Schizophrenia and Anxiety

feature20131117Written by Jared

I was again invited to speak to the Mental Health Talk readers, which is always a pleasure and great opportunity to be amongst those who understand.  I love it because Trish and the readers let me be frank about my experiences, which is rare and important for all us.  It took me a moment to really decide what I wanted to communicate this time around, but I finally decided I’d like to explain the relationship between schizophrenia and anxiety.

The Self-Perpetuating Spiral of Anxiety

This may not be the case with everyone, but for myself and a few others I’ve spoken with, anxiety is truly a downward spiral in the sense that it could be called a fear of fear.  Many of us aren’t anxious about some trigger whether that be external or internal.  We’ve learned to recognize and accept these triggers.  But what has happened is that it has become a meta-anxiety, which is to say that we are anxious about becoming anxious.  Then we begin to feel anxious which only heightens the anxiety about becoming more anxious.  This spiral effect, for those who have “deeper” symptoms such as those related to schizophrenia, can cause other very interesting and scary effects.

This fear of fear causes us to become very self-observant.  We become hyper-vigilant and extremely aware of what’s going on inside of us and around us.  After a certain amount of time, our position as the witness can become habitual and a switch becomes flipped in our psyches.  We begin to detach from ourselves and our surroundings because we are no longer among them but outsiders peering in, supervising the physical and cognitive landscape to make sure everything is okay.  But by performing this action at such a heightened level, things become less okay because these actions are grounded in anxiety.  They can lead to two very severe symptoms.

Depersonalization and Derealization

The first among these is depersonalization.  You experience your mind and body from an outside vantage point for so long that you establish yourself in that position.  For a schizophrenic, this is where the idea of body and mind invasion comes in because it can feel like you’ve been ejected from your own being, but it continues to operate.  This may sound like something positive from a meditative standpoint, but in this case it’s not arising from any healthy practice and is very horrifying.

The second is very similar and is called derealization.  You are now a stranger to yourself in a strange land.  It is not that anything “out there” has changed, but that you’ve come to a realization of the illusory nature of reality.  Again, you may have encountered these concepts in Eastern religions or meditative practices, and they may be true.  But they are harmful when they cause panic attacks and interfere with normal functioning.  Movies like The Matrix and philosophical concepts such as Plato’s Cave or The Simulation Theory touch on these ideas.  But to experience them as they spring forth as extreme symptoms of anxiety is frightening to the core.  Some paranoid schizophrenics might feel that everyone has been replaced with soulless automaton robots in a lifeless world.  They are likely dealing with derealization comorbid with paranoia.

Reintegration

If you find yourself in this situation, schizophrenic or not, you could use a dose of what I call “reintegration.”  By this, I mean that you have got to reduce this split of consciousness to a minimal and eventually become one with yourself again, environment, and social connections again.  Being an outsider can lead to this outsider perspective and one of the quickest paths to recovering from them is to become involved.  Play a role, even if it feels inauthentic at first.  A large issue with schizophrenia is the tendency to be alone in many aspects.

Reintegration is a simple worth, a mantra so to speak, that can be  used to keep you on a healthy track and help propel your life forward.  Everything is about connections; with yourself, with others, your community, and the world.  Be connected to your base of knowledge, emotion, activity, and seek to increase each of these daily.  The more involved you are, the less time you’ll have to observe yourself and have a running commentary on events.  This sucks the life out of life, but you can thrust yourself right back in the game and kick anxiety to the curb!

 

Image Credit:  Jari Schroderus

 

Schiz LifeJared’s experiences with schizophrenia inspired him to start an information hub concerning all of the information surrounding this mental illness.  You can find this information and more at his website: www.SchizLife.com.

You can view all of Jared’s MHT guest posts by clicking here.


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Comments

  • Bob Brotchie

    Wonderfully informative and supportive post, Jared, thank you.
    I have shared widely, across my platforms.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Chantal

    Hi Jared,
    Loved this post. Very informative. You are so right…it is all about connecting with yourself, others and your community. How can we move forward without it. Your section on Reintegration is very insightful. I have shared your post on my Google + Community. Love the photograph Jari.

  • Jared

    Hi Bob and Chantal! Thank you a ton for sharing this post around your social circles. The reintegration aspect is super important in my mind. Being involved with ourselves, others, goals, careers, hobbies… these things create meaning for us. And what’s the point (for anyone, not just those dealing with mental illness) of continuing on in a world without meaning? Involvement is a must or we start heading towards ideas like solipsism and others that aren’t very healthy (or correct!). Thanks for reading 🙂

  • alex

    I can easily see how mental health problems arise when connection, as this article attests, is key and yet we live in one deeply disconnected society

    • Jared

      Alex, you reminded me of a quote my brother mentioned just the other day… “How can we not feel depressed or anxious in such a crazy world.” You’re absolutely right. To remain aware in today’s world means being aware of a lot of horrid realities that should make anyone feel sick and discomforted.

  • Alexis Smith

    I am 16 years old I smoked pot a couple days before seventh grade started. Or for what I know it was only pot..I thought it could be some thing else because how scary it effected my trip n life . I had terrible panic/ anxiety attacks.. like every thing would flip like I was on the trip again. I noticed life didn’t seem the same. I couldn’t watch scary movies because I’d think it was happening to me.. I got depressed everything seemed unreal.. after two years . 7 &8 I got over it. . But I still was depressed. Now im in tenth , & it came back due to my dad n his gf talking about Illuminati which caused me one nite to go Into a severe for what Ik It to be a panic attack.. I felt like I was high all over again.. the scarry: wierd thing about that is its always been about god and the devil.. like I thought god was fighting for me bc I felt like I was dieng.. my body was being controlled. Like I was stuck. Different strong vibrations in my body.. all scarry crazy things in my head.. felt so real but id calm my self down.. after that shit got worse! I cant be around certain ppl who dont believen god bc what ppl say to me . Like jm a firm believer in jesus and im a christian.. I dont chill w some ppl. My dad and his gf told me that meds are ment to take over your mind and make you kill yourself . Which is stuck in my head n goes around when I want to get in them. Then how pppl on tv are in illuminati also.. and in music vids. Whixh I believe bc church told me too.. well that’s y I’ve been also thinking ive been going crazy bc ontop of all this, I have those thoughts . I feel like im imaginating life, alone, lifes crashing around me , the worse things. I read stuff on line on scitzo n I feel like I have that bc I xan make myself feel like I am going thro that, like to believe anything. .n it feels real but I can feel normal at times I can be happy n these thoughts go awat but it always comes back t me… I feel like this is forevrr . I feel like time gos by and im wasting it.. like im in a dream..or nuts . I nees clear words..I need t knoe what this is.

  • Alexis Smith

    Not just that but when I have these flashbacks they re like ona bad trip of acid. Idk how that is but its that strong to saythat.. I feel like my bodies in a perjector.. vision changes. Ears are like a speaker.. and im going slow.. nd when I see things its js so wierd? What does that sound like and once I thought I was dieng and I was stuck. Everything was flipping so I layed next t my gma and said god take me.. it felt like forevrr til it ended. I wanted t b rushed to emergency even tho I thot id go hospitilized

    • Jared

      Alexis, I don’t want this to sound cheap, so I’ll say more. But to sum up my response to you, I would say “I know EXACTLY what you mean!” Marijuana was great to me at first, and then the anxiety came and the paranoia. I stopped using that but it’s like you said… suddenly I was having panic attacks. I was having moments of derealization (I think this is what you were feeling like when you said a trip would just come on suddenly as if you were on acid.) Lights, sounds, your entire experience goes on hyper-drive and you become acutely aware of everything! I’ve learned to embrace this now. I’ve played with the experience and let it go where it will and it’s never gotten any worse than that. Now I think of it as a blessing of sorts (strange, I know), because who all gets to enter into a colorful fantasy world (for free too!) every once in a while. If I’m walking my dog and it starts up, it truly does make the world visually more beautiful, if you can get past the fear and anxiety. I also understand what you mean about God and the Devil fighting over you and whatnot. These grand feelings of ours often tap into mythological themes that are hidden deep within our psyches and souls. Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung wrote tomes about this if you want to learn more. If I can say anything to you, Alexis, I would say to please just try to stay with your experiences long enough to realize that they are harmless. They may not be comfortable, but you are safe. And then some of that anxiety will fall away and you can explore those moments and think of them as an adventure. It’s your challenge in life, your cross to bear. And if you face it like a champ, you are living a genuine and authentic life and will be more fulfilled than most people ever could imagine. And if you can beat this… well, nothing else in life should scare you or be too much of a challenge!

  • Michael

    Dear Jared,

    Your short post has given me more undertsanding than anything I have ever heard from any of these so called mental health professionals. Thanks!

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