Friday, July 20, 2012

Writing About Characters with Schizophrenia/Psychosis

by Jean Henry Mead

Schizophrenia has never quite been understood by the medical profession, according to Dr. Michael Bengston of Psych Central, and was once thought to be an illness caused by demonic possession. The ailment continues to confound medical professionals and wreak havoc in the victim’s family.

Schizophrenia usually rears its ugly head during the early twenties when unusual behavior begins to appear. According to Dr. Bengston, the following  symptoms signal the condition:  

1.       Social isolation and withdrawal

2.       Irrational, bizarre or odd statements or beliefs

3.       Increased paranoia or questioning other’s motivations

4.       Hostility or suspiciousness

5.       Less emotional

6.       A lack of motivation

7.       Drug or alcohol dependency

8.       Insomnia or oversleeping

9.       Strange manner of speaking

10.    Allowing personal appearance and hygiene to deteriorate


Although two or more of these symptoms may be cause for concern, the real problem is when they worsen with time, so the best time for treatment is as soon as the symptoms are recognized. And treatment may be a lifetime process.
 
Because they experience depression, nearly a third of all schizophrenics will attempt suicide and 10% will succeed within 20 years of the onset of the illness. But they rarely tell anyone that they plan to take their own lives. Those who suffer the most risk are young males under the age of 30, some of whom imagine hearing voices that tell him to harm themselves, which is referred to as auditory command hallucinations. Those with false beliefs are termed delusional.

Schizophrenics are often paranoid and have been known to install multiple locks on their doors and routinely check them. Some even refuse to talk on the phone. Their behavior and beliefs are usually irrational or illogical and they fear that others are out to get them or want to lock them away.
 
Alcohol, nicotine and drug abuse is another indicator that the schizophrenic is attempting to self-medicate, which hampers treatment and recovery.

10 comments:

Mark W. Danielson said...

Jean, I was reading your article, but had to stop because I was afraid -- very afraid. Locked myself in the closet, turned out the lights, and started chewing my nails. But that wasn't good enough so I pulled a coat over my head and shook in fear until the birds started chirping. Okay -- none of that's true, but it could be if I fit your description.

Jaden Terrell said...

Jean, when I was in my early twenties, I watched a friend descend into this terrible disease. It seemed to happen veru quickly. On Friday, he showed some mild anxiety. By Sunday, he was convinced that his father was trying to kill him and had gotten his dentist to put listening devices in his teeth. It was terrifying. Not because he was a danger to others, but because he had completely lost himself.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Mark, people have been joking about schiizophrenia for eons but I imagine that it's a terrifying ailment. Who knows how many killers have the disease.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Beth, listening devices in teeth is a new one one me. I wonder how he was able to talk his dentist into installing them. Money talks, I would guess.

Jaden Terrell said...

They didn't have much money, as far as I know, but he thought his father had enormous power--and apparently an enormous hatred of him. My friend thought that, on his last visit to the dentist, the dentist had secretly implanted the "devices," at Dad's request. He also started to think his campers--both disabled and in wheelchairs, one blind--were actually spies sent by his father. It was very sad.

M. J. Macie said...

Truly fascinating post. I worked at a vocational rehabilitation center where one of the clients was schizophrenic. It was sad to watch him struggle through the day. Thank God for the medication. As a mystery writer, I would like to create a character who is schizophrenic but am not sure I could pull it off as well as Ron Howard did in "A Beautiful Mind." I joined your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts.
M.J. Macie

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, M.J. We're glad you decided to join us here at Murderous Musings.

Jackie King said...

Jean, My sister-in-law suffered from this dreadful disease her entire life. Like moany schizophrenics, she was normal when she took her meds, but seldom wanted to take pills (she didn't need them, she thought) and always went off them as soon as she could. My brother said his life was just like "A Beautiful Mind." This disease not only ruins the patient's life, it wounds the entire family.

Thanks for the article.
Jackie King

Jackie King said...

Jean, My sister-in-law suffered from this dreadful disease her entire life. Like moany schizophrenics, she was normal when she took her meds, but seldom wanted to take pills (she didn't need them, she thought) and always went off them as soon as she could. My brother said his life was just like "A Beautiful Mind." This disease not only ruins the patient's life, it wounds the entire family.

Thanks for the article.
Jackie King

Jean Henry Mead said...

Jackie, I'm sorry to read about your sister-in-law. Bless your brother for staying with his wife throughout her illness. It couldn't have been easy.