What Is A Schizophrenic?
by Allen R. Kates, MFAW, BCECR
Schizophrenic Kelly Thomas
A Group of Disorders
According to the Mayo Clinic, schizophrenia is not just one brain disorder, but a group of disorders where sufferers interpret reality in an abnormal way. The disorder may result in auditory or visual hallucinations, delusions, and disordered or chaotic thinking and behavior. Schizophrenia has often incorrectly been referred to as “split personality” or even “multiple personality.” The word actually refers to a “split mind,” showing a disruption in the balance between emotions and thinking.*
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
With delusions, or beliefs that are not true, schizophrenics may feel that people are following them or trying to hurt them. Sometimes they think other people can read their minds. Schizophrenics often believe they have special powers or abilities.
The schizophrenics I spent time with believed that they heard voices, but others may see, smell, taste and feel things that are not there. I spent hours listening to their stories of what their voices told them.
Their behavior could be anything that we find strange or inappropriate, from showing no reaction to sadness to running out into the street naked, ignoring traffic. I witnessed many forms of odd behavior, including that last one.
The person is hard to understand; sentences may not make sense, or the topic of conversation changes with little or no connection between sentences. Sometimes speech is more than difficult to follow, it’s incomprehensible, like a word salad.
Other symptoms include lack of motivation, diminished ability to reason or think things out, decreased emotional expression, sometimes appearing emotionless and unresponsive. They may lose interest in hygiene, not keeping themselves clean, not taking showers, brushing their teeth or wearing clean clothes. They don’t want to interact with others and rarely feel or express strong emotions.* I did not see that last symptom in my entire two years with 12 schizophrenics. They always sought company, and expressed strong emotions, often too strong, sometimes shouting. But I often saw poor hygiene and was always on their case about keeping clean.
*Adapted from: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/epigen/szwhatis.htm
Rarely Hold Jobs
Schizophrenics cannot usually work at a job that requires a high level of performance, as their inability to concentrate and overreaction to stress make it nearly impossible for them. The schizophrenics I assisted would sometimes perform easy, stress-free jobs at a company that hired the handicapped where they sat at a table assembling glass frames, for instance. However, one of the men with whom I spent a lot of time functioned very well cutting cartoon characters out of plywood and painting them for a small business near the half-way house. So no symptom fits every individual.
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