and when she says it, she raises her eyebrows. Raising eyebrows is often a sign of disbelief or surprise, so I infer that she doesn’t believe what she is saying. I conclude that she is lying to me about going to the store.

Again:

a) Friend says with eyebrows raised that she went to the store. (observable fact)

b) Raising eyebrows is a sign of disbelief or surprise. (added information, considered as absolute)

c) Friend doesn’t believe what she is saying. (misguided inference)

d) Friend is lying to me. (false conclusion)

Here’s what’s interesting. The sequence is valid. If a) is true, and b) is true, then c) and d) can logically follow. But raising eyebrows isn’t always a sign of disbelief or surprise, and people often aren’t thinking about their faces while they talk, so it could have been a completely accidental expression. The sequence is valid in isolation, but doesn’t hold up in the real world. It isn’t sound.

But the validity, and my belief that b) is true, add up to me being convinced that my friend is lying to me. I can almost never see it at the time, and end up having to do a lot of backpedaling later. This makes relationships really difficult. Add to that the fact that my paranoia and voices actively tell me things like people are lying to me and everyone hates me, and its no wonder I get in relational pickles all the time.

 

So there. Four things I didn’t know were symptoms of schizophrenia, but was relieved to discover were. These all make life kinda hard and unpredictable, so I sure appreciate all the grace you can muster.

Were any of these new to you? Let me know in the comments!

2 Comments

  1. “I would rather be crazy inside the box I was given than be crazy outside of it, so I find it comforting when I discover that something is just a symptom.” This line nails it. Although I don’t have your symptoms, I have suffered from PTSD my whole life and what countless therapists couldn’t do the memoir “Denial” by Jessica Stern and the nonfiction book “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk, both did. They gave me validation. I felt seen, and in a way normal, when I realized my symptoms are just that, not some kind of innate character flaw. I even started to learn to appreciate the benefits of some of them. I’m glad you’re finding config in your knowledge also. Keep writing! I can’t wait to read your memoir and learn from you too.

    • I actually address some of the things Van der Kolk says in my book. I have PTSD too. One problem I ran into personally, even though I really appreciated some of the things he said in The Body Keeps the Score, was that I have both schizophrenia and PTSD, so I couldn’t just take his comments at face value, since I had a whole ‘nother thing going on as well. For example, he offers that maybe the “hallucinations” some of his patients were having were actually flashbacks. It’s hard for me to tell the difference between the two. When I think I’m doing or experiencing something very weird and I go “I wonder if I’m actually crazy…” and then I find out it’s a symptom of schizophrenia, I feel much less crazy. I guess that’s a weird way to put it. Anyway, I appreciate you, Lisa! I’ll have to check out Denial; I’ve never heard of that one. 🙂

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