What is unique about being Schizophrenic and Autistic?
I have previously written about the significant intersection between autism and schizophrenia and the relationship with psychosis in a broad sense. It is a widely undiscussed area despite the fact that many people experience it. I have also discussed what it is like to be schizophrenic; recently people have been asking me how my psychosis presents.
For this reason, I thought it would be good to discuss some of what I have found unique about my relationship with Schizophrenic experiences and my overall relationship with this particular aspect of my neurodivergence.
I experience auditory, visual, olfactory, and tactile hallucinations. What does this mean?
- Auditory Hallucinations
- These are sounds and voices that others do not hear. I can hear voices speaking to me and discussing my actions. A typical experience might be hearing voices coming from televisions and radios, but I also hear voices that sound like someone speaking next to me.
- Visual Hallucinations
- These include perceptions of visual things that other can not see. Some that can occur for me are moving or breathing walls, people (such as a woman in a black dress), and insects.
- Olfactory Hallucinations
- This means that I smell things that are not in existence in the environment. I can often smell tobacco being smoked where no one is smoking, or flowers that are not present.
- Tactile Hallucinations
- This typically manifests as the feeling of things crawling over my skin.
My most common type of delusion is persecutory delusions, although I have experienced grandiose delusions as well.
- Persecutory Delusions
- These are delusions where we believe that someone or something intends to do us harm. I have believed that I am trapped in a computer simulation by someone trying to delete me, that microchips have been implanted in me that are broadcasting my thoughts, that my food is being poisoned, and that my loved ones have been replaced by doppelgangers.
- Grandiose Delusions
- This is typically a belief that there is something uniquely special and important about you. For me, this manifested as a persistent and Obsessive belief that I had unified quantum mechanics with the physics of gravity and relativity.
I experience depression and hypomania. Depressive episodes are crippling and may see me sleeping for days on end. Hypomania episodes make me feel hyperactive and take risks. One particular example of my hypomania resulted in me having to be locked in the house to stop me from leaving the country.
What makes my experience unique?
Psychosis is incredibly difficult to camouflage, but due to being Autistic I was already adept at projecting an acceptable version of myself (I highly recommend this article by Tanya Adkin on masking). Professionals largely do seem believe it is possible to mask psychosis, but I managed it.
I also have a great deal of insight that is typically not seen in schizophrenia. Most of the time, I am aware that I am hallucinating or having paranoid or delusional thoughts. It is only in full-blown episodes that I lose that insight and become consumed by the neurogenerated reality I am experiencing.
This presented an issue in receiving correct diagnosis. Many professionals refused to accept that I was experiencing psychosis and would often gaslight me into questioning my own experiences.
“Although schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men, and the late 20s to early 30s for women. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in a person younger than 12 or older than 40”National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Despite my recognised onset of psychosis being at the age of 18, it took me until the age of 32 to be formally diagnosed. The full name of the diagnosis is too long to remember, but it is effectively the schizophrenia equivalent of PDD-NOS. One psychiatrist commented that he wished a diagnosis of “atypical Schizophrenia” existed for people such as myself.
I would also note that I was experiencing depressive traits and hallucinatory phenomena from a much younger age, but it was largely ignored and overlooked by professionals. I often wonder if this was the build-up to what emerged in my late teens.
We need professionals to recognise these unique experiences. Had my psychosis been addressed earlier, I may not have turned to drugs and alcohol for relief. Much of my suffering could have been avoided.
I am happy with my life now, but still have some anger for the experiences I have had at the hands of professionals. We need people to speak out, and inspire a paradigm shift in the recognition and support of Autistic and psychotic people.
For more writing on my experiences of psychosis and madness, please consider purchasing a subscription to my substack.
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