From the inside of the disease: how do they live with a mental disorder?


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From the inside of the disease: how to live with mental

We easily operate with the words “schizophrenia”, “depression”, “anorexia”. But how to imagine what people with similar diagnoses experience? If we can at least partially imagine ourselves in their place, we will better understand them and be more careful with their fragile inner world.

In recent years, psychologists have conducted several studies with the aim of studying the personal experience of people suffering from one or another mental disorder. Here are some results of these scientific papers.

Depression feels like a void

Researchers at Birkbeck University (London) interviewed seven people who were diagnosed with depression. Central to their stories was the theme of exhaustion and devastation. “As if something had left me, taking my happiness with me”, “Sometimes it seems to me that my life is blocked.”

Another important topic was a sense of disconnection with other people. “You seem to be alone on the island … You see the coast in the distance, all the other people are there, but there is no way to them, or maybe there is no way that I would like to go.”

The authors of the study, Jonathan Smith and John Rhodes, note that all respondents experienced loneliness, inner emptiness and the feeling that they had no future.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder: enemy and friend

After conducting hourly surveys of nine people diagnosed with OCD, researchers Helen Murphy (University of East London) and Ramesh Perera-Delcourt (University of Surrey) identified three main topics in their responses: “I want to be normal, to be like everyone else”, “life failed” and “ I love and hate OCD. ”

The first two topics were related to painful situations arising from obsessive behavior. For example, one of the respondents, who rented an apartment with another tenant, daily scrubbed the bathroom with cleaning agent for an hour before deciding to use it. But at the same time, the respondents admitted that they would be scared to completely get rid of the obsessions that served them as a kind of “crutch”.

The diagnosis of schizophrenia is scary, but it opens the door to treatment

Lorna Hove of the University of Nottingen and her colleagues interviewed seven patients with schizophrenia. All of them had to face a difficult dilemma: on the one hand, they needed to know more about their diagnosis in order to start treatment, on the other hand, he had scared them beforehand as a shameful stigma. They tried to hide it from others, noted that the doctors tried to circumvent the frightening word, choosing more streamlined definitions such as “psychosis” … “In a conversation with me, they try not to pronounce this word, it sounds like a curse.”

All survey participants noted an insoluble contradiction between the scientific approach to this disease, which has a biological nature (“chemical imbalance”), and the perception of their relatives and friends. “My mother only said: I said, the whole point is that you are a psychic …” admitted one of the respondents. Researchers emphasize that patients’ fear of this diagnosis prevents them from starting treatment on time.

Voices in the head can be perceived differently.

Clinical psychologists from Nottingham, Lucy Holt and Anna Tickle, examined seven previous studies that contained personal evidence of patients with auditory hallucinations. It turned out that the experiences associated with the “voices in the head” are very diverse.

Voices in the head affect a person’s social relationships when they criticize friends or family

It seems to some that the voices sound in his head, to others – that in the outer space. Some believe that they can control the voices, while others do not. Interestingly, those who explain these hallucinations to themselves with chemical imbalances in the brain feel less able to control them.

Voices in the head affect a person’s social relationships when they criticize his friends or family. On the other hand, they sometimes help a person to cope with loneliness. “I have few friends … these voices are really close to me, and I am close to them.”

Difficult relationships with mirrors

Dysmorphia (dysmorphophobia) is a disorder associated with an excessive concentration of a person on some small defect (or flaws) in his appearance. This concern is so great that it interferes with working and interacting with people. Researchers from City University of London published a survey of eleven people with this disorder. They all described their complex relationship with mirrors that scared them.

One of the participants in the survey, for example, once looked in the mirror for 11 hours in a row, trying to find an angle in which she would like herself so much as to decide to go out. Another called the mirrors “bastards,” and looking in the mirror was a form of self-mutilation. “I look like a monster”, “I have a disgusting, repulsive appearance”, “Everything, literally everything around is attractive. I feel that I’m the only one ugly, ”- these are typical answers.

From the inside of the disease: how do they live with a mental disorder?

Self-harm: some people are calmed by the sight of their own blood

During the mass screening of 1,100 newly enrolled psychology students, 64 people were identified who were prone to self-harm. More than half of them admitted that it was important for them to see their blood. The most typical explanation was that it was calming. There were also answers “then I feel that I exist”, “this shows that I did everything right / hurt myself deep enough”.

Those who were interested in seeing their blood repeated self-harm several times more often than others. They often mentioned during the survey that for them it is a way to regulate their emotions. Adolescents prone to self-harm were asked to carry a special digital device with them for two weeks and record their motivation with each episode of self-harm. In about half the cases, they formulated it as a way to feel satisfaction, stimulation, pain.

Anorexia begins to control a person

“Anorexia is becoming your friend” – this formulation was heard during a survey of people recovering from anorexia. “I felt lonely … but at least my A. was with me.” Such a designation, as if it were a proper name, is no coincidence. As the authors of the study, Sarah Williams and Marie Reid, the survey participants admitted that over time, anorexia became in their view as a separate entity, with which they had to fight for control over their own mind.

Here is another characteristic statement: “As if there were two people in me: one part of me knew how to do the right thing, the other tried to lead me astray. Ana (the man gave this name to anorexia) tried to confuse me and command me. ”

The healing process is gradual, and the results are suddenly realized.

Several years ago, researchers decided to find out how the person perceives the process of restoring his mental health. They interviewed 18 women and 9 men suffering from depressive and anxiety disorders. Scientists were interested in how patients felt positive changes during cognitive-behavioral therapy.

“Everything happened gradually, but the realization of change came suddenly,” one of the respondents answered. Many of the participants recalled the moment when this happened. The main topics that were discussed in these interviews: motivation and willingness (“I was ready for anything to return to my past”, training (“I learned to change my behavior”, “I read a lot of materials about assertiveness”), interaction with a psychotherapist (“… They don’t evaluate you, do not pretend to see you right through”), changes in self-perception (“I am a strong personality”) and the relief that psychotherapy brings (“This is an opportunity to speak out, to get rid of everything that oppresses”) .

Text: Prepared by Alina Nikolskaya
Photo Source: Getty images

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