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Schizophrenia and What a Psychotic Episode is Like

July 14, 2015 Elizabeth Caudy

People may want t to know what a psychotic episode is like in schizophrenia. You may be surprised to learn how innocent they can be.

Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are scary words to a lot of people but knowing that psychotic episode is like might help alleviate that.. They assume that those of us who have these illnesses are violent and that the voices we hear tell us to kill people. This isn’t the case as my own experience with psychosis will show you. People do not need to fear people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder or their psychotic episodes.

Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, and What It’s Like to Be Psychotic

I recently read a journal entry I wrote shortly after I had my schizophrenic psychotic episode. I would like to find the journal I kept during my psychotic episode, but from what I remember, it probably wouldn’t make any sense. I do know that I covered the covers of the journal with stickers, something I wouldn’t normally do. I also “communicated” with the people who I thought were following me by writing to them through my journal. So, there you have it, during my psychotic episode I spent a lot of time writing in a journal. Sounds pretty dangerous, huh?

It’s really hard for me, now, to put into words what exactly what the psychotic episode was like for me as a person with schizoaffective disorder. This happened almost 17 years ago. But, I’m trying. I remember, especially from reading the journal written when the incident was fresh in my mind, about a parallel world that zoomed in and out of reality. Not only did I think people were following me, but that the people I saw on the street were actors sent by them to give me a message. I don’t remember what the message was, but I do remember going up to random people on People may want t to know what a psychotic episode is like in schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder. You may be surprised to learn how innocent they are.the street and talking to them. I didn’t shout at them or threaten them, and when they made it clear they wanted out of the conversation I left them alone. So I was a polite schizophrenic psychotic.

Since everyone I saw was an actor, every change in scenery was a new act in a play. I had no idea what my role was. When I went to a party with my friends from high school, I just hung back and hoped no one would talk to me, because part of me knew I was crazy and I didn’t know what I’d say. Again, that was very menacing. And I was back home from my college campus by then. The meds hadn’t fully kicked in yet.

I’m not saying I was a saint when I was psychotic. I chain-smoked, and snuck a few ciggies even in places where smoking wasn’t allowed. But back in the late ‘90s, smoking was allowed in more places than it is now.

Binge buying was another problem. I coaxed my dad into buying me a lot of stuff: a moonstone necklace, a long-sleeved tee from Target that had a Chinese dragon on the front, and a Goo Goo Dolls CD. (I would never have bought a Goo Goo Dolls CD if I hadn’t been psychotic.)

I also borrowed my mom’s rented car, which I wasn’t supposed to be driving, to go buy a pack of cigarettes. In fact, I would say that is the worst thing I did while I was psychotic. My driving was not impaired by my psychosis, but if I had gotten into an accident with my mom’s rented car, that would’ve been bad. But, you know what? I didn’t.

Recovery from Schizophrenic and Schizoaffective Psychosis

In the midst of all this, I went on antipsychotic medication. It eventually stopped my psychotic episode, and I credit the fact that I haven’t had a subsequent psychotic episode to my disciplined compliance with medications that caused weight gain and flattened my responses to sensations I needed to create my photographs. But I found new paths to creativity and my illness is one of them. I accepted the weight gain and exercised more to stay healthy. I wrote this to show that people with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are not inherently dangerous. But it is a hard way to learn some of life’s lessons, even the ones that made me stronger.

Photo by Elizabeth Caudy.

Find Elizabeth on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and her personal blog.

APA Reference
Caudy, E. (2015, July 14). Schizophrenia and What a Psychotic Episode is Like, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/creativeschizophrenia/2015/07/schizophrenia-and-what-a-psychotic-episode-is-like



Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

Tiffany M
says:
June, 3 2019 at 9:09 pm
My son was diagnosed at 23 and my life has not been the same, from watching the decline in his health, behavior and self- elected choices. I couldn’t manage the behaviors and still raise my younger children. I tried to get him help through counseling , meds , mentors , job training - you name it. But he is determined to play with taking his meds - the injections don’t seem to work. He has been in and out of the hospital at least 3 times this year. Now while hospitalized he still refuse to take his meds. The docs had to get a court order !!! I feel so bad saying me but his episodes tear me down for days as a parent - I can’t focus - I can’t work - I am up all night and high levels of anxiety bc I feel like I can’t help my son. I just don’t understand why he refuses to take meds and is determined to smoke weed. I am mentally drained. I don’t know what else to do or think. I am mentally drained.
June, 3 2019 at 10:10 pm
Hi Tiffany--
Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry things are so hard with your son. Have you tried contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)? Going to a support group might help you.
Dr Musli Ferati
says:
May, 22 2019 at 9:09 am
Schizoaffective psychosis as subtype of schizophrenic psychosis encompass at the same time schizophrenic and mood disorders that require more inventive and more eloquent psychiatric treatment and management, as well. Since it incorporate double dimensional psychotic course, it should be included antipsychotic and psychostabilizator medication, in order to interrupt cyclic and processual evolution of this alternate psychosis. However, in due time application and taking of prescription psychiatric medication gives opportunity to convinient outcome of this multifarious psychotic disorder. Appropriate psychiatric treatment of this psychotic underline long-time and satisfying remissions with short and light episodes of psychotic worsening. This positive course of schizoaffective psychosis warrants more efficient global life functioning, that diminish social stigma to this chronic endogenous psychosis .
Stephanie
says:
May, 10 2019 at 6:02 pm
My son was diagnosed a year ago. He has been hospitalized three times. He is on his 4th abilify injection. He still hears voices and he says they tell him to do bad things. Recently hi punched the bathroom mirror and cut up his hands in front of his twin sister. Said he was hearing voices. Then like a light switch he told her that he was sorry, that he loved her and didn’t want her to be afraid. He chain fake smokes. I think he calls it French inhaling where he releases the smoke from his mouth and draws it back through his nose. He has a religious compulsion. He was wearing religious clothes: a Yamuna, crown of thorns, whit robe, sandals in the winter etc. I had to confiscate the mail. He eventually lost his small job. He told me his legs feel heavy on Abilify and his feet hurt. Also he doesn’t sleep. He’ll go in and out of the house constantly at night and won’t take his sleeping pill. I think part of his problem is lack of sleep which I believe makes him more irritable and hear more voices. he’s restless and bored. It was my understanding that by this 4 th injection the voices would be quieter. He blames the medicine for the voices. I think he’s heard voices for a long time.don’t think Abilify is his medicine nor respidol which makes his tongue tremble. He is only 19. Hopefully I can get him to read these comments and learn to understand his illness but right now he always say “no more drugs Ma.” I know it’s going to take time but he’s so resistant to medicine. I’ve joined NAMI and encourage my daughters to go to gain understanding. One day at a time
May, 11 2019 at 9:56 am
Dear Stephanie,
Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry your son is having so much trouble. Work closely with his doctors. I'm glad you've joined NAMI... they're very helpful. I always have to remind myself to take things one day at a time... or one minute at a time!
Bonnie
says:
May, 12 2019 at 2:12 am
Hi Stephanie. I wish I had the answers for you. My sob was diagnised at 19. He's 38 now. In the beginning he heard voices telling him to kill people. Very controlling voices. In the first 2 years he was admitted 30 times into various psych facilities. Then he started getting into trouble with the law. He had started using drugs. Possession charges. His psychotic episodes were bad. One morning after he had just witnessed his dad having a massive heart attack he came home. And when he opened my door he saw the devil staring back at him. This is when things got really, really bad. He's been in and out of prison for 19 years when he should have been in the hospital. He's been on every combo of med which he refuses to take. He had a near fatal head on auto accident 2 years ago with a trumatic brain injury and major organ damage, broken back, leg ribs a coma and on life support. One month later he suffered a stroke. He was in the hospital 7 months. He's become delusional, audio halusinations. And has begun worshiping the devil. He spends every waking moment talking to his Gods. Thinks he's a witch and verbally communicates with his friends, friends he hasnt seen in 20 years. Today its been all about the government and the CIA, they are watching him. Hitler and the nazi's.. He spends all day and many nights sitting in a non running truck in the back yard. He laughs uncontrollably, gets very angry, even cries. He thinks I don't care. I just don't know how to help him.He seems to be getting worse. Its been 20 very long years now. Don't anyone believe they aren't dangerous. They are capable of anything during an episode. Never think you know your kids so well that you know they are harmless.. but they seem to strike out at those they feel closest to. Love, a ton of patience and a strong relationship with God is just part oif what its taken me to get this far. It hasn't been easy. God bless your son your family and yourself
May, 13 2019 at 9:38 am
Dear Bonnie,
I am sorry you are having such a hard time with your son. Have you contacted your branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)? Also, here is a link to resources that can help: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources And here's a link to a book that can help: https://www.amazon.com/Someone-Mental-Illness-Accept-Treatment-ebook/dp/B004Z7SI7Q/ref=pd_sim_351_31?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B004Z7SI7Q&pd_rd_r=831a319c-7586-11e9-8ad6-676656a66066&pd_rd_w=kiRs8&pd_rd_wg=DknEp&pf_rd_p=90485860-83e9-4fd9-b838-b28a9b7fda30&pf_rd_r=VXNY1EX54GJ6J0G40HAA&psc=1&refRID=VXNY1EX54GJ6J0G40HAA

I hope that helps and I wish you the best. Elizabeth
kim
says:
February, 17 2019 at 4:25 pm
My Son 23 was just diagnosed schizophrenic approximately 10 months ago. hes been in an out of the phsyc ward, he is now on an injection of Invega its supposed to last every 30 days. well the last one only lasted 3 weeks,when he got his next shot he was already in a phsychosis. they increased his dose and he still hasn't come out of his psychosis and its been 1 1/2 weeks. why is this happening? any advise you can give a mom of adult son with schizophrenia ?
February, 17 2019 at 5:38 pm
Dear Kim,
Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear your son is having trouble. Work closely with his doctors. Sometimes it can take trial and error for doctors to find the right dosage and the right medication, unfortunately. If something doesn't seem to be working, speak up to your son's doctors. Also, make sure you're taking care of yourself, too. Find a support group for families of people with a mental illness. I know that the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers support groups like that. That's the best advice I can give. Take care, Elizabeth
Antoinette jamerson
says:
March, 13 2019 at 10:30 am
It was the same with me Dr not only adjusted the strength of my shot he adjusted the frequency to every 21 days it has controlled mind symptom-free for 3 years now consult your doctor about it
Michelle
says:
July, 31 2018 at 8:50 pm
hi there, i am in a current relationship with a man, with this illness...he is currently having a psycotic break, and I have been acused, with so miany things, mostly always having to do do with sex??? why? these accusations are very real to him,, and he firmly believes this.....what do i do???
August, 1 2018 at 8:52 am
Someone who is in the middle of a psychotic episode may falsely accuse others. I would call his doctor and let him or her know your boyfriend is in the middle of a psychotic break. I would also make sure he is taking his medication. I hope that helps!
Nikita
says:
July, 27 2018 at 1:22 am
I’m glad I cam across this page. My mom has this disorder. I never really saw her go through a episode until I came home from college. It scared me for the first couple of nights. She is currently going through her second episode. I’m not as scared anymore. Plus I’ve been reading these comments and so now I don’t feel alone.
Bhagwan Murthy
says:
July, 24 2018 at 3:13 am
I am 56, male. My mother has been suffering from the disease since adolescence. She is practically untreatable since she is not aware she is mentally ill. I became paranoid in 1982. I heard voices and smelt phenyle. I got scared that I was going insane. I was super aware of my surroundings. I lost the ability to concentrate on whatever I was trying to do. I thought people were following me whenever I heard footsteps. I misinterpreted facial expressions and snippets of overheard conversa tion and came to the conclusion that people were talking about me in a derisive manner, I isolated myself from society. But fortunately my inherited illness was not as serious as my mother's. So I had the sense to guess that I had a mental illness, probably the same one that my mother had. I badly wanted to become normal, but did not know which way I should go. So I went to the library and read about all the known mental illnesses and the description of schizophrenia given in the Merrck Manual of medicine fit my experience perfectly. And the remedy? "Force your mind to concentrate on work, no matter how difficult it may seem. Avoid imaginative thinking. Learn the nature of the illness and you will be cured." The first task was Herculean because my mind would not come off of the unwanted thoughts. The second I did not understand. What is imaginative thinking? My thoughts appeared quite real to me, So I rejected the second advice and followed the first one diligently. And to my surprise it paid off! One fine day I suddenly felt myself normal! No disturbing thoughts, no hallucinations. Now I tried to figure out what else had changed. I noticed one major difference in my experience. Previously whenever I heard the horn of a car or bus, I would see the vehicle in my mind. But now I could only hear the sound. All the years from childhood I was seeing the image of whatever was making the sound and thought that was normal. Now I realised that it was abnormal. Normal people heard sounds but did not see the objects making the sounds in their mind's eye. Creating the mental image of something that is not visible is imagination. Believing that the object really is like its mental image is delusion. Mental imagery seems very real, The key to recovery is not to argue with the image but to avoid it in the first place. Now I understood the second advice: avoid imaginative thinking. Think, but do it in such a way that no image is formed in the mind. I have been practising this since that time. I relapsed a couple of times but always managed to come back to reality by following the afore mentioned two advices. The last advice in that article was: Learn the nature of the illness and you will be cured. So I am cured. Without medicine. I hope everyone gets cured like me, but perhaps my illness was mild. Nevertheless, I have written my experience for what it is worth. It is tempting to think imaginatively, but unlike a normal person who knows it is imagery, a schizophrenic doesn't. Imagery seems so real if you are schizophrenic that you believe it and get hooked. So think, but without creating images. Leave imaginative thinking to the nons.
Steve Farris
says:
February, 1 2019 at 1:09 am
I wish I could break free...I for years mask my mental illness on drug use ....heavy meth usage it was like a situation I didn't have to pay for it so I was using 2 -2 half balls a day and had to to feel normal...I was outgoing friendly normal when high. ...I slept 1 day every 13 days and off again to make long story short....I almost died from my intest.and Colin ruptured...made it through 12 hours of surgery ...lost 5ft intest. 6inch of colon...shortly after that the Feds came with threats of conspiracy theories I been clean month or so in hospital....the voices kicked in I had what seem to be female voice that seem to for the most was friendly...then was this make voice that was deep and sounds evil and let me tell ya right down scared me I kept to my self ...so I thought ...but I figured out that others close could tell ..cause they would ask are you okay ...I came to the conclusion the Feds were controlling me cause they couldn't get my friends to testify in me...then one day after the female voice said you know Mark that stuff he tells you about killing your family ..he is right be heavenly rewarding for you and then to go a head and get them on that other side...they told me we in he'll now son...I tempted to shoot self ...the gun miss fired my son walked in wrestled me to ground...went to mental hospital...in there I got to where I'd watch T.V.it was on spot with thought.process even radio I couldn't escape...even the nursse and staff were talking about me plotting...I had dark secret of sexual abuse of alcoholic stepdad had done to me for decade's I had never told a soul about..he told me he kill my mom and little brother...I'm now convince I am the reason it happened...he call me pussboy and queer ...I got in to drug seem I was emotion free I climbed rank fast to enforcement I kick in doors and collect .I fear nothing never shed a tear...now I see counsel and was like he knew...I have of all souls Jesus after me so I tell all...I'm dign.paranoid scitz.border line soacal disorder...cause abuse went on 9 years I have PTSD and insomnia...I get well med.and do fine for 12 yr.I get to paranoid to leave house to see doc.anxiety of chart so I better don't need to go back...guess what I am doing meth again to maintain ....I just want it to leave me alone
February, 1 2019 at 12:43 pm
Hi Steve--
Thank you for your comment. I am so sorry you are having such a hard time right now. You can become whole again with treatment for substance abuse and mental illness. No matter what has happened in the past, it doesn't have to create a negative future. I encourage you to get both counseling and medical treatment as soon as possible. Some counseling can be done online if that helps for you not to have to leave home to do it. I'm including a link to hotline numbers and referral resources--it includes child abuse, substance abuse, and suicide hotlines. I hope you find this helpful. Take care, Elizabeth https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources
Charlotte
says:
April, 9 2018 at 6:59 pm
I am schizoaffective and even on my meds i am paranoid of people, certain places, things too. Voices are confusing and hard for me. I dont want to be out of touch with reality but i do and it seem so real when i am alone talking to tha voices too.
Alix
says:
March, 24 2018 at 4:15 am
so sick of being stereotyped as "crazy" or "psycho". It is not a laughing matter. Its scary & hard to live with. Instead of being totally oblivious to what it actually is and how hard it is to make it through a day...why not just brush up with some facts of how truly difficult it is to live with. #itsuxxxx.
yvonne
says:
December, 1 2017 at 11:23 pm
haunt been out the house for 6 weeks,frightened of people even feel anxious when my partners there and my son.Fed up with this illness I just wish I could get well.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Nick
says:
January, 8 2018 at 4:00 pm
If u fancy someone to talk to Yvonne, I’ve been all the way there (without realising) and all the way back.. I also discovered something that just snaps you out of it (hopefully). Now it’s my random little crusade on the Internet whenever I come across it. NT (a t) ntech.org.uk

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

yvonne
says:
February, 27 2018 at 3:26 am
thanks Nick could you help me.and tell me what you've found that snaps you out of it.I can't take much more of this illness. I havnt got a life because of it.
Tamer Mol
says:
June, 12 2017 at 9:49 am
"People do not need to fear people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder or their psychotic episodes." - I think you need to be extremely careful when sharing this information. If you look into the Phil Walsh death, you will see that his son, who stabbed him 20 times was suffering from a psychotic episode as a result of undiagnosed schizophrenia.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sarah
says:
June, 28 2018 at 6:10 pm
Statistically speaking people living with symptoms of schizophrenia are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. So while there are outliers who clearly committed acts of violence while experiencing psychosis, it is not common for people experiencing psychosis to act violently. "Serious violence was associated with psychotic and depressive symptoms, childhood conduct problems, and victimization." (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/209569)
De
says:
April, 1 2017 at 10:10 pm
When my boyfriend layss computer keyboard over his phone I feels as though he has something to hide I have been excusing him of texting other women just and I feel in my heart he is even he has offered me to go through his phone and said he is not texting nor cheating but when he turns his phone upside places the keyboard over it or sometimes lay it flat to where you can see the face of the phone just want to know is this a Schizophrenia episode I stop taking my meds so just wondering if he is or if I having an episode because this happen quite often
Jim
says:
March, 31 2017 at 9:18 pm
I've spoken to strangers on the street as if I knew them. Once the conversation got to a certain point, I walked away embarrassed. I didn't know these people and I realized it. I was sure at first and felt confident in my conversation. Walking away was embarrassing. My episodes in the past were close together, but 15 years had passed and I was right back to where I was then. My only change in recent weeks has been the voices. Now I'm back hiding in the house.
deedeeright
says:
September, 13 2016 at 9:56 am
thanks for mentioning how embarrassing it is for you when people bring up those stories. I've done that with my son, but i will not anymore.
Eric
says:
August, 16 2016 at 1:40 am
Thank you. Bad day. Watched 'the Voices' last night... The first 20 minutes anyway. I hate the way people react. I'm a former chef and an educated artist(on the good days). So what if I also have days where I cant leave my house.

And another thing. I'm not the person I was before I got on medication anymore. That guy was terrified all the time anyways. Psychosis is scary. It's also embarrassing when people think it's ok to bring up stories of things you did when you weren't in reality. Sooooo embarrassing.
Kathryn E Dahlager
says:
July, 27 2016 at 6:08 pm
My experiences have been much more frightening like a scary movie. I am a wife, mother of 4 and had an amazing career. I lost everything but my teenage daughter and special needs youngest. On welfare, lost my career, home, marriage, you name it.

My last was 11 years ago after 2 long months in a hospital psych ward, finally the right combination of meds worked and i recovered over time but still had lost 2 of my children. My teenager is now in her late 20's and doesnt want to know me.

There is life after psychosis. I am remarried to a saint who is also raising my special needs child. I have weekend parental custody of the 2 I lost and we are extremely close.

Stay on your meds no matter what you think life will be like without them. If i can have a very good looking, in shape guy love me at 200 lbs. Unconditionally, you can have that too ON YOUR MEDS. You can only have chaos and paranoia, anxiety, fear and an ugly side to life if you dont take the meds that balance the chemistry in your brain. Thats all that meds do, we dont produce enough serotonin like "regular people" do.
Good Luck fellow Schizophrenic friends. I have the schizo-effective disorder, too.
emily
says:
December, 30 2015 at 4:47 pm
This illness sounds like my life
bharati
says:
December, 28 2015 at 1:59 pm
i dunno why all my bad pictures are with ppl i hate and are cruel to me. you can go to the police and get back the pictures saying they can't use your image or photos without your consent but i already told the police a ton of stuff. i remember it crying bc all those pictures in france and my birthdays in sri lanka were lost, i lost them and it hurt the thing like 'oh dear' but i'm ok.
bharati
says:
December, 28 2015 at 1:56 pm
all i said was they put me in front of the camera when i was a child and the thing got so jealous that it started talking about how i look in pictures now. i have a whole bunch of good pictures now so it doesn't matter or bother me much.
Samantha cotterrell
says:
December, 18 2015 at 8:29 pm
I would definitely say he struggles in groups of people, as I'm very similar. I'm all right one to one but put me in a group and I forget 'how to act' I get really conscious of myself and my thoughts , which can trigger "the voices". Best thing to do is talk to him and try and get him to explain what made him feel uncomfortable. Then see how u can avoid this or maybe help by introducing him to your family members one at a time to increase comfortability and reduce anxiety levels. A room full of strangers can be very daunting for anyone never mind if you are ill.
h
says:
July, 21 2015 at 12:08 pm
Thanks for your reply. Perhaps its nothing to do with me at all. Something to think about

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Elizabeth Caudy
says:
July, 21 2015 at 12:31 pm
I assure you it has nothing to do with you.
h
says:
July, 20 2015 at 7:47 pm
Hi Elizabeth i am just beginning to understand schizophrenia. I had been dating a wonderful man who would move mountains for me. He stood by me through a horrible divorce i was going through and was my rock for the last year and half. He recieves a shot once month and has a bit anixety thats all. Well after a family bbq and talk of repainting his porch and bathroom he got a tad weird. I have two kids we were packed to go to his house and out of no where he said i dont feel good dont come. I was angry and said fine go home.i recieved a text saying ur affecting my ment all health negativity i can no long continue our relationship. He then didnt talk to me for over a week and when he finally did he said i love i miss and we were planning a coffee visit but again after he attended another family bbq i recieved a email saying i cant text or email any more i need to get my stuff...so i have now stopped talking to him as he requested. Iam worried about him ,unsure of my next step.what are your thoughts here ? He is a very kind soul... very odd for him.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Elizabeth Caudy
says:
July, 21 2015 at 3:48 am
Maybe the family BBQs affect him negatively? I know I get really anxious at parties. Just a thought. I hope you work this out with him.
shirley
says:
July, 19 2015 at 8:43 am
Yours does not describe all schizophrenic episodes, so u might not want to make light of what u have been spared.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Elizabeth Caudy
says:
July, 19 2015 at 10:12 am
Dear Shirley,
I did not mean to make light of anyone's experience. I was simply trying to show that not all psychotic episodes involve violence.

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