Tag Archives: psychosis

Do you see or hear things that do not exist?


English: Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks a...

English: Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does it mean if you hear things that no one else hears? Sees things that no one else sees? Does it mean you are having a spiritual experience? Or, do you have some form of psychotic disorder?Thanks to a student (HT Heather), I submit for your reading pleasure a NY Times essay by Oliver Sacks. Dr. Sacks suggests there may be some other possible reasons why you might hear or see or feel something that isn’t heard, seen, or felt by others. In fact, he points to research that a large portion of those who do have these experiences never tell others or doctors about them for fear of being labeled falsely with schizophrenia.

Ever had either hypnogogic or hypnopompic hallucinations (ones that happen just as you fall asleep or awaken)? Did is scare you? Can you imagine telling others about it? If you find these kinds of unusual experiences interesting, I encourage you to read any of Dr. Sacks’ books.

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Delusions and hallucinations: What are they?


Most of us trust our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. If we hear something, we assume it to be real. Imagine someone telling you that what you feel or heard wasn’t real. Would you be inclined to believe them? Probably not. And the more they tried to convince you that you were crazy, the more you might see them as trying to deceive you.

That is a little piece of the world of those who experience psychotic symptoms–where they believe, feel, hear, experience things that others deny are real.

So, what is happening when someone comes to believe they are Jesus Christ in the flesh? What is happening when someone hears a voice telling them that they should die?

Possible explanations:

1. Misinterpretation of feelings and perceptions. I walk into a room and the hair of my neck rises. Does it mean that there is a lot of static electricity in the room? That I’m nervous in crowds? Or that someone is beaming thoughts at me? One explanation is that I’m mis-reading the data.

2. Mis-firing of neurons in the perception areas of the brain. I know that isn’t exactly the scientific language we ought to use but it is true that certain electrical stimulation of the brain leads to perceiving smells and sights that are not real. Elevations of dopamine and other neurotransmitters are possible causes of psychosis.

3. Real supernatural experiences. It is possible that spiritual forces are at play and the person is hearing what is being sent to them. Now, whether those forces are telling the truth or not may be the question the person ought to entertain. Further, labeling these symptoms as supernatural does not necessitate a supernatural response (e.g., casting out demons). Deception may be broken by basic Christian responses (e.g., prayer, submission to the Word) and by medications.

As a Christian psychologist I believe all three are at play in any disease. We are individuals with broken bodies that do not work right. We are mis-perceiving and vulnerable to deception. I cannot say for sure that someone who believes themselves to be a prophet is lying. However, if they are not evidencing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives then I do question the validity of their identity.

Counselees experiencing intruding sensations and perceptions can break their influence when they are able to attend to other “data”. For example, “I feel others are out to get me but I will live as one who trusts in the Lord rather than in my ability to prove to others that I am in danger.” “I will not use violence or rage to be heard.” “I will not isolate in order to be safe.” “I feel like God has me here for a special reason but I will not neglect caring for my children nor abuse those who do not think I have a special calling.”

Counselors will find more success joining counselees, accepting their reality, rather than merely attacking their beliefs. It is possible that my counselee is a prophet but I can still encourage them to faithful work, love, and honor of those around them.

[Note: I’m not covering the issues of medications, hospitalization, and other psychiatric treatments in this post. These are important and not merely ancillary to the care of those struggling against psychotic symptoms. I am only musing on the possible causes of delusions and hallucinations.]

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Filed under counseling, counseling skills, deception, Psychology

Diagnosing paranoid schizophrenia through the mail


About every 2 or 3 months I get mail from individuals who must get my contact info off of websites. This mail is not usually personal, though it was when we were advertising for a new counseling professor. There are several similarities to these pieces of mail:

1. The end of the world is at hand. The planet is about to crash or the world will come to an end (and they include very complex and detailed reasons from political news, astronomy, and biblical data as to why they know this about to happen now.
2. They write extremely complex sentence structures that have no meaning. You can define each word, comprehend a phrase, but it may not have much connection to the prior phrase. For example: “certain celestial & terrestrial transactional events due for occurrence in the prophetic year xxxx per the present solar calender in extension, strictly as timed in the book of XXXXX.”
3. Neologisms. Word or words that are newly created by the author. For example: angular separation; inter steller emigration purposes.
4. Persecution. The writer is being mistreated or persecuted for their knowledge.
5. Clip art/cut and paste. The writer uses multiple type-faces, colors, clip-art, and cut and pastes quotes from other sources to bolster the letter
6. Many pages. Most of these mailings have double digit pages.

These letters always break my heart. I can sense the torture they must endure because of the rate and power of their racing thoughts. Imagine knowing the world was going to blow up and everybody ignores you or calls you crazy.

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Diagnosing and connecting to those with paranoid schizophrenia


In the throes of meetings and class prep (childhood disorders, personality disorders) for 6 hrs of teaching so I’m not going to do a review of literature. Planning tomorrow to hit the issues of parenting books again. But today I’m going to make mention of a letter that every faculty member got here at Biblical this past week. This letter advised us of the connections between a minor prophetic book, celestial military engagements, sinful patterns, and the earth’s rotations (or imminent stoppage thereof).  

On a frequent basis I get letters from well meaning individuals who want to help me understand some hidden truths that many Christians have missed down through the millenia. These letters have differing content but several similarities worth mentioning. I do so here NOT to make fun of them but to recognize the world they live in and offer a possible way to connect with someone in your life with similar issues. Far too frequently, we run from those we deem are “crazy” without looking at the deeper connections we might have with them:

Here are common threads of these kinds of letters: Continue reading

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