Sunday, March 10, 2013

Schizophrenia and Evolution of Complex Linguistic Abilities in Homo Sapiens

The following is an article on schizophrenia and its relationship to natural human evolution. I am writing this from more of a personal, subjective level than one of scientific authenticity, and I am basing allot of my conclusions off of inferences into my own psychological experiences. One of the most prominent features of the schizophrenic spectrum of disorders is that of abnormal linguistic dysfunction displayed by individuals suffering from the disorder. Interestingly, during the development of modern man, that is, the addition of the neomammillian cortex and the movement of linguistic dominance from the right hemisphere of the brain to the left, the mind of homo sapiens started to exceed its metabolic capabilities, which led to some humans acquiring the cognitive disorders associated with schizophrenia. It can then be said that having schizophrenia is a natural bi product of essential positive selection. I would like to shed some light on this subject through some of my research on the subject, and my personal experience of having a schizophrenic illness.

First of all, I would like to introduce myself as someone who has had a schizophrenic illness for the past fourteen years. When I was eighteen, I fell into a paranoid manic psychosis. I was a freshman in college at the time, and I started to feel remarkably "different," but this feeling was not entirely unpleasant as some may believe, in fact it was quite pleasurable. I had been suffering from depression for a year prior to the psychotic episode, and the elation of being manic gave me a feeling that I was somehow alive for the first time. It was felt that I was on the verge of cosmic epiphany, and I no longer needed to sleep; instead, all that I wanted to do was stay up all night and talk. For a while, people didn't notice that I was becoming psychotic, rather they thought I was simply in a good mood, and doing well for the first time in a few years. The insomnia persisted, and I started to talk in "loose associations," that is, my ideas were strung together by weak relationships between ideas; however, I felt that I was making perfect sense. Then language itself took on another dimension: everything that came out of people's mouths took on symbolic significance that I interpreted as something I was just beginning to understand. For instance, a simple statement always meant something deeper, profound, and often related to religious and celestial subjects. I felt God put special significance on my existence, and I was on Earth for some specific messianic mission, which, being born on December 25, gave me the delusional hypothesis that I was in fact Jesus Christ, Son of God here to save people's souls. Soon, however, I was obviously unable to work, and was hospitalized, where I was medicated with anti-psychotic medication. I was diagnosed with "acute psychosis," and the psychiatrist was not definite if I was going to develop schizophrenia, but I was still convinced, for the length of my three week visit to the psychiatric ward of the hospital, that I was a divine messenger, of some sort. The word "schizophrenia," however, when he said it gave me the sobering realization that I may in fact be ill. This was strange to me since I felt so well, so alive, and enlightened.

When I was released from the hospital, I was treated with just anti-psychotic medication, and soon became very depressed. For a year, I went from psychiatrist to psychiatrist trying to figure out exactly what I was suffering from. I spent some more time in another psychiatric hospital where I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. At this time, I was quite certain that I was not a divine messenger, or Jesus Christ, but I was still having a hard time processing language, and I was paranoid. Finally, after going to the hospital again for my depression, they diagnosed me (I feel correctly) with schizoaffective disorder bi polar type one. Schizoaffective disorder is a rare illness that affects about.05 percent of the population, and includes the symptoms of schizophrenia and an affective illness. In this case, my affective ailment was bi polar one disorder, which was indicated by my mood congruent psychotic episode. Yet, I did not just have bi polar disorder, because my delusions were so bizarre, and I was still having cognitive symptoms associated with schizophrenia when I was not manic; therefore, I am said to have schizoaffective, which unfortunately has a worse prognosis than does that of bi polar disorder, but fortunately a better overall outcome than does having schizophrenia.

In any case, I finished college with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor in psychology. I earned a 3.7 in my major of study. This, I find to be unusual, given my deteriorated linguistic abilities during my psychosis; however, I found that, when normalized, I am endowed in language abilities, and I love to read and especially take great enjoyment in writing. I am a naturally curious person, and having schizoaffective disorder provided a catalyst for my interest in abnormal psychology, especially schizophrenic illnesses. Lately, I have become fascinated with the theory that schizophrenia and human evolution are intimately related, that is, schizophrenia may be a result of positive natural selection.

I always suspected, even before beginning my research on the subject, the schizophrenic spectrum of illnesses are partly disorders of language. Human beings think and communicate, primarily with language, but in schizophrenia, this ability is hindered. Schizophrenics tend to have difficulty expressing themselves effectively using linguistic means, sometimes they are completely mute, or at other times speak in gibberish-and I'm sure that my speech was nonsensical to other people during my ride through the realm of psychosis, but I thought it made complete sense. During evolution of the homo sapien mind, we developed complex language usage through the development of the neo mammalian cortex, growing from the reptilian base of the brain, which enabled us to reserve more brain power for executive functioning, which takes place in the frontal cortex. However, metabolically, the human mind was required to use more energy, and this caused some cognitive dysfunction in many individuals, manifesting in schizophrenia and psychosis.

I have always been creative, from the time I was very little. My imagination has always been wild, which may very well have led to some of the bizarre delusional ideas that I developed so easily during my psychotic break from reality. There have been many famous people who had schizotypal personalities (not full-blown schizophrenia per se, but displayed indications of having symptomatic characteristics of the disorder), and these people were often times had schizophrenia inherent in their family genealogy, although these individuals usually never succumbed to having a complete loss of reality. It can be said that the slightly different perceptual outlook on the world that these individuals had led to some very breakthrough thinking in the arts and sciences. I can only think of a few people with full-blown schizophrenia who were considered "geniuses," John Forbes Nash being one of them. He is a mathematician, who happens to still be alive today, and will be remembered, for his groundbreaking work in economics and game theory. The movie "A Beautiful Mind" was based on his life, although the depictions of his schizophrenia are inaccurate, it is still a good film that displays the suffering of John Nash and shows how his unique perceptions led to highly original mathematical ideas. In the movie it depicts him having visual hallucinations, and this is an erroneous depiction, because he, as well as the majority of schizophrenics, have auditory hallucinations, or "voices." I saw John Nash speak at Penn State. He gave a lecture entitled, "An Interesting Equation In Relation to Space Time and Gravitational Waves," and although I understood next to nothing (I have no background in mathematics), I still enjoyed the opportunity to get to see him speak. He appeared to be relatively stable, which is amazing, given he recovered without the use of anti-psychotic medications. However, I noticed, that his mind would make random associations that made no sense to me, and when I asked a person who was also there at the lecture, a student of mathematics who knew some about quantum mechanics, about whether or not he was making sense, the student said that he was, but his logic was very loose. I made the conclusion that he was still suffering from the disease, but had he taken the anti-psychotics, he may not have been able to penetrate into deepest of mathematical complexities as easily, or at all. I'm tentative to take mine on a regular basis, but I generally do comply to the psychiatrists recommendations, although, I must admit, there are times when I don't take my medication, just so I can feel the rush of creativity associated with the manic state. However, unlike someone suffering from bi polar disorder, I experience a much more severe mania-one of which is accompanied by schizophrenic thought disturbances, and paranoid delusions. I often times feel the police are following me, and eye contact frightens me because I feel that people are reading my mind and inserting thoughts into my brain. This, of course, only happens when I am experiencing mania, and upon having these symptoms of the schizophrenia, I generally take my medication-unfortunately, my medication is very sedating, and I tend to sleep for an entire day following an episode, and upon awakening, I feel very sluggish, and miserable. I suppose, being creative, I am also curious as to the internal workings of the human mind, and I was given a very unique opportunity to see the world from an altered perspective, not from doing drugs either, but rather, just from not taking my medication. I'm not sure why, but my control of language is still intact no matter if I'm severely manic, whereas during my psychosis, my speech was often derailed, and my linguistic cognitive abilities suffered, especially in my brains capacity to process language. I can still remember this vividly, even though it was over fourteen years ago to this day, and I have allot of empathy for people suffering from linguistic disabilities of schizophrenia.

Based on my own self-evaluation and my grades in college, I can confidently say that I have a high degree of verbal intelligence, and perhaps my psychosis was simply my brain's language ability working overtime, which led to the discordant trends in my cognition and interpretation of the world around me. This is very possible, that my brain, like the rest of the schizophrenic population, was just not suited for functioning with higher metabolic energy, and essentially "cracked" due to neurological overload. But, now, having been treated successfully for many years, my mind is now able to function using a great deal of energy, however, if I would have been able to harness the abnormal mental energy consumption during my psychosis, and use this extra brain power for creative means, I don't know what great things I could have accomplished, but that is just fantastical ideation that may not really have any objective basis in reality at all, after all I am crazy.

They say that James Joyce was the only one who could understand his schizophrenic sister when she was speaking in psychotic tongues during her illness, and looking at "Ulysses," one can clearly see Joyce's innate access into the world of schizophrenic thought, which is unique, and may very well stand as a testament to his evolved genius, which was derived from this insight into the language of inwardness. There are many similarities between the speech of schizophrenics and modern and postmodern poetry as well, both are rich in metaphor, deep in symbolism-and at times, seem extraordinarily cryptic to the interpreter or reader, who must use essentially more cognitive energy to extract meaning which may be difficult to ascertain. Still, the one difference between schizophrenic speech, and the poems of a post modern writer, is that the schizophrenic's intent of conveying meaning, although seemingly meaningful to them personally, is often impossible to harness by the healthy individual, whereas the intentions of the author can be successfully extracted through logical literary means of interpretation. The poem "The Wasteland," by T.S. Eliot, is one of the most difficult pieces of poetry in modern English, but its intentions, and the meanings are explicable by literary scholars, who have put a tremendous amount of work in its interpretation; however, the schizophrenic, who often times uses "word salad," or a mish-mash of gibberish, and "neologisms," or made up words, is usually disregarded as being irrelevant and incommunicative-therefore, the schizophrenic's linguistic abnormalities in their cognitive functioning are discounted, but maybe we should pay more attention to what they are saying, and will find, like Joyce may have very well found in pay attention to his sister, a deeper significance in the complexities of the human language. Just like the Shamans of ancient cultures, who were no doubt schizophrenic or schizotypal, the mentally ill may-if humans become less ignorant and more accepting of our differences-provide needed enlightenment that may boost the cultural and scientific powers of mankind. Even the most chronic of the mentally ill, may very well one day become great contributors to mankind, but at the present time, these individuals are sometimes confined to institutions, when in a more advanced society, we will be holding them in great esteem, because they may hold the answers to the mystery of human evolution.

For now, it cannot be concluded that schizophrenia is not advantageous in existing in civilized society, but in time, the keys to life's most confounding evolutionary mysteries may be revealed through careful examination of the internal processing of individuals that are "suffering" from schizophrenia. It may come into the light, that, just as it is known now that having relatives with schizophrenia may lead to one's own creative ingenious, having the illness itself, if science can figure out how to help those with the disorder harness the energy of their mind's possible advanced cognitive processes, may lead to future evolution in the way in which we communicate. This sounds a bit outlandish and fantastical, but in all reality we are only beginning to understand neurological functions of the human mind, so this speculation is not a product of me alone; the interest in the schizophrenias has boomed in scientific community, who are well aware too that there are some significant answers available concerning, not only a possible "cure" to the disease, but also strong evidence of the evolutionary development of language and the human race in its entirety.

Interestingly, schizophrenics tend to not be as capable of reproduction as the rest of the healthy population, but even so, there is increasing growth in the rate of incidences of people developing schizophrenia. If healthy people are reproducing more so than those affected with the disorder, then why is the prevalence of schizophrenia increasing rather than decreasing? Wouldn't the disorder be eventually eradicated through negative selection, or is the occurrence of the disorders frequency a sign that we are still in a state of evolution, that schizophrenia serves a natural human developmental purpose? Although this remains as mind boggling as the disorder itself, the truth in these objective, measurable facts will one day serve to add elucidation for the scientific community as to schizophrenia's probable imperative function of existing in the psychology of modern man. In my opinion, schizophrenia serves a purpose to society that deserves an even closer observation.

I am certain, after having been through the mysterious psychological experience of psychosis that having a schizophrenic illness was a mixed blessing, which gave me empirical insight towards the nature of the disorder-and because I was so fortunate enough to be able to recover to a degree that I can function effectively in society, I am driven to communicate through my unlikely written aptitude to those who are interested in learning about an essential component of human history, which happens to be found in the study of the perplexing nature of the schizophrenic syndrome. All too often schizophrenia is misunderstood as being an illness reserved for violent or delinquent individuals who cannot function in society and are in constant need of added assistance, but I am proof that this is a fallacious assumption of the mentally ill. Whether a person have an affective disorder such as bi polar, schizophrenia, or a personality disorder, he or she is most likely completely able to live outside of an institution, and most likely the reader of this article met someone, or encountered a person with a schizophrenic illness this week, but wasn't even aware-this is due to the effectiveness of the newer psychiatric medications. One more thing, before I conclude this article, I really need to emphasis that schizophrenia is not having a "split-personality" or "multiple personality," actually when a person exhibits two or more individual personas, he or she is suffering from multiple personality disorder. This is a rare personality disorder that has nothing to do with schizophrenia. "Schizo" actually has German origins, and means "split," but this splitting has nothing to do with having two personalities, but rather, denotes the individual's divorce or splitting of emotional capacity from cognitive mental functions. The schizophrenic may seem to be withdrawn from the world, emotionally divorced, which is labeled "the flattened effect," named this for the essentially lack of, or "flat" emotions the schizophrenic often time displays. The individual may appear cold or lifeless, and not be able to experience pleasure as would a healthy individual; however, with the newer medications and the advent of the atypical anti-psychotics, these negative symptoms are more easily controlled so that the sufferer can live a more fulfilling life. Society needs to be aware that the stigma attached to schizophrenia must be removed in order to better cope with understanding this enigmatic disorder's perplexing nature, which is in fact the root of this stigmatization, because people tend to be afraid of what they don't understand, and over-generalize complexities in order to simplify things that are too difficult to explain without a significant amount of acquired knowledge. I learned a good deal about the schizophrenic family of illnesses before I actually acquired schizoaffective disorder, this is because my mother had schizophrenia and was institutionalized for twenty years, but people who have no direct close contact with someone suffering from schizophrenia may never feel the need to learn about the disorder; and, I feel that it is imperative for every person to be more aware of mental illnesses. We are now finally becoming more comfortable with talking about the affective disorders, and bi polar disorder is finding a more common place in everyday conversation because we are now aware of the disorders prevalence, although, personally, I think there are too many people being diagnosed with bi polar disorder, and actually just have mood swings, but I'm not a psychiatrist. One of the less impressive things about public awareness of bi polar is its tendency to now be glamorized as a disorder of "geniuses," however, being labeled a creative illness this is not a far cry from the truth that many great artists, writers, and especially poets suffered from manic depression, however, these individuals would tell you, that they would have most likely have accomplished more if they didn't have to go through the hell of the illness.

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are not at this present time being thought of as being desirable to be diagnoses with, that is, at least what I gather, and for a long time I was embarrassed to say that I had schizoaffective disorder, instead I would-if I had to confess, for whatever reason of having a disability-that I had bi polar disorder, but now, after learning about the unique situation I have in life, and my privileged vantage point into the internal world of schizophrenia, I am not ashamed at conveying to others what I am diagnosed with, and am usually pleasantly surprised to find that people actually listen to me when I talk about my illness. Although I can't speak of my illness with medical authority, because I am no doctor or scientist, I can however, discuss it in from a more personal level, which I have tried to do so here in this article. I hope that after having read this and my other writings on the subject of schizophrenic disorders, you will become more respectful to the psychological differences between people in society, and aware that, although understanding mental illness is difficult and at times, and often emotionally taxing because we may watch our loved ones going through the distresses of mental disorders, it is not in our best interest to try to hide behind our irrational fears of the unexplainable phenomena of psychotic disorders, but instead we should try to find enough humility in our hearts and become more educated in the subject before we judge what we don't understand.

We should never make the quick assumptions that people with schizophrenia are "intellectually inferior" to us, because individuals with schizophrenia, in all likelihood, are intelligent and usually creative, but unable to access much of their cognitive abilities because their brains in many occasions have structural abnormalities that lead to neurological dysfunctions in linguistic comprehension, language production, emotional withdraw, and other thought disturbances. But, it should be highlighted that the schizophrenic's disadvantageous predicament could very easily be the result of natural human evolution, only the development of the schizophrenic mind was affected by the colossal increase in metabolic consumption, and in turn, the system essentially "crashed." I testified of my own experience of having a schizophrenic psychosis where I experienced this complete thought fragmentation, which focused primarily on my language abilities. To this day, I am uncertain of how I am able to write as effectively as I am able to do given my state of linguistic decline that lasted for over a year during the beginning stages of my illness, but having recovered, and having obsessive curiosity to the origin of the schizophrenic spectrum of disorders, I discovered through some simple research, these interesting ideas about the disorder and its relation to human evolution. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and have become more aware of the importance of scientific research into the nature of schizophrenia. I also would like to think that, if you haven't done so already, have dismissed some of the previous dogmatic stigmatization associated with societies limited comprehension of schizophrenia, and realize that those who have schizophrenic disorders should be respected and admired for the unique and difficult journey they take in life every day. Thank you, and I hope that if you have a mental disorder and have just read this article, know that I wish you the best, and to always keep hope alive; one day, soon I have a feeling, there are going to be even more effective treatment of schizophrenic illnesses, so don't ever give up the fight. Remember, you are unique in that you have an original perspective on the world around you that should be considered a gift, although it usually seems like a curse. I know how this feels, but if you keep it in your mind that because you have been to hell and back, you are stronger than the average person, who should listen to your story, and I bet if you start to talk about your experiences with having a mental illness, others will listen. It is your job to help teach the world that the mentally ill have a far greater significance to mankind than ever, and as society slowly wakes up from its deep sleep, people are just starting to become aware that schizophrenia and severe mental illness are distinct features of mankind that exhibit human's evolved intellectual superiority over the rest of the animal kingdom.

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