Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
A simulation of schizophrenia can grant insight into the schizophrenic’s mind. While the simulations can only go so far, there is still a great deal to be learned from the simulations' modern technology. Depending on your expectations, you may be disappointed or surprised at how far technology has come. This article will go through some of the basic information surrounding schizophrenia simulators.
Schizophrenia Background Info
First of all, we will go over some background information. How can we expect to judge the state of simulations if we know nothing about schizophrenia? This will give some information to better judge a schizophrenia simulation.
Schizophrenia can affect every area of a person’s being, including their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, habits, and other activities. People who live with schizophrenia often appear to lose touch with reality, which is seriously distressing for the person, their family, their friends, their coworkers, and observers in general. Yet help is always available, and many people with schizophrenia lead healthy and productive lives in relationships, school, work, and their general lifestyle.
Usually being diagnosed in their late teenage years, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be male. The diagnosis is normally brought on by an episode of psychosis marked by changes in the senses, strange thinking, and odd behaviors.
Psychosis can include seeing people and hearing voices, delusions such as special messages broadcasted over TV or the internet, and disordered thoughts and speech. Furthermore, some symptoms overlap with anxiety and depression, such as lack of motivation, anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure in previously enjoyable activities), social withdrawal, and becoming flat, quiet, and showing no emotion. Some of the symptoms are cognitive symptoms, which include difficulties with attention, concentration, memory, decision making, and using information that is relevant to a problem.
Schizophrenia simulators often revolve around the hallucinations of schizophrenia psychosis. The simulators miss out on the delusional thinking and day to day difficulties of the disorder. Some people with schizophrenia have no hallucinations at all, and they are completely missed by the simulators.
Many people want to know the risks of developing schizophrenia. It can run in families, though not always. Genes are thought to be a factor in the development of schizophrenia, but researchers have been unable to pinpoint all genetic factors in the development of schizophrenia. Environment also plays a role in the development of schizophrenia.
Since understanding of the developmental and ongoing factors behind schizophrenia are still being explored, mental health professionals mostly focus on managing symptoms and solving day to day problems.
A common medicinal treatment is antipsychotic medications. Most often taken daily but sometimes taken as a monthly injection, antipsychotic medications help many people manage their symptoms.
Common forms of therapy include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Skills Training, Supported Employment, and Cognitive Remediation Interventions. Often, a combination of therapies can help someone with schizophrenia.
Family members can be a major source of support for the people with schizophrenia. Education is available for family members from many places, and families can learn to provide support their loved ones coping with a schizophrenia diagnoses, which can improve treatment outcomes. Some familiesmay employ Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) to offer support services for their loved ones. Here is a link to look into CSC.
If you think that you may need treatment for schizophrenia for yourself, the first step may be examining your experience with symptoms. You can do that with an online screening tool like the one here: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/schizophrenia-test. The journey to a healthier you may begin with asking for help and this diagnostic test can be the first step towards asking for help.
Psychosis is a term used to describe a ‘break with reality’. Schizophrenia may include periods of psychosis, but schizophrenia is more than psychosis, though psychosis is what popular culture focuses on when depicting the condition.
In a psychosis, a mentally ill person has a loss of contact with reality. When this occurs over a period of time, it is called a psychotic episode. Major symptoms of psychosis include delusions and hallucinations. Incoherent or nonsense speech, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, social withdrawal, and an overall lack of ability to complete daily task or engage with others in a healthy way.
Schizophrenia Auditory Hallucinations
During psychosis, people with schizophrenia can have auditory hallucinations. This is a major focus of simulations.
Three out of every four people with schizophrenia report having auditory hallucinations, making it one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia. Auditory hallucinations are a feature of psychosis that can occur alongside or without other mental health diagnoses.
Simon McCarthy-Jones, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, commented on the general nature of auditory hallucinations and their diversity, “Hearing voices is a varied experience. It can involve hearing single or multiple voices, whose identity the hearer may or may not know, who speak in turn or all at the same time, who may be saying new things or repeating what has been heard before, and who can give comments or commands, insults or encouragement. Most commonly though, people diagnosed with schizophrenia will hear multiple voices that are male, nasty, repetitive, commanding, and interactive, where the person can ask the voice a question and get some kind of answer.”
Overall, auditory hallucinations are often troubling and can be very upsetting to the person experiencing them. When you watch or listen to a schizophrenia hallucination during a simulation, the experience may be frightening.
Schizophrenia Visual Hallucinations
Hallucinations may be visual at times. People with schizophrenia may react in various ways to visual hallucinations including fear, pleasure, and indifference. Hallucinations can be colorful and normal-sized.
Visual hallucinations are much less common for schizophrenia. They only occur in about one out of every six patients.
This next link has two videos. One is a TED Talk that gives you some background about the difficulties of schizophrenia. The TED Talk revolves around a person with schizophrenia who worked back to mental health after a long and arduous battle. Then, there is a link to the relevant simulator. Once again, we must warn you that it is quite scary to listen to the simulator. It truly puts into perspective the difficulties of experiencing schizophrenia. https://ivylearn.ivytech.edu/courses/740586/pages/the-schizophrenia-simulator
Also, there are video game and movie scenarios of visual and auditory hallucinations, but none are linked. As much less is known about visual hallucinations, this article focuses on auditory experiences. Since 75% of schizophrenics report auditory hallucinations and only 16% report visual, the auditory will give the reader a much better idea of the illness.
What Is it Like to Be Schizophrenic?
No simulation at the moment can quite fully realize the difficulties of being schizophrenic. First, the person does not always clearly understand that they hear voices. They may have no real understanding that these voices are from a fabricated source. Second, the simulations only last for a few minutes, and the person with schizophrenia must live with this reality for years at a time.
Overall, only those with these experiences know what it is like. A simulation is just that: a simulation. It cannot possibly do justice to what this is like on a daily basis.However, the simulations can give the average person a degree of insight into what challenges people with this diagnosis may face.
For people who want to understand some of what schizophrenia symptoms may entail, a simulator may be helpful. Family members, friends, coworkers, or just an interested person can learn about the auditory hallucinations that are often part of the symptomology of schizophrenia. It can create a great deal of empathy and understanding for the plight of those with schizophrenia. Perhaps the greatest lesson from schizophrenia simulators is the need for more empathy, research, and understanding of schizophrenia.