Today's schizophrenics hallucinate different things than those of your grandparents' time


Ugg. Too much philosophizing. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other conditions that cause psychosis are medical conditions, not a philosophical problem. The first half of this essay appropriately discusses how culture affects these conditions, but the author still had to go on and philosophize about it:

“Leaks and exposés continually undermine our assumptions about what we
are revealing and to whom, how far our actions are being monitored and
our thoughts being transmitted. We manipulate our identities and are
manipulated by unknown others. We cannot reliably distinguish the real
from the fake, or the private from the public.”

No, no, no! Psychosis isn’t a philosophical issue. If it was, then it wouldn’t need to be treated. And yes, most people can reliably distinguish the real from the fake, and the private from the public. The problem with psychosis is that it causes distress and disability. When you experience psychosis you can’t function. This is why you treat it. I’ve experienced mild forms of psychosis several times. It was among the worst experiences of my life–complete and utter hell. I wasn’t thinking about the philosophy of the Truman Show or the Matrix, like the author wants to discuss. I questioned reality, but not abstractly and calmly.

I get it that when people talk about psychosis they want to talk about detachment from reality and then go on to the epistemological and metaphysical conclusions. But I can have that discussion right now without losing my ability to function or being in severe distress. I can question whether I’m in the Matrix or on the Truman Show without feeling an ounce of terror. When you are experiencing psychosis, YOU CAN NOT. Psychosis is a medical condition only. It doesn’t hide some greater truth.


I remember reading and article in the New York Times a while back that I found through Boing Boing on the americanization of mental illness. The most interesting part of the article was a discussion of how mental illness symptoms are culturally dependent. Society provides us the menu of options for how to express our underlying mental defect or distress. Just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you aren’t affected by culture.

What this article appears to be describing is that fact that it is increasingly plausible that you are being watched all the time. Emperor Nero, perhaps aprochryphally, believed that he was being watched through the eyes of the painting that hung in the hallways. These days, there are actually wireless cameras that could be hidden behind a painting to send the signal to be watched elsewhere. It is no wonder that when justifying themselves delusional people use the most reasonable explanation.

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oops, sorry, replied to you instead of the article…

Perhaps growing up in and being conditioned by a society more educated and compassionate about mental health might make more possible, a kind of informed self-diagnosis.

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A particularly cool example:

And perhaps in our terrorist focused world today, perhaps all of us are being secretly “watched” all of the time? Maybe those people aren’t really so crazy after all?

A HUNDRED AND SIX POUNDS to read the goddamn paper they cite. Feh.

I’ve begun to wonder lately if there is a form of schizophrenia that affects animals. Do they hear and see things that aren’t there? Do pets hear barks and meows, or do they possibly hear human voices?

Man, that would explain A LOT about one of my cats.

To paraphrase Jacques Vallée:

(1) Ezekiel saw a wheel of fire in the sky.

(2) So did that guy in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, except he saw a UFO.

See also the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, linguistic relativity, etc.

It strikes me as interestingly analogous to what we’ve learned about how vision works (ie. virtually everything contradicts the naive ‘well, the homunculus just sees image data as it comes in and interprets it accordingly’ model, and it turns out that all kinds of specialized subsystems are at work, facial recognition, verbal priming improving the ability to distinguish stimuli against low-contrast backgrounds, all sorts of odd complexities).

The hallucinatory counterpart to the ‘naive theory of vision’ would be that when you hallucinate you experience false inputs on the video stream, exactly analogous to the real ones except not actually corroborated from your eyes. Since that isn’t at all the case, though, and people hallucinate all kinds of things (albeit in a number of genres that do seem to be fairly stable), it suggests that you don’t actually hallucinate the aliens, or the CIA mind control chips, or the demons, or the Air Loom; the pathological experience is something lower level, more affective, an intense feeling of ‘malignant control at a distance’ and then you end up doing your best to fill in (according to the tech level of your time and surroundings) the implementation of the pathological experience that you can’t shake(I would imagine that this also makes ‘treatment-by-refutation’ essentially impossible: If somebody’s belief that the CIA planted a chip in their brain, and that belief was the root problem, it might be possible to demonstrate to them that an MRI workup revealed no chip and they must be in error. If, however, the root problem is the inchoate feeling of malignant external control, trying to disprove one hypothesis or another about how that control is being handled is pure whack-a-mole. Even if you can talk them out of one theory, they still have something that cries out for explanation which you haven’t even touched, so they’ll be back with another one in short order).


Or $175 US too own a copy or $37 US too read it. But yeah, fuck that noise.

Social anthropology might suggest, IMO, delusions/hallucinations are products of the persons environment and induced so. There is possibly no evidence of anyone shitting their ass off over UFO’s prior too 1950, as an example of schizophrenic hallucinations.

Flocks of geese/birds in the distance, water surging, wind rustling, can have the audio effect of crowds of people chattering. This may take the form of a paranoid dysphoria, but I am no medical practitioner, although I have been fooled by this particular din more then once.

Holy Shit! Now, THAT is a link.

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This reminds me of Capgras delusion. To (over)simplify, patients lost the ability to identify people they knew, while retaining the ability to recognize that person’s features as those of the person they knew. So they could tell that person X looked and sounded exactly like their husband/mother/etc, but “knew” that it wasn’t that person, usually because of underlying schizophrenia or brain damage. Consequently, their mind filled in the gap with the only remaining possibility: that the person/thing that looks like person X is an imposter.

Basically, the exact same mental systems responsible for filling in the gaps in our perceptions and memories generally help a person with healthy mind function better, but in a person with an unhealthy mind provide an outlet for the disease to manifest to the consciousness.

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I’d want to know whether the hallucinations are actually different, or the interpretations of those hallucinations are different. Same data plus different assumptions yields different conclusions, after all. Though if any part of this is like the auditory hallucinations I sometimes get when I’m on the edge of sleep, it’s also going to be affected by what memories are available to build them out of.

If that’s all it is, I think the observation quoted in the headline should have been obvious. Grandpa wasn’t likely to hallucinate the sound of modern telephone ringer, or to interpret it as one if he did experience the equivalent sensation.

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