Excerpted from Surviving Schizophrenia, 5th Edition by E. Fuller Torrey (ISBN 0060842598; paperback, $14.95). All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from Harper-Collins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
Delusions and hallucinations are probably the best-known symptoms of schizophrenia. They are dramatic and are therefore the behaviors usually focused on when schizophrenia is being represented in popular literature or movies. (Reacting to delusions is a major cause of violence by people with schizophrenia who are untreated. i.e., if you believe someone is trying to kill you, you may try to kill them first.-ed)
And certainly delusions and hallucinations are very important and common symptoms of this disease. However, it should be remembered that they are not essential to it; indeed no single symptom is essential for the diagnosis of schizophrenia. There are many people with schizophrenia who have a combination of other symptoms, such as a thought disorder, disturbances of affect, and disturbances of behavior, who have never had delusions or hallucinations. It should also be remembered that delusions and hallucinations are found in brain diseases other than schizophrenia, so their presence does not automatically mean that schizophrenia is present. . . .
Delusions are simply false ideas believed by the patient but not by other people in his/her culture and which cannot be corrected by reason. They are usually based on some kind of sensory experience that the person misinterprets. This may be as simple as brief static on the radio or a flicker of the television screen that the person interprets as a signal. Family members often wonder where the delusional ideas in the affected person came from.One simple form of a delusion is the conviction that random events going on around the person all relate in a direct way to him or her. If you are walking down the street and a man on the opposite sidewalk coughs, you don’t think anything of it and may not even consciously hear the cough. The person with schizophrenia, however, not only hears the cough but may immediately decide it must be a signal of some kind, perhaps directed to someone else down the street to warn him that the person is coming. The schizophrenia sufferer knows this is true with a certainty that few people experience. If you are walking with such a person and try to reason him/her past these delusions, your efforts will probably be futile. Even if you cross the street, and in the presence of the same person question the man about his cough, the individual will probably just decide that you are part of the plot. Reasoning with people about their delusions is like trying to bail out the ocean with a bucket.
The above information is not from medical advice. Do not rely on it. Discuss it with your medical doctor
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