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A Look Inside the Mind of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the more debilitating types of mental illness. Over a year ago, I wrote an article for Psych Central about living with schizophrenia. In the beginning, I featured an excerpt from E. Fuller Torrey’s, M.D., excellent book Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Patients and Providers, because it captures the confusion and misinformation about this disorder.

“Your daughter has schizophrenia,” I told the woman.

“Oh, my God, anything but that,” she replied. “Why couldn’t she have leukemia or some other disease instead?”

“But if she had leukemia she might die,” I pointed out. “Schizophrenia is a much more treatable disease.”

The woman looked sadly at me, then down at the floor. She spoke softly. “I would still prefer that my daughter had leukemia.”

Even though Dr. Torrey wrote this part in the book’s first edition in 1983, I think it still applies today. Though we’ve made advances in treatment and some strides in minimizing stigma, people with schizophrenia still face little empathy or even sympathy from others — in addition to the devastating symptoms they deal with on a daily basis.

That’s why, today, I’d like to share with you several excerpts from Torrey’s book in hopes that they’ll help us to better understand the disorder and be able to put ourselves in the shoes of someone with schizophrenia.

15 Comments to
A Look Inside the Mind of Schizophrenia

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  1. “So, again, imagine that you’re unable to trust your own brain and what it’s telling you”

    For me that was the hardest part. Your whole life what you see in front of you is what is, well, what is in front of you. And then all of a sudden…not. You keep reacting like you used to even if your mind is feeding bad info.

    Thankfully I got the right meds and haven’t been there in a good long while. But adjusting to the new world took some doing (and even today my memories are just of what the psychosis said was going on….even that remains confusing).

  2. This article was so informative. I’ve not read much about schizophrenia. I thought I had an educated understanding of it through my studies in nursing school and occasional articles, but now realize I hardly knew anything. This has really helped me to be much more empathetic to a segment of the population that is feared by the general public and even many medical caregivers. I now have a new respect for anyone that even marginally functions with this disorder (and those who love and care for them.) Thank you for your professionalism.

    • I feel its a latter falling as i search for a handhold before i crash n today im not sure that ill find too many more things to hold so because of the ones that mis understand i may fall n crash n never have a hold again.

  3. This might be a very helpful article for me to send to my mother and other relatives who don’t understand what my having schizophrenia is all about. I have read Torrey’s book on surviving schizophrenia and found it to be highly readable and sensible as well as educational.

  4. My parents didn’t believe in psych docs or mental illness. So, I wasn’t diagnosed with it until they were many years dead. My sisters and brothers tried to talk to them about getting help for me, but they didn’t acknowledge my illness and told my siblings to mind their own business. I am Schizoaffective. I don’t hear the same voice. When I do hear a voice, I find out where it’s coming from, but I don’t go out of my house. Usually, I don’t recognize it and I don’t pay any heed to it. Not long ago, a voice called out to me. It was a familiar voice and the person seemed close to my home, so I looked out my window and nobody was there. Gosh, I just hate this illness. TV can throw me for a loop at times and I get busy trying to figure out what that means. I can’t wait to see my doc next week. I hope a medication will work this time. Great article.

  5. use the wayback machine at to visit and read about Schizophrenia from one man’s perspective. The domain appears to be expired but viewing it through works. I hope the gentleman who ran the site is well.

  6. My son, age 27 was recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia/Schizoaffective Disorder. For the past 3 years his life, actions, behaviors, responses and thoughts have been so catastrophic that finally we found a slight window of opportunity to have him evaluated at the hospital and they did in fact keep him and make the diagnosis mentioned above.

    What concerns me deeply is how quickly the psychiatric staff at the hospital made the diagnosis with out listening intentely to his history of a deeply hurt and emotionally distraught life. Abandonment at an early age from a dad he loved and adored. A childhood sweetheart relationship with the girl next door that ended after 5 yrs and 11 months when she began seeking romantic attention from one of his close friends from highschool and at the same time, having been sponsored into a trade union where he was mentored for a solid year by a man who appeared to be remarkable but ended up having a severe mental illness episode and literally brainwashed my son into believing and ranting extreme spiritualism, religious ideology all while using hallucinatory drugs such as lsd and mushrooms.

    Now my son exhibits signs of severe psychotic manic depression, shared delusional disorder and schizophrenia.

    A three-week supply of antipsychotic (Risperdole) and Depakote (anti-seizure/mood) did help to bring back his rationale and settle his fears. But he won’t take the medication, won’t talk about the diagnosis, won’t use what limited medical resources he has available and prefers to camp out deep inside a forested park where no one is certain where to find him.

    I’m his mom. What do I do? What do I say? Law enforcement, mental health professionals have all said he presents well enough to them, that they cannot force him to a facility for evaluation and mental health care.

    • Dear Refusinghelp,

      It is now December, and you posted your comments in June. So I hope that by now you have found some solution for your son. I sympathise with you so much. My mother has been diagnosed with the illness and all of us had to come to terms with it several times, as so many times she refused to take the medication and had a relapse. Now she takes them, yet, the damage has been done and we are just coping. I cannot begin to imagine how painful it would be to have one’s child suffer with the illness and the law being so strict and always ignoring parent/ carer’s requests, despite the fact that they are in the best interest of the affected person… If he is unwell enough to make a decision, how can they leave the decision to him? It is unbelievable…

      But I also happen to know that it is by law, that the carer is responsible for informing the authorities if the ill person is harming themselves or is suffering further illness and are unable themselves to realise it. I wonder if you could go to a solicitor to get formal advise and perhaps they could enforce some kind of action. I will pray that you don’t need this advice anymore – Best wishes


  7. hi my rebecka i am 31 years old .last year i was told i have i schizophrenia and depression . the part i dont like is when the voices say somethem really bad and i try so hard not say anything back to talk to them. i also have schizoaffective .i can hear many different voices . thank god i just got my meds right . i can still hear them and feel them too . but i keep my self busy doing crafts ,doing laundry ,or just do exercise . i would like to hear from some one . thank you

  8. Schizophrenia seems to be the manifestation of the human spirit yearning to return to that which is came from. The way western – and many other parts of the world – societies are, it’s not in the least bit surprising that we develop these fantastical, seemingly ‘unreal’ perceptions of the world.

    Maybe the reason Schizophrenia can become so ‘awful’ is due to the ego fighting against it. ‘This isn’t me, it says!’ The reality of the situation speaks another story though. Be one with yourself and actually BE yourself – listen to the voices, wonder if what they’re saying is what you should do. Would it hurt anyone? Are the voices kind? Are there even voices? Perhaps you just SEE the world differently and that makes you ‘crazy’.

    Pah… People, right?

  9. From being bipolar, I have been diagnosed as having schizoid affective disorder.
    I have noticed that I tend to take a compliment as an insult.

  10. I have an adult daughter who became estranged from our family and chose to be homeless rather than accept help.
    Her delusions have led her into trouble with the law, jail time, and more. No one can make her get help.
    How do you convince someone that the reality they see is not being validated by others and her experiences?
    How can she navigate through the world but not realize her delusions are causing her to make poor judgements?
    What can we do? She is very far away and we fear never hearing from her again.

  11. The proper response from us should be one of “patience and understanding.”

    who is us? and dont most people have voices in their head? chattering away in various forms and scenarios not in their current reality…

    Could schizophrenia not be an evolutionary morph that we currently do not understand due to hampered time, economics and unsure leadership?

  12. I think this article will help me explain to my school so they can help me better. Maybe. I am trying to major in music ed, but my school doesn’t seem to know how to help because I have schizophrenia. I wish I could make them understand.



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