View Full Version : If schizophrenia is a virus then.........
04-30-2001, 08:59 PM
Would you like to draw a picture of a society in which mental illness is a contagious disease? As the contagion spreads how would life change?
There is a sufi tale I read that is relevant to this situtation. It's about a man who realised that everyone around him was being driven mad by something in the drinking water. He collected uncontaminated water to drink so he could stay sane. But he found that all the other people talked and thought differently and considered him to be the crazy one. He got so lonely that he started drinking their water instead. He was accepted back into society as a person who had been insane but was now sane again. He forgot where the good water was.
How soon after a society is contaminated by a schizophrenia virus would the insane start making the rules? Can systems theory be applied to this question?
04-30-2001, 11:21 PM
That assumes everyone would go mad in the same way. In real life, schizophrenics don't really understand each other any better than everybody else understands them. They hear different voices, suffer different delusions, etc. I doubt they would be able to organize enough to start "making the rules."
Also, not all schizophrenics are delusional 100% of the time. Some merely have episodes.
04-30-2001, 11:56 PM
There is a news story here this week about a guy who murdered his room mate. He had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic some time in his past but no-one had told the room mate. People are now going around crying "why weren't we told?" "why weren't we told?" and seeking to blame someone. Why did they need to be told? Why weren't his symptoms apparent to anyone but a "mental health professional"? How can someone have unmanifested mental illness? It seems to me that this situation describes the possibility of apparently normal people being declared insane by apparently normal people.
05-01-2001, 12:22 AM
Schizophrenia generally doesn't appear until adolescence or young adulthood. Typically what happens then is that the person has a psychotic break, or a brief episode of hallucinating. Like I said, with some people it goes on indefinitely in episodes, but with most people it gradually gets worse until they're basically permanently checked out.
You don't state the murderer's age, but if this was, say, college, it's perfectly consistent that the illness would not have appeared until then, or would have manifested itself only once or twice before. But without knowing more about the story, I can't say for sure.
05-01-2001, 01:47 AM
I agree that schizophrenics don't understand each other. I had a couple of friends who were pretty severely schizophrenic. One believed that a cult of witches called The Family snuck a listening device into his food which somehow also let him hear the people spying on him, the other believed he was occasionally visited by a flying man called Jerry St. Lucifer. They both thought the other's delusions were ridiculous and made fun of how crazy the other was.
For an indication of the problems of people with schizophenia communicating and organizing, read 'The Three Christs of Ypsilanti':
Rokeach, M. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti: A Psychological Study, Knopf Publishing, 1963.
Three people who believed they were Christ were placed in Therapy together. Surprisingly, they found it difficult to communicate and organize the sessions!
Human communicatio is based on shared frames of reference; it is a lack of this common frame that inhibits communication in people with schizophrenia.
05-01-2001, 05:35 AM
Are you sure schizophrenia doesn't come in more subtle forms than the examples given here? The would-be Jesuses and Napoleons seem like caricatures to me. Have you noticed how people with sane reputations can quite often display signs that something may well "lurk beneath" that respectable exterior? How did some of the philosophers concerned with consciousness come up with their ideas for instance? What led Henri Bergsen to believe that we are potentially capable of perceiving everything that is transpiring anywhere in the universe or knowing anything that ever happened. Come on. Why are some people "dismissed as eccentrics" and others heavily medicated? Remember Barbara Cartland, the romance novelist? Her face looked like it had been dipped in cake mix. She always wore something pink and fluffy. But she didn't think she was Jesus I suppose, so that was all right. My point: contagious mental illness would not necessarily mean more and more people started nailing their hands to bits of wood. It would not be the easy to detect. Society would change but not into an instant freak show.
05-01-2001, 07:30 AM
We are mad and we ARE organized!
05-01-2001, 07:50 PM
I think we need to work out our definitions here, G. Nome. When you said "if schizophrenia is a virus," I figured the virus would give people the classic clinical symptoms of schizophrenia, which are not subtle, believe me. As I said earlier, some schizophrenics appear sane for stretches of time, but if you're around for a psychotic episode, it's obvious they're ill. And most unmedicated schizophrenics are permanently beyond Neptune by the time they reach adulthood.
There are other mental illnesses, like obsessive-compulsive disorder or manic depression, which can be more subtle and harder to distinguish from mere oddity in their milder forms. Since this is your imaginary virus you can have it do whatever you want, but it sounds like what you have in mind is different from clinical schizophrenia. If you want us to follow you on this thought experiment, it would be helpful to explain more precisely what effect the disease would have on people.
05-01-2001, 08:30 PM
If you make your working definition of "mental illness" as an inability to consistently function within the guidelines of society, it would include your addicts and your neurotics. We've already got plenty of those. (Thank goodness I turned that mirror against the wall.) However, if everyone goes neurotic, then noone can function within the guidelines. Something has to change, be it the society or that society's existence.
Having visited such places as New Orleans, LA; Provincetown, MA; Caracas, Venezuela; Wilhelmstadt, Curacao; not to mention my own home town, I think things would change a lot but we'd still be able to hold it together for awhile. Woody Allen makes a living off of such things.
But schizophrenia is the Cal Ripken of mental illnesses--major league, and nearly immortal. Many can function, with vaying degrees of difficulty, in our current society. Can they live on their own? I've got a feeling there's a historical example out there, but I can't put a finger on it right now.
Can anyone recall if there were ever any unattended "madness colonies?"
05-01-2001, 10:09 PM
I used the word schizophrenia when, for the purposes of this thread I should just have used non-specific terms like madness or mental illness. To me, whether a person has schizophrenia or not depends on how idiosyncratic their belief system is. I know the film Vampire's Kiss starring Nicholas Cage is excellent for understanding the subject. Nicholas Cage portrayed an extremely "out" schizophrenic though. I think mental illness can also exist in the same way recreational or weekend heroin use can. As long as casual hard drug users don't get caught and work from Monday to Friday their ability to "function within society" will remain unimpaired. And, well, if someone you know inexplicably decides to stay home on Saturday night for a year or so, consider the fact that they may have cut a deal with their spirit guide - I do.
I read Oldscratch's thread called Are you Schizophrenic - this thread is really inspired by that one. I loved the way the phrase "YET Other people found this hard to believe?" came after each question. I don't know why. What about if I give myself a sanity test right now? I will consider myself slightly unstable if three or more people read the following paragraph and reply with a Hard to Believe.
In September 1994 I had the flu or something and was lying in bed watching the MTV Music Video awards. It was the year Bruce Springsteen sang Streets of Philadelphia, Tom Petty won a couple of prizes and Jann Wenner appeared as a presenter at some point. That show seemed to me to have a very strange ambience - I've never forgotten it. It was like something bad was going on behind the scenes. The presenters stared into the cameras with hostile expressions, Bruce Springsteen seemed horribly uncomfortable, even scared and there was a strange "funereal" atmosphere for want of a better term. Did anyone else who can remember seeing this programme have the same experience?
05-02-2001, 05:39 PM
Well defining mental illness is tricky because it manifests itself in so many different ways. Often times, impairment is used as a criterion.
The issue with psychotic disorders (including schizophrenia) is that the person has difficulty distinguishing reality from hallucination, delusion or voices. And that would be different for each person.
If psychotic disorders became contagious, we'd be in big trouble, because there would be a break down of the system. Those in a position to help would be in need of help themselves. However, it's important to note that there is a biological component to them, which is why medication can be very useful.
05-03-2001, 02:35 AM
Some geneticists believe genes only predispose people towards developing certain illnesses. A person with "Alzheimer's genes", for instance, might never get the disease if the genes are not "expressed". So, optimistically, maybe, if they keep doing crosswords and eating vegetables they could avoid dementia altogether. In that same way R.D. Laing believed that schizophrenia was triggered by environmental pressure. People could be prone to it but if their lives were free of the worst stress they might never get ill. If there's any evidence of a sort of viral mental illness in the world already it can be found, in my opinion, in the infantile regressive personalities of a certain type of computer user as far as I'm concerned. And I'm sure stress made them that way. I'm not talking about software engineers or computer science students. It's the (sometimes inadequate) people who are at the other end, who are running-to-stand-still, trying to make a living by using the software and hardware the other guys develop. It seems to me sometimes that fast advancing technology is responsible for a lot of deformed personalities.
vBulletin® v3.7.3, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.