November 29, 2016
There’s a particularly insidious symptom of schizophrenia and psychosis that has the ability to derail even the most stable patient. That symptom is the unusual phenomenon of making connections between things that have no relation in reality.
Take, for example, coincidences. Through simple confirmation bias you notice things that seem to be serendipitous, maybe you buy a new car and start noticing that same model of car everywhere, maybe you learn a new word and then that word seems to appear much more often in the course of your daily affairs. It could be seeing an old flame and thinking that they are following you or seeing a random person who you don’t know numerous times.
We all experience coincidences from time to time, and sometimes we even think that there’s some deeper meaning to these coincidences when, in truth, there isn’t. When you have psychosis, the trigger that causes you to evaluate coincidences and even normal occurrences as random gets stuck, so when these seemingly serendipitous encounters and situations occur you get lost in the fog of thinking that they are connected.
You get used to that connection and before long you’re making connections between things that are completely innocuous. One example of this for me has been meeting an attractive stranger and upon not seeing her at the same spot when I returned over the course of a week or so, my mind presented the notion that she had put a tracker on my car and could see when I was there and therefore avoid me. I hadn’t done anything weird or creepy to invoke this avoidance, but my mind was telling me that she was so disgusted by me that she had gone to these incredible lengths not to see me again.
I realize this sounds completely ludicrous to sane people, but that’s just one example of the types of things that your mind can concoct when you suffer with a major mental illness.
Another example had me searching the internet for days on end trying to find the relationship between aliens and ancient civilizations; this was before the ancient aliens show ever started and anyone who’s gotten a taste of that show can attest to how ludicrous it all sounds. I was taking it seriously though I thought vehemently there was some vast conspiracy that I needed to uncover and share with the world.
Clearly these examples are crazy, but they are just a taste of the types of things people with psychosis can get hung up on. I’ve heard all sorts of stories by people who are suffering about the rabbit holes they’ve managed to go down simply because a coincidence occurred or because someone said something that sparked their questioning.
The question “why?” is a big part of the rabbit hole and in times of high stress we can become enamored with that question. When this stuff happens we need to be self aware enough to recognize that we are getting carried away, and we need to be realistic enough to stop the rabbit hole in its tracks before we get too deep.
It’s hard, I know, but taking a moment in the midst of our fervor and questioning ourselves is an important part of staying stable. I’ve been through these circumstances more times than I can count, and millions of others have too.
If something seems a little far fetched, it probably is. Be careful and be vigilant in recognizing when your mind is going places and use your tools to counter your mind’s arguments. We all need a dose of reality every now and again.