Inside the Mind of People with Schizophrenia


You would most likely experience feelings of shock and fear and probably run! In the case of people with schizophrenia, the lion won’t exist in objective reality, yet the person would still be able to see it and would experience the same feelings of shock and fear, and behave the way one would if they saw a wild animal like that and run!

As mentioned above, there are various kinds of hallucinations: auditory (most common), visual, olfactory (smell), tactile (skin), and gustatory (taste). 

People with schizophrenia also experience delusions. Delusions are fixed and false beliefs. No amount of evidence can make change their beliefs. Such beliefs then go on to affect their emotions and behaviors. Eg, if someone believes that the police are tracking their thoughts, they could feel scared and may also try to find ways to solve this problem which could in turn lead to engagement in unsafe, unnecessary, or risky behaviors. There are various kinds of delusions, such as persecutory, erotomanic, grandiose, jealous, somatic, and mixed/unspecific. 

They could also experience disturbance in their thought, affect (emotions), speech, and posture. This makes it incredibly arduous for them to carry out basic day-to-day tasks, perform well in college or at work, maintain social relationships, etc. Just living an ordinary stable life can get extremely challenging (especially without psychological interventions). 

While everyone with schizophrenia would have a unique experience with it, on going through multiple accounts of lived experiences of people with this disorder, a couple of experiences were found to be common. First and foremost, living with schizophrenia has been described as living through a waking nightmare. Second, a lot of them socially isolated themselves, due to the stigma. They did not want their family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, or just anyone to know about their symptoms which affected their education, work, interpersonal relationships, etc. Third, a lot of them chose not to seek psychological aid because of the shame that they experienced due to the stigma around mental health. Fourth, the experience of hallucinations can feel frightening, confusing, and exhausting. For instance, if someone experiences auditory hallucinations, they may hear commands from a toaster. Auditory hallucinations involving electric appliances are not very uncommon. Fifth, people with schizophrenia experience disorientation. They start questioning their reality and have difficulty with concentration and memory. They end up feeling lost, out of touch with reality, and experience difficulty in thinking properly which elevates their anxiety levels. Sixth, a loss of sense of self was found to be common. They experience a loss of autonomy, privacy, and identity. Lastly, they had a hard time taking care of their basic hygiene. 

Living with this condition is extremely difficult and brings about overwhelming feelings of fear, desperation, hopelessness, humiliation, and despair. There could also be side effects from the medications that one could find to be bothersome, eg. Weight gain. Despite all the struggles that they face, there are numerous accounts of people sharing their progress, achievements, and successes in their lives. How were they able to do that? With proper psychological interventions- therapy and medication, and even hospitalization when needed, a solid support system that provided them with empathy and hope in the one suffering as well as in the treatment. 

We can do our bit to create an environment that could help them become empowered and thrive!

How? By being respectful, inclusive (no discrimination), empathetic, educating ourselves about mental health conditions, and inspiring hope!