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Symptoms Of Schizophrenia, How Close Do These Match Religious Experiences?

Some behaviors of religious people match the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia (USA criteria) as listed below.  The source for this list is the U.S. Surgeon General's Office.

   1. Characteristic Schizophrenia symptoms:

      Two (or more) of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a 1-month period (or less if successfully treated):

         1. Delusions - false beliefs strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: for example,
               1. Paranoid delusions, or delusions of persecution, for example believing that people are "out to get" you, or the thought that people are doing things when there is no external evidence that such things are taking place.
               2. Delusions of reference - when things in the environment seem to be directly related to you even though they are not. For example it may seem as if people are talking about you or special personal messages are being communicated to you through the TV, radio, or other media.
               3. Somatic Delusions are false beliefs about your body - for example that a terrible physical illness exists or that something foreign is inside or passing through your body.
               4. Delusions of grandeur - for example when you believe that you are very special or have special powers or abilities. An example of a grandiouse delusion is thinking you are a famous rock star.
         2. Hallucinations - Hallucinations can take a number of different forms - they can be:
               1. Visual (seeing things that are not there or that other people cannot see),
               2. Auditory (hearing voices that other people can't hear,
               3. Tactile (feeling things that other people don't feel or something touching your skin that isn't there.)
               4. Olfactory (smelling things that other people cannot smell, or not smelling the same thing that other people do smell)
               5. Gustatory experiences (tasting things that isn't there)
         3. Disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence) - these are also called "word salads". Ongoing disjointed or rambling monologues - in which a person seems to talking to himself/herself or imagined people or voices.
         4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior (An abnormal condition variously characterized by stupor/innactivity, mania, and either rigidity or extreme flexibility of the limbs).
         5. "Negative" symptoms of Schizophrenia , these symptoms are the lack of important abilities. Some of these include:

            Alogia, or poverty of speech, is the lessening of speech fluency and productivity, thought to reflect slowing or blocked thoughts, and often manifested as short, empty replies to questions.

            Affective flattening is the reduction in the range and intensity of emotional expression, including facial expression, voice tone, eye contact (person seems to stare, doesn't maintain eye contact in a normal process), and is not able to interpret body language nor use appropriate body language.

            Avolition is the reduction, difficulty, or inability to initiate and persist in goal-directed behavior; it is often mistaken for apparent disinterest. (examples of avolition include: no longer interested in going out and meeting with friends, no longer interested in activities that the person used to show enthusiasm for, no longer interested in much of anything, sitting in the house for many hours a day doing nothing.)

            A short summary of a list of negative symptoms are:
               1. lack of emotion - the inability to enjoy regular activities (visiting with friends, etc.) as much as before
               2. Low energy - the person tends to sit around and sleep much more than normal
               3. lack of interest in life, low motivation
               4. Affective flattening - a blank, blunted facial expression or less lively facial movements, flat voice (lack of normal intonations and variance) or physical movements.
               5. Alogia (difficulty or inability to speak)
               6. Inappropriate social skills or lack of interest or ability to socialize with other people
               7. Inability to make friends or keep friends, or not caring to have friends
               8. Social isolation - person spends most of the day alone or only with close family

                  Note: Only one Criterion A symptom is required if delusions are bizarre or hallucinations consist of a voice keeping up a running commentary on the person’s behavior or thoughts, or two or more voices conversing with each other.

      Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
      Cognitive symptoms refer to the difficulties with concentration and memory. These can include:
         1. disorganized thinking
         2. slow thinking
         3. difficulty understanding
         4. poor concentration
         5. poor memory
         6. difficulty expressing thoughts
         7. difficulty integrating thoughts, feelings and behavior


   2. Social/occupational dysfunction: For a significant portion of the time since the onset of the disturbance, one or more major areas of functioning such as work, interpersonal relations, or self-care are markedly below the level achieved prior to the onset (or when the onset is in childhood or adolescence, failure to achieve expected level of interpersonal, academic, or occupational achievement).

   3. Duration: Continuous signs of the disturbance persist for at least 6 months. This 6-month period must include at least 1 month of symptoms (or less if successfully treated) that meet Criterion A (i.e., active-phase symptoms) and may include periods of prodromal or residual symptoms. During these prodromal or residual periods, the signs of the disturbance may be manifested by only negative symptoms or two or more symptoms listed in Criterion A present in an attenuated form (e.g., odd beliefs, unusual perceptual experiences).

   4. Schizoaffective and mood disorder exclusion: Schizoaffective disorder and mood disorder with psychotic features have been ruled out because either (1) no major depressive, manic, or mixed episodes have occurred concurrently with the active-phase symptoms; or (2) if mood episodes have occurred during active-phase symptoms, their total duration has been brief relative to the duration of the active and residual periods.

   5. Substance/general medical condition exclusion: The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition.

   6. Relationship to a pervasive developmental disorder: If there is a history of autistic disorder or another pervasive developmental disorder, the additional diagnosis of schizophrenia is made only if prominent delusions or hallucinations are also present for at least a month (or less if successfully treated).

Source: US Surgeon General
 

Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Delusions are firmly held erroneous beliefs due to distortions or exaggerations of reasoning and/or misinterpretations of perceptions or experiences. Delusions of being followed or watched are common, as are beliefs that comments, radio or TV programs, etc., are directing special messages directly to him/her.

Hallucinations are distortions or exaggerations of perception in any of the senses, although auditory hallucinations (“hearing voices” within, distinct from one’s own thoughts) are the most common, followed by visual hallucinations.

Disorganized speech/thinking, also described as “thought disorder” or “loosening of associations,” is a key aspect of schizophrenia. Disorganized thinking is usually assessed primarily based on the person’s speech. Therefore, tangential, loosely associated, or incoherent speech severe enough to substantially impair effective communication is used as an indicator of thought disorder by the DSM-IV.

Grossly disorganized behavior includes difficulty in goal-directed behavior (leading to difficulties in activities in daily living), unpredictable agitation or silliness, social disinhibition, or behaviors that are bizarre to onlookers. Their purposelessness distinguishes them from unusual behavior prompted by delusional beliefs.

Catatonic behaviors are characterized by a marked decrease in reaction to the immediate surrounding environment, sometimes taking the form of motionless and apparent unawareness, rigid or bizarre postures, or aimless excess motor activity.

Other symptoms sometimes present in schizophrenia but not often enough to be definitional alone include affect inappropriate to the situation or stimuli, unusual motor behavior (pacing, rocking), depersonalization, derealization, and somatic preoccupations.

Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Affective flattening is the reduction in the range and intensity of emotional expression, including facial expression, voice tone, eye contact, and body language.

Alogia, or poverty of speech, is the lessening of speech fluency and productivity, thought to reflect slowing or blocked thoughts, and often manifested as short, empty replies to questions.

Avolition is the reduction, difficulty, or inability to initiate and persist in goal-directed behavior; it is often mistaken for apparent disinterest. (examples of avolition include: no longer interested in going out and meeting with friends, no longer interested in activities that the person used to show enthusiasm for, no longer interested in much of anything, sitting in the house for many hours a day doing nothing.)
ward ward 56-60, M 10 Responses Dec 4, 2010

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hyzenfraggle, your instructor was enlightened.

My nursing class had a test on nursing psychology. One of the questions said something like, which of the following people would be considered mentally ill: <br />
a) a man who occasionally double checks that he has locked up his house<br />
b) a rich man who hands out money to strangers on the street<br />
c) a preacher who says that God personally speaks to him<br />
The answer was "c" and it caused a huge shi+storm with the xtians in my class. The answer was obvious to most of us.

Sounds right, passing off imagined items as real items goes beyond delusional; you can get away with that if it's part of a religion.<br />
<br />
de·lu·sion (di lÁÆzhÃn), n.<br />
1. an act or instance of deluding.<br />
2. the state of being deluded.<br />
3. a false belief or opinion: delusions of grandeur.<br />
4. Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

I think religion falls into the category of self delusion more then a mental illness.<br />
Read the accounts of people who came out from a religious background to free thought, they will in most cases attest to the onetime feeling that the holy spirit was working wonders in their lives, that god in many cases was verbally answering the prayers and petitions issued. Revelation from sc<x>ripture was heralded as knowledge unquestioned. But then when they left the flock and had time to reflect they almost always could see the wish craft involved in their experiences.<br />
I do not know of one former sky talker who will say that any of the supernatural experiences once held by them as fact was in truth anything more then imagination.<br />
It is because I am not willing to accept imagination as a mental illness that I would characterize religion as such.

This is fascinating. I never noticed the correlation before, thanks for pointing it out.

Luce1984, you sure put a lot of thought into your posts here. Thanks for the impressive input. Thanks for your comment too, Windows.

Yuk yuk! Good question hemphappy!

You know...theres a question I have always pondered myself...<br />
<br />
So many religious idols go around talking about having encounters with God or angels, or talk about seeing the future, blah blah...well...why arent these people locked in a looney bin? I mean nowadays...if i ran around sayin "I'm the son of God, the messiah, heed my word!" I would get taken away in cuffs....so what makes Jesus so special?

Did you ever see those church services that encourage people to "speak in tongues?" Church members, if I remember correctly, are said to be possessed by the "holy spirit" when some individuals begin mumbling incoherently; they are said to be "speaking in tongues." This, I think, matches the disorganized speech criteria.<br />
<br />
Then there is the chanting, bowing, praying, arm-waving, and so on, that might be said to be grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior. Maybe I'm talking out my *** here, but I like to think of the symptoms of the two "disorders" (I don't know if that's the right word here) have in common; besides, aren't hallucinations and delusions in common enough to demonstrate a likeness between religion and schizophrenia?

So where does theology come in besides the delusions and hallucinations?<br />
<br />
Quite the interesting read though, props!