Schizophrenia: Loss of Touch With Reality

Schizophrenia: Loss of Touch With Reality

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Imagine you are walking in a crowded street. Now, stop for a moment and take a look at the world around you, the buildings, the people passing by, the voices you hear. How real are they? Is it possible you are hearing things or seeing things that aren’t actually real? Well, for some people with schizophrenia this is possible.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder and probably one of the most complex points that a human brain can reach. It is associated with changes in the structure and functioning patterns of a number of key brain systems, including the prefrontal, medial and temporal lobe regions.

According to Katherine H. Karlsgodt, a psych researcher at UCLA, patients diagnosed with this disorder lose touch with reality and usually don’t even realize the fact that they have a mental illness.

Symptoms of the disorder are mainly categorized into three major areas: positive, negative, and cognitive. Positive symptoms can consist of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior, and impaired cognitive ability. Negative symptoms are characterized by a loss or deficit, such as the removal of normal processes in the brain. Lastly, examples of cognitive symptoms include impairments in attention and working memory. However, different patients might experience different symptoms.

What are delusions? They are fixed and false beliefs for which there is no evidence. Similarly, hallucinations are false sensory experiences. People experiencing these symptoms might see images or hear voices that aren’t actually real, which has the potential to unfortunately escalate to committing or attempting suicide.

These images and voices are mostly negative and commanding. The early onset of the disorder, along with its chronic periods, disables most people who suffer from it as well as the people in close contact with them. As the patients experience mood shifts, emotional isolation, and withdrawal from social interaction, it may gradually prevent them from maintaining things like holding a regular job, study or engage in normal daily activities. This disability is ultimately a result of both the negative and cognitive symptoms.

Causes of schizophrenia

According to an article published in the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Journal, written by Krishna R. Patel, although the precise cause of schizophrenia is still unknown, several studies have shown that a combination of genetics and environment contributes to the development of the disorder.

The fact that genetics play an important role in the development of schizophrenia was proven through a study that has shown that the risk of illness is approximately 10% for a first-degree relative and 3% for a second-degree relative. This result is further supported by findings that siblings with schizophrenia often experience an onset of the illness around the same age.

Environmental influences could also stimulate the development of schizophrenia, especially in individuals who are already vulnerable to the disorder. Childhood trauma(s), being a visible minority, living in an urban area, and social isolation are examples of environmental stressors linked to this disorder.

An overview of statistics for schizophrenia

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), approximately 1.1% of the world’s population, over the age of 18, suffers from schizophrenia, which means approximately 20 million people worldwide are affected by it.

This mental disorder also commonly starts earlier among men. As mentioned in an article published by the public health department, of the Government of Canada, national data (2016-2017) shows that 1 out of every 100 Canadians aged 10+ were living with diagnosed schizophrenia. 56% were men and 44% were women.
A research study was done by Thomas J Craig, Qing Ye, and Evelyn J Brometin in 2006 shows that approximately 1.7% of all patients with schizophrenia die from suicide. In addition, another research done by Michael R. Phillips, published in The Lancet Journal in 2004, indicates that 10.1% of all people who have committed suicide had schizophrenia, which indicates how common suicidal thoughts and behavior are among people with this disorder.

Schizophrenia genes favored by evolution

Research actually reveals that genes linked to this disorder may also provide developmental advantages and therefore, have been favored by natural selection. 76 DNA sequences linked to schizophrenia were examined by researcher Bernard Crespi of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. As a result, out of the 76 genes studied, 28 showed evidence of being favored by natural selection.

A psychiatric research study conducted by Daniel Nettle and Helen Clegg suggests that people with schizophrenia could be more creative or imaginative than the general population, which increases the possibility of schizophrenia genes helping carriers to solve survival problems or attracting a mate.

Control and Cognitive Redirection Activities

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that unfortunately targets a large number of people, mostly in their twenties, and about half of the people who suffer from it, commit suicide or struggle with it daily. However, most people with schizophrenia are known to have a very strong imagination and therefore, tend to be more creative as a result. It is very important for the patients and their family members to be optimistic and seek help from a mental health professional in order to control the disorder. Lastly, keep in mind that anything, no matter how awful, can have a bright side as well.

Is time nothing but a human-made illusion?

Is time nothing but a human-made illusion?

Our perception of time may be completely flawed.

Have you ever sensed that time felt weird in 2020 or that it speeds up as we get older?

We, human beings, are actually considered to have a naive perception of the flow of time. The way we think about time and its one-way direction flow, in fact, doesn’t correspond to physical reality. We believe that time is irreversible and the past can never be experienced again. We can feel its flow when the season changes, when the sun sets, and thereafter rises again, when we get older and when we are reminded of our memories. The past is a part of history. The present is the moment we live in. The future is the present that is yet to come, and will soon become a part of the past. However, the question that should be asked is whether these assumptions are actual realities of the physical world or created by the human mind. In fact, several studies show that our perception of time is unstable and prone to illusions.

Time Perception

Sometimes, we feel like years pass in a blink of an eye, or some memories from ten years ago seem very real to us that it makes it hard to believe that such a long period of time has actually passed. Other times, a minute can last forever while we are waiting for a light to turn green. In fact, Humans are likely to rely on their memory rather than their knowledge to recall the events occurring within their lifetime. However, one must consider that the memory distorts the perception of time, and affects the sense of when an event has actually taken place. 

 There is a theory, known as the “proportional theory”, which suggests that our perception of time is proportional to the length of our lifespan. This hypothesis states that as we age, our sense of present starts to feel relatively short in comparison to our entire lifespan. 

It is also determined that how long a duration feels depends on how many events in it can be recalled. Therefore, when only a few special events happen in our personal life during a year, that year will relatively seem shorter to us compared to a year full of important events.

The Idea of Timeless Reality

According to the operational meaning, time is simply what a clock displays. Nevertheless, the scientific definition of time completely differs from what we have in mind. Physicist Victor J. Stenger, in the book “Timeless reality”, declares that, based on established principles of simplicity and symmetry, reality is literally timeless at its deepest level. Furthermore, he explains that time is actually reversible. In opposition to our basic sense of time, the fundamental reality of the phenomena occurring around us might be with no beginning, no end and no arrow of time. 

In fact, the one-direction flow of time is not found in any of the laws of physics . All the basic physical phenomena are entirely or mostly time-symmetric and can occur in either direction of time. Therefore, if you watch a video of a physical process, you would not be able to tell if it is being played forwards or backwards, as both would be equally feasible. Specifically, when it comes to quantum phenomena and events on an atomic and subatomic level, no trace of time direction can be found.

Neuroscientist Abhijit Naskar, in his book “Love, God & Neurons”, argues that time is basically an illusion created by the mind to aid in our sense of temporal presence in the space. Furthermore, he mentions that there is no actual existence of the past and the future and all that there is, is the present. All we sense is the virtual perception of the past and the future which is created by our neurons, based on all our experiences.

Einstein’s Theory of relativity

Albert Einstein also showed that time is an illusion. According to his theory of relativity, not only there is no significance to the present moment but also all the other moments of life are equally real. Moreover, he suggests that simultaneity is relative. This argues that spatially separated events occurring at the same time is not an absolute fact. Distant simultaneity, in fact, depends on the observer’s reference frame. 

Gravity and speed are two key factors of the observer’s reference frame in the concept of Relativity of simultaneity. As claimed by Einstein, the faster one moves through space, the slower they move through time. Also, the closer one is to a gravitational field of an object, such as the earth, the slower the time goes for them. For instance, time goes faster at the top of mount Everest due to lower gravity and higher rotational velocity compared to the sea level. If you were standing on the top of Mount Everest, it may feel as though the new year begins a few minutes earlier for you compared to people standing at the sea level.

Conclusion

All in all, although many things may seem real to us, they may be only the constructs of the human imagination and don’t correspond to the actual truth. Reality might completely differ from how we see and feel it. We might have been given wrong information all along our lives. So it’s good to doubt our knowledge once a while and ask yourselves questions. Why do we believe certain things? How do we feel a certain way about something? What is the science and logic behind the phenomena we are surrounded by? Even though definite answers might not be found for some questions, at least we will be one step closer to reality.

 

Sources

Matthews, William J., Meck, Warren H, “Time perception: the bad news and the good”, (2014) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4142010/)

Eagleman, David M., “Human time perception and its illusions”, (2010) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866156/)

Stenger, Victor J., “Timeless Reality : Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes”, (2000) 

Irish, Muireann, O’Callaghan,Claire ,“How did it get so late so soon? Why time flies as we get older”, (2015) (https://theconversation.com/how-did-it-get-so-late-so-soon-why-time-flies-as-we-get-older-44296)

Howell, Elizabeth, “Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity”, (2017) (https://www.space.com/36273-theory-special-relativity.html)

Redd, Nola T., “Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity”, (2017) (https://www.space.com/17661-theory-general-relativity.html)

Callender, Craig, “Is Time an ILLUSION?”, (2010) (https://www.jstor.org/stable/26002066?seq=1)

Davies, Paul, “That Mysterious Flow”, (2006) (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/that-mysterious-flow-2006-02/)

 

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