Interview with a ‘high functioning’ schizophrenic

From a fascinating interview with law professor and McArthur grant winner Elyn Saks who has to manage her schizophrenia along with her daily responsibilities:

COOK: Can you sum up the subjective experience of breakdown, so that people might understand what a person with schizophrenia is going through?

SAKS: Subjectively, the best comparison I can make is to a waking nightmare. You have all the terror and confusion and the bizarre images and thoughts that you have in a nightmare. And then with the nightmare you sit bolt upright in bed in utter terror. Only with a nightmare you then wake up, while with psychosis you can’t just open your eyes and make it all go away.

That’s subjectively. Objectively, I have delusions (irrational beliefs like that I have killed hundreds of thousands of people with my thoughts); infrequent hallucinations (like watching a huge spider walk up my wall); and disorganized and confused thinking (e.g. what are called “loose associations,” like “my copies of the cases have been infiltrated. We have to case the joint. I don’t believe in joints but they do hold your body together”). These are called “positive symptoms” of schizophrenia. Except for my first two years at Oxford, I have been spared the so-called “negative symptoms”: apathy, withdrawal, inability to work or make friends.


5 Responses to “Interview with a ‘high functioning’ schizophrenic”

  1. rog Says:

    You are posting some interesting and thoughtful pieces Jason

  2. BirdLab Says:

    I agree rog.

  3. rog Says:

    This article suggests that psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia are caused by viral mutations in our genetic makeup.

  4. BirdLab Says:

    Possibly rog, but mostly I blame the New Zealand education system.

  5. John H. Says:

    This article suggests that psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia are caused by viral mutations in our genetic makeup.

    A recent study claimed that 8% of our genome is composed of viral remnants. The retroviral theory has fallen out of favour, it probably plays a part in a small number of cases. The current dream is that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder but that doesn’t explain a lot. Schizophrenia is not a single condition there is considerable variance in its expression and that is even after excluding shoddy diagnoses. The developing brain is very sensitive to insult, particularly in utero. It will be a constellation of causes, I seriously doubt you can pin it down to one causative factor.

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