Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Silly question ?but cammot find definitive answer

Hi guys

I am trying to find out something as to whether it is related to schizophrenia or not ? I am very close to my nephew who was diagnosed two and a half years ago. We have had many in depth conversations about his illness etc and a recurring theme is that he has never really shown ANY fear of any situation he has been in.

It does seem a little silly to be trying to link this if there is no link, but it is nagging at me. He is not due to see his Psych for a few months and if there is a link it would explain some, manybe a lot, of the things he has done and been involved with.

Thank you in advance.

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Education is important to helping anyone with this illness! You could read the book “Surviving Schizophrenia: A Family Guide” by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. If you don’t want to read the entire book, there are chapters on specific topics that help to explain things. Googling provides a lot of information, too. Just try to weed out the weird or negative stuff and focus on facts and medical research. It is also possible that this person was mis-diagnosed or that symptoms cross over to bi-polar or schizo-affective disorder.

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Describing the inner workings of thought processes of yourself, much less others, is a little complex so my answer is a bit nuanced toward my experience. Your nephew’s experience may be different. It’s not clear to me what you mean by “any situation he has been in”. Does this mean symptoms related to his illness or any situation in his life?

Since I tend toward paranoia, I obviously have fear, but it’s fear of consequence that may occur in the future-- not the present. In the moment, I generally have little fear of most things or with my capacity to handle, avoid or mitigate them-- it’s all worries for the future. In my profession I’m sometimes called on to act in crisis situations, and I’m generally regarded as calm under pressure and can often find solutions when others give up or get too confused by conflicting information to find the problem. When you’ve lived through thinking the FBI is following you everywhere you go, and people know many of your innermost thoughts and feelings, etc, not much phases you anymore.

I’m often puzzled by people saying delusions and hallucinations must be terrifying. Not necessarily so. In my experience there’s some balance and caregivers tend to project their own fears of the bizarre disclosures people with SZ give at times. Some less troubling symptoms go unreported, because they are mundane or not a threat. Delusions of grandeur often serve to prop-up self-esteem and make people feel special. And even the scary or threatening stuff, may or may not happen, so why worry about it now. And many times they are a reality that you live with, so why fear them?

From my perspective, I start off fairly calmly describing delusions that arose from hallucinations or internal thoughts, but only get agitated by people contradicting what I’m saying or getting details of my story incorrect. It’s similar to how women experience “venting” feeling to men in their lives-- they just want to feel heard and their feelings acknowledged. They aren’t looking to debate whether they are “right” or “wrong” or have their problem “solved”. Feelings exist whether people think they are valid or not.

One way of looking at this for people without SZ is thinking of the symptoms as waking dreams. I probably have 4 or 5 good dreams to every “bad” dream, and even the ‘bad’ dreams are more puzzling rather than disturbing or terrifying. Your dreams may vary. When you have a bad dream, you have the option of waking up-- not so when you have SZ, so you learn to deal with it.

While we may be concerned about ramifications of what we “see”, we only have these options:

1.) Succumb and be paralyzed by fear
2.) Ignore or make peace with it
3.) Or confront it.

Over time you quickly learn that 1 is a losing strategy. Number 3 is only useful in circumstances where you can reality-check things without raising people’s suspicions or getting sent to the hospital etc. So number 2 is generally my go-to coping strategy. The other stratagems are often still working in the background, but I only employ them if they don’t drag me down.

Over time when you see that your fears are often not realized, and put less stock in them, as if your mind or your voices or what have you are “bluffing”. In most circumstances this is okay, but I occasionally get into situations where I don’t trust my “gut”, and can’t fully reality-check aside from asking other people’s opinions who often unfortunately know of my illness, and tend to be skeptical of my intuitions. Aside from lost opportunities, inaction is generally safer than action, so not giving into fear is a winning strategy. It does make you vulnerable to dishonest people, because at least outwardly you seem trusting, unfearful and a bit naive. This has bitten me badly a few times, and may be a reason why people with SZ have trouble trusting people and stick to environments and people they know and trust.

Hopes this helps. Sometimes there are simple explanations to behaviors of people with SZ if you see it from our point of view. My impression is your nephew has a fairly evolved set of coping mechanisms and could be high-functioning or employable in the right circumstances and environment. Although much of this depends on his level of insight.

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Thank you so much for sharing. I continue to learn and gain an appreciation from the perspective of persons like you living with SMI. Our loved ones often do not share these things with us so we project our own ideas on what they are experiencing, thinking and feeling. We need to learn how to better LISTEN without judgment. A book like “Surviving Schizophrenia: A Family Manual” by E. Fuller Torrey MD. includes many first-person accounts of what living with SZ is like. I found those very insightful and helpful to looking beyond the illness to the real person that is there.

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