How paranoid schizophrenia (briefly) made me a Republican

The TV is talking to me. I was under the illusion that the news anchors on CNN were agents of a shadow government run by the Clintons. Every time I passed by the living room of my father’s shabby basement apartment, they would spy on me and the newspapers would question me about my role in the Russia investigation. I believe the “Russian investigation” is actually the code for a global conspiracy to enslave humanity through mind control. President Donald Trump and Republicans have been secretly working to topple this shadow government and end deep-rooted state programs. Torture targets like me will be free.

I changed the channel to FOX News. They repeat it over and over Hilary Clinton is a crime. Even though I am a Democrat and have voted for Bill Clinton twice, I am still submitting my application to join the Republican Party. I then faxed the evidence to the Russian consulate and sent a letter to the CIA asking for cooperation in the investigation.

What I didn’t know was that I was in the advanced stages of untreated paranoid schizophrenia. I went through a psychotic phase away from reality.

It all seems so real.

When I finally got treatment, the psychiatrist explained to me, “With paranoid schizophrenia, it’s like ‘Bourne Identity’ – there are people for you, people against you, and someone else. always be the bad guy.”

I know what you’re thinking – thank god they have medicine for these people. Now, I wonder, is the average American so different from me? Are we all susceptible to paranoid thoughts, conspiracy thinking and bias when our frontal lobe executive function and reasoning ability are disabled by fear?

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Terrified by a global pandemic, there are those who believe that Bill Gates is the evil mastermind who created the coronavirus, with a plan to destroy and microchip the world’s population, and profit in the process. this. Antivaxxers refused to take a vaccine that they thought would change the structure of human DNA. Our brains seek to impose order. Conspiracy theories can provide answers for those who feel overwhelmed. But ideally, the frontal lobe should step in to challenge strange thoughts by asking: Is what I’m perceiving based on reality?

Dr. Oliver Freudenreich, Co-Director of the Mental Disorders Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, states that there is no universally agreed definition of what constitutes a delusion. From a psychiatric or biological perspective, delusions are fueled by excessive amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine. They have a biological basis and treatment can correct this abnormality. A person with such delusions (for example, someone with schizophrenia) would respond to being treated with antipsychotic drugs that block dopamine. In other words, one can take a pill and think rationally.

However, many people cannot do that if their delusional thinking is more part of a worldview than an ideology. According to Dr. Freudenreich, when people create their own groups of madness – where delusional ideas are never corrected but simply bounced around in an echo chamber – it becomes much harder to against those kinds of illusions.

The current policy divide is often framed as a battle between good and evil. The most obvious consequence of partisan rhetoric is that a person with untreated mental illness may continue to commit acts of violence against a person or group they believe to be the perpetrator. suffering for them. This is rare. It’s more common for the average person to go down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole and find a world that makes sense to them.

On January 6, 2021, to the agitation of President Trump and the belief that the election had been stolen, a mob attacked the Capitol building. Some in the crowd turned out for “Storm,” a QAnon conspiracy theory that suggested Trump was planning the mass arrests of a secret group of pedophiles and coup plotters, led by Hilary Clinton and George Soros is at the top. Capitol police described the scene as fighting a medieval battle.

Social dynamics can propagate conspiracy-based thinking that mimics biologically triggered delusions. But there is no drug that can stop the mass violence fueled by conspiracies.

I was a 46 year old filmmaker when I suddenly started having paranoid thoughts that people were watching me. When I lost my day job due to bizarre behavior, I lost my great health insurance. I was placed in America’s broken mental health system, which provided substandard mental care to Medicaid patients, while costing taxpayers a lot of money. Misdiagnosed and neglected at the county hospital, I got sicker and sicker…until the TV started talking to me.

The years of my life are now gone. I try not to be bitter that I ended up unemployed, broke, and near homeless, when all I needed was proper medical care. Every day I am grateful that I did not live on the streets or be locked up in prison, like so many people with schizophrenia.

It’s easy to mock people who think Bill Gates wants to put a microchip in them with a coronavirus vaccine. But it’s much harder to separate the conspiracy theorists’ larger existential fears from our own. We are approaching the second year of a global pandemic, causing mass anxiety and depression. The Internet regularly displays images of future roads in major cities as rivers rushing due to climate change. Billions of fish were boiled in western North America and Canada during this summer’s unprecedented heat wave. If someone’s mind starts spinning with their wildest fears and finds solace in a conspiracy theory, can you really blame them?

Television is a powerful media. CNN and FOX News repeat the same headline, same phrase, over and over on the same news day. Back then, these read to my ordinary mind like a coded speech; to the unsuspecting public, it resembles more propaganda. When I was psychotic, I thought a shadow government had a propaganda set and they colluded through networks. I worry about living in a country where the two major political parties are always at war, unable to do anything, and the public is transported into a world of illusions by networks and social media companies scrambling. viewers.

People with paranoid schizophrenia see patterns that don’t really exist. Like conspiracy theorists, they are constantly scanning the news for bits of information to connect the dots about the unseen forces controlling events. Both groups believe they are being terrorized by others. I have great faith that I am at the center of every news story on TV. My mind is searching for a villain to explain the symptoms of encephalopathy. The media has labeled me a blameworthy culprit.

Dr Anthony Fauci has complained about the unusual divide surrounding the public health crisis caused by the pandemic. The current battle is masks and vaccines. FOX News argues that the Democratic Party is a threat to democracy that has created domestic enemies, such as the unvaccinated, to cling desperately to power. CNN news anchors repeat the phrase “viral blizzard” to warn the public and frighten the unvaccinated about the new variant. The transformation of fear is psychologically destabilizing to the most ordinary people. But this media environment can be toxic for someone with untreated mental illness. I wish politicians and their media allies would stop contributing to clearing the minds of Americans.

Read more about mental health and the political divide: How paranoid schizophrenia (briefly) made me a Republican

Caroline Bleakley

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