Unsplash | Hailey Kean

People With Schizophrenia Reveal The Moment They Realized Something Was Wrong

Paddy Clarke 8 Nov 2019

In TV and film, schizophrenia is often portrayed as simply a person seeing other people who aren't really there. And, while this can be the case for some people, the reality of this illness is far from so straightforward. Schizophrenia can present a wide variety of symptoms and can have a devastating impact on those it affects.

One person with a family history of schizophrenia took to Reddit to find out more about the moment people with schizophrenia knew something wasn't right, by asking: "People that have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, what was the first time you noticed something wasn't quite right?"

Below are a selection of some of the responses that people gave, which will hopefully give an insight into the reality of this illness and the effects it can have.

1. Sound Effects That Weren't There

Instagram | robertsradio

"I don't hear voices - just noises and sounds. Like the faucet running, window taps, footsteps, doors closing. There's always a television on.

I think the first kind of event I guess was when I was 20 living with a roommate. I'd been hearing a radio playing loud music outside in the middle of the night. It had been playing for an hour or two and I snapped. Jumped out of bed and tore through the house to get outside and ask them to turn it down. There was no radio and when I opened the door everything was quiet." — DisgruntledSail

This shows that it is not only voices that people suffering from schizophrenia can experience. They went on to say that they became convinced that every room had a hidden camera in it.

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2. Self-Harming Without Realising

Instagram | ziemianiczyja

"There were signs that I didn't realize, like people were telling me I was blacking out and doing strange things like staring out windows for an hour just standing there while a group of people outside look at me like what is she doing...or putting cigarettes out on my barefoot [...] like when I black out my mind creates an alternate reality that seems totally normal...like when I put the cigarette out on my foot I was thinking about it but I didn't realize I was doing it, I thought I was just walking down the sidewalk. Little stuff like this just kept building and building until I felt I was losing my mind". — Shadows23

This person ended up being diagnosed as being schizoaffective with depression, which is a combination of schizophrenia and mood disorders.

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3. Hallucinating Other People

Instagram | justsomedaisy

"My first symptoms were visual and auditory illusions, specifically speech, I didn't hear anything else at the start. I found out something is up when during a conversation with my friends. A person just randomly joined in the conversation, and since no one acted I thought I was the only one who didn't know the person and rolled with it. A bit later my friends asked me who I am speaking to, concerned. I pointed to the newcomer, and he gave a little wave back. Of course, I was the only one who 'saw' him. Ironically at the time, I thought everyone but me was crazy."

This person went on to say that once they had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the person that only they could see accepted their place as a hallucination. What a strange concept.

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4. Obama Coming To Visit

Instagram | angiebellofficial

"My mom has this and constantly talks to the FBI and Obama. She also talks to her doctor who tells her not to take her meds. We have had her committed a few times because she would get very angry and disappear for a whole day in her car and get lost. She also doesn't believe my dad is her husband. I have a recording of her talking about it and it's chilling." — djphatjive

It can be heartbreaking watching what this illness does to a person's life; however, the best you can do is be as patient as possible, and ensure that they are taking their medication.

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5. Trying To Kill Their Partner

Instagram | scanquilt

"I spent 30 minutes hovering over my sleeping boyfriend with a pillow. He was a heavy sleeper. I could have killed him. I almost did. I woke him up, sent him home (much to his confusion), spent 10 minutes on hold with my psychiatrists' nurse (I was already being treated for depression), booked an appointment, hauled ass to the clinic, waited 3 hours to be seen, told him everything, got a script, went straight to pharmacy, got my pills, and took them immediately. I've done my absolute best to try and stay medicated properly ever since" — executiveboxdesigner

That guy will probably never know how close he came to death. It's good that this person knew the signs of mental illness and took action immediately.

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6. Terrifying Visions

Instagram | mmath00

"Before I was diagnosed I spent most days in fear of being alone in my home (even though I would isolate myself to my bedroom) because of the visual hallucinations. Some of them were in my peripheral vision, but I used to see hands snaking over the backs of furniture, like couches or beds. It would terrify me. Also, as soon as I would begin to relax, especially before bed, I would hear voices and deep, loud growls [...]

It took 3 years after that for me to seek medical attention. I would think I was getting better because it would stop, just to return a few days or weeks later." — JessiTexas

This person's medication has helped their life tremendously; which is excellent, as those visions sound truly terrifying.

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7. Memory Loss

Instagram | dandysnapper

"Something wasn't quite right when my memory started to decline. Then my cognition got worse if that makes sense. I'd start walking somewhere, and halfway there, I'd forget how I'd arrived at my location, or why I was even there. I thought I had stumbled out of a dream.

Then I started giving too much weight to ridiculous thoughts and ideas. Normally humans can dismiss stupid ideas like their thoughts are conspiring with the universe to give people cancer, or that everyone is conspiring against you, but...sometimes it went a little too far. I should have gotten help when I started seeing and hearing things [...] Took a certain episode until I did." — Clunkbot

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8. Voices Threatening To Kill Their Family

Instagram | lucie_billaud

"I'm not your typical case. I was 30 years old when I started to hear voices. I was getting ready for a camping trip with the family when I heard someone say 'You are doing it wrong'. I was in my garage by myself getting my boat ready, it made my blood run cold [...]

"The next 4 months were a living hell at my house. I started seeing people in my house at work even outside. [...] I finally told my wife when the voices started telling me to kill my wife and daughter. She was very supportive even went to the doctor appointments with me." — SnakP4k

It's so important to have a spouse or family member who supports you in these instances.

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9. "There's always someone watching."

Instagram | zincak

"Since I was very young I have had this sensation. All of my thoughts are being monitored in some way. My private thoughts are public somehow, so self-policing my mind was one of my 'fixes'. My intrusive thoughts never seemed 'outside' of me, but many of my paranoid delusions still exist. They never go away, but I have learned to limit the amount of influence they have on me. Many of my thoughts are beneficial as well, kind of like a super brutal coach. Not polite and soothing, but in many cases accurate." — GerriBird

They went on in an edit to explain that this symptom doesn't necessarily mean you have schizophrenia. A lot of people have this fear without it affecting their behavior.

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10. Seeing Things As A Child

Unsplash | Artur Aldyrkhanov

"I was in college, so much stress and anxiety was the cause of it. I began first seeing shadow people. Some passing by on a whim. I can clearly remember one that look like it was wearing a dress, going so quickly down the hall but with it came voices. Jumbled gibberish with high notes of laughter. Then came the name whispers. I got on medication soon after. During this time my anxiety wouldn't let up." — Paxil_2aDay

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11. Stomach Problems

Unsplash | Jannes Jacobs

"I was in the prodrome phase which was early signs. I was constantly going to doctors complaining about suicidal thoughts, anxiety, stomach problems.

"I was always brushed off cause I have a degree and a good job, but I was psychotic. I knew things were off and there was something severely wrong with me but one second I believed in mental health and the next second the delusions took over and meds were a sham perpetrated by 'the man'" — xamcali

This illness can affect people at any time in their life, so thinking that you'll be fine because you've got a job or a degree is not a reason why you should ignore serious symptoms.

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12. Alcohol Consumption

Instagram | cooperswhisky

"Luckily my symptoms were caused by my alcohol consumption and repeated withdrawals. At first, my psychiatrist was puzzled that my symptoms didn't present until I was 26. I was put on an antipsychotic which made them go away, but as soon as I stopped taking them the voices came back (as I was still drinking heavily).

"It wasn't until I checked myself into rehab and the doctors there wanted to see if it was the alcohol or truly schizophrenia. They took me off the antipsychotic and watched me for a few days, told me if I heard or saw ANYTHING to report it to them. It completely stopped while I was in treatment. I'm still sober but every now and then I will hear the indistinguishable chatter coming from vents, fans, any kind of white noise really... but it's rare." — not_brittsuzanne

Excessive alcohol consumption can cause alcohol-related psychosis which can present similarly to schizophrenia.

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13. Constant Music

Instagram | brianballoonpeople

"When I was 12-ish, I was terrified of the spiders in my room. My mom thought it was because I was afraid of spiders, but individually, I didn't mind them. However, I strongly believed that the spiders on my ceiling and walls coordinated to do me harm. I pretended to be sick in bed one day because there was a spider directly over my door frame, and one beside my light switch and I could smell an ambush [...]

"I [also] hear music almost 24/7. I didn't even realize it was a weird thing until I started questioning why other people wore headphones." — GhostOfOakIsland

The very idea of spiders coordinating attacks against me while I'm asleep is the stuff of nightmares on its own!

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14. Thinking Their Food Is Poisoned

Instagram | brr456

"I used to think I could see people that weren't there. The girl from the ring used to stand in the corner of my room and point at me while I tried to sleep. That and an old guy that would show up from time to time and wave. I also thought my mother was trying to poison me with her food, so I taught myself to cook (for other reasons as well) to make sure the food was safe." — d0---0b

Thinking people are poisoning you, or that your food may be contaminated in some way is a more common delusion than you may think and is a quite common signifier of schizophrenia.

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15. Voices Plotting Against Them

Unsplash | Karimi

"I wasn't social because voices told me people were plotting against me. After being in enough situations where I was forced to be social I noticed that a lot of people were actually pretty nice and the ones who weren't didn't care enough about me to do anything." — broganisms

Once this person realized that the voices were in their mind, they sought treatment and are now doing much better thankfully!

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16. Searching For The Next "String Of Life"

Canva

"Schizoaffective here... I don't hear voices but have massive delusions that the world around me is totally constructed and I'm actually a homeless person living behind a dumpster or a prostitute in a seedy motel. I also have delusions that if I kill myself and my children I will move on to the next 'string of life' and jump ahead or over. It's hard to explain. I will also drive aimlessly without realizing until I'm miles away from my destination. But my meds work wonders!!! I'm all good right now as long as I don’t resist treatment." — plumskinzzzz

Schizophrenia can have a wide variety of symptoms, not just the typical "Hollywood" portrayal of schizophrenia which typically only includes people hearing voices and seeing things.

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17. Animals Made Of Water

Instagram | broadoak_gal

"When I was younger, I was in the living room at around 5-6 AM, just when the sun was coming up and everything was all blue. I looked down for a second and saw a pale white girl with sunken-in eyes staring back at me. It took around 5 seconds of frozen staring for me to blink and for the figure to just be a vacuum cleaner.

"A few years later I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia for some other reasons, for example...

"I've been seeing floating orbs and shadow people/animals for a while. Kind of trying to be careful describing it because I don't want to bring them back. If I were to describe them, they're like flowing water, in a way. Pitch black, slightly see-through and they move in very unnatural ways, the physics are always slightly off" — cyndasaur2

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18. "My parents I guess chalked it up to hormones"

Unsplash | Hailey Kean

"I was 12 or 13 and heard someone's voice in my head that was not my own. It was so clear it sounded like someone was in my room telling me I'm not good enough to be alive. I started freaking the fuck out, crying hysterically and ran to my mom and dad to try to get away from it but it kept following me. They tried to calm me down telling me it's not real but it sure as f**k was for me. I calmed down and my parents I guess chalked it up to hormones. It progressively got worse to the point of hallucinations and a suicide attempt that I was admitted to a psych hospital and put on medication." — Drakillya

It is impossible to imagine how scared they must have been, unable to escape the unknown which was terrifying them from inside their own mind.

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19. Under Constant Surveillance

Instagram | brainiacsinstallers

"Feeling watched. And for some reason, I 'knew' where the cameras were. In vents, cracks in walls, old punctures from thumbtacks. Radio, movies, and television was tough. I remember being in my car and hearing a voice coming out of my radio talking TO me. Some voice explaining that they were just checking up on me and that they'd be back later. It was hard to watch TV and enjoy my shows.

"I did get hospitalized when this happened. On the way when I was in the ambulance I thought that I was on my way to become part of a team that was going to save the world. Obama was leading it and picked me. Yeah I know..." — cata1og

This is the second one with Obama in it, coincidence??? X-Files music starts playing.

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20. The Hands

Instagram | @suneshineshutterbug

"I was diagnosed schizoaffective in 2016 after a crisis. I started seeing things in 2014 but I just brushed them off. In 2015 I moved in with my family in an apartment and I hallucinated more frequently after a few months of living at home and noticed a rise in Paranoia.

"My family, on the other hand, didn’t help much as my mom has a mental thing of her own going on and my dad and 2 younger sisters do not pay much mind regardless. I had an episode for about a week where breathing was challenging but also my visuals were so terrifying I panicked especially at nightfall. I was seeing people sitting on the roofs, children’s hands coming out of the bushes, and people in the corners of the room." -LittleSceneBear

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21. Threats

Unsplash | Sofia Sforza

"I was sitting in class my freshman year. My friend was sitting next to me, him and I both had been diagnosed with other mental illnesses in the past. (i.e. bipolarity, and paranoia, e.t.c.) The teacher was talking but me and him (as per usual) weren't listening.

"At least ten times I heard him say to me f**k you, kill yourself, you're not my friend and other things I found very unsettling. Btw with me with my reputation, me finding something unsettling was unheard of. This kept up the whole day. Thankfully that day (Wednesday) I was going to my doctor and I told him all about what happened at the verge of tears." -landonm11001

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22. Christmas Eve

Instagram | @spitting.feathers

"I was seven on Christmas Eve, I kept hearing a voice and then stared for hours out of the window to an alleyway near my house, I was convinced there were 3 demons dressed as people trying to kill people. It all started from then, I didn't say anything to anyone about it until I was 17." -chef3ast47

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23. The Electronics

Unsplash | Rayan Almuslem

"I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 9th grade. I started noticing that something was wrong when electronics were talking to me and I felt like I was always being followed by people from my past. I also had more auditory hallucinations where people were in my head. I distinctly remember breaking down in my psychologist's office saying that I heard voices and that I thought I had schizophrenia." -[deleted]

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24. Always Angry

Unsplash | Suhyeon Choi

"I was diagnosed schizoaffective when I was 24 but began treatment for mental illness at 17 following symptoms since the age of eight that had gone ignored by a negligent mother. As a kid, I toe walked, was very stiff in my movements, and had no facial expressions and a flat affect.

"My mom made me sit in front of a mirror and practice appropriate facial expressions so I wouldn't 'look angry all the time'. When I was a kid, I heard music in my head all the time and got absorbed into playing pretend. My imaginary friends were real, and I would get so invested in 'worlds' that I became other people and lived other lives." -EmperorPenguinfarts

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25. The Towel

Unsplash | Jon Tyson

"My brother began covering the tv with a towel and believing that the neighbor's van was spying on him. He also believed our mom and dad were replaced by other people who were wearing dogs to look like our mom and dad.

"He also stopped eating because he believed these imposters were trying to poison him. He also had those crazy eyes that people talk about when they are dark and stare through you. Sad story. He's been on and off meds but is doing pretty well today." -googlebearbanana

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26. Spice Girls

Instagram | @risamoro

"I have Schizoaffective Disorder. Simply put, it's a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar. So no, not quite schizophrenic, but I do feel that it still fits here.

"I started noticing that things weren't quite right when the spice girls on my spice girls poster starting moving their mouths without any sound coming out. I thought nothing of it at first, until other hallucinations (like moths) started appearing." -1BoiledCabbage

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27. Call Me By Your Name

Unsplash | José Martín Ramírez C

"It took me a very long time to recognize my symptoms. I would have things happen like someone called my name in a crowded space, or someone just beyond earshot was calling my name. I wrote it off as anxiety for about two or three years before I mentioned it to a friend, and he told me that wasn't normal." -SR2K

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28. The Doorbell

Unsplash | Serge Le Strat

"I've always had audiovisual hallucinations, extreme difficulties holding any sort of tangible control over my own thoughts and a voice in my head I actually sort of like and can't really live without at this point.

"My typical hallucinations are the sounds of doorbells (which is why I tore out the doorbell in my apartment in a fit of rage once, so now I don't have to go to my front door to check if anyone actually rings it anymore, since I know a ring is a hallucination and a knock is the real deal), walls, floors and other stationary objects having their surface 'Move around.'" --Fateless-

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29. Failing The Hollow Mask Test

Instagram | makersit

"I was in the shower when I was like 9 and someone kept talking to me, just babbling. I knew it wasn't real but it wasn't really scary so I just kinda ignored it. As the weeks went on it started saying full sentences, telling me to do stupid s**t like jump down the stairs or prick myself with my dad's insulin pen.

"I told my mom I wanted to talk to someone and she took me somewhere right away. We experimented with some different meds, some went really bad and I was just a little kid. Finally, we found one that worked, and I've been for the most part normal since then." — meteoritesalad

This user also went on to highlight that they had used the Hollow Mask Test. This is where a patient is shown an image of an optical illusion; specifically, a mask that is actually caved in but appears to be protruding from the page. The idea is that most people with schizophrenia will see the image for what it is, caved in, and those non-symptomatic will fall for the illusion.

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