Overcoming Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia offer a harsh reality for me. I noticed a change in my ability to feel emotion shortly after I began exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia but long before formal diagnosis. I was well-acquainted with feelings of depression and anxiety related to surviving child sexual abuse, but this was different. I lost interest in activities I formerly enjoyed, I no longer felt like associating with others and I felt a tremendous sense of indifference towards life in general. I was experiencing negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
What Are Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
Certain aspects of what I felt are common to other forms of mental illness. For instance, a loss of interest in formerly enjoyed activities is a typical feature of major depressive disorder known as anhedonia. I experienced this during previous episodes of depression, but what troubled me about this particular episode was that it didn’t fully resolve. Instead, I found this emotional state to be pervasive, persistent and progressive.
You’re likely more familiar with the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. In fact, if I were asked to define schizophrenia in one phrase, I would say, “paranoid voices.” Positive symptoms tend to attract notice and often result in treatment. After all, it is human nature to focus on obvious abnormalities over subtle absences. But that’s exactly what negative symptoms of schizophrenia are for me: the subtle absence of normal human emotion.
Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia Affect Emotion
The level of subtlety associated with negative symptoms varies. If you witnessed someone in a state of catatonia, you probably wouldn’t call it subtle. But would you notice if someone close to you gradually stopped laughing at jokes, progressively began speaking with reduced inflection and slowly withdrew from the company of others?
I was unable to understand my state of emotional dysregulation until I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. My feelings, or lack thereof, finally made sense when considered in that context. I understood why I no longer enjoyed the company of others, why I no longer engaged in spontaneous activities and why I felt very little joy even in the absence of overt depression; I understood a significant component of why I no longer wanted to live.
If only understanding were synonymous with healing. Negative symptoms are difficult to overcome. Antipsychotics for psychotic illnesses aren’t terribly effective at treating this aspect of the disease, and psychotherapy isn’t a magic bullet either. Not to mention that many of us, myself included, suffer from comorbid illnesses such as social anxiety or depression which have significant crossover with the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. But I won’t dive down the rabbit hole providing an origination theory for each of my symptoms tonight; I’ll save that for therapy in the morning.
Find a Reason to Experience Emotion
Overcoming negative symptoms of schizophrenia means you are in for a fight. You must battle your way back into life when you probably don’t feel like doing so. It means trying to embrace emotions that you barely feel. It means fighting positive and negative symptoms and maybe even social anxiety to associate with others. It means fighting the urge to isolate for the experience of laughing and playing with your children because they don’t stay little for long.
I hate that it requires effort for me to feel emotion. It’s awful. But I loathe feeling nothing at all. Find a reason to experience emotion, and work to experience emotion towards that reason. My reason is my kids. I know that I love them. Now I want to feel it.
Law, R. (2019, March 4). Overcoming Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/creativeschizophrenia/2019/3/overcoming-negative-symptoms-of-schizophrenia