Can Schizophrenia Kill You?

Across all practice and methodology I am positive that no where in history have the terms “cause of death” and “schizophrenia” been legitimately wagered in the same breath. That said, it’s a wonder that I myself, as a person with schizophrenia, and enduring my specific experiences am still alive. 

I’m Not Saying I’m Surprised I’m Alive. I’m Just Saying Maybe It is a Wonder.

In the discipline of mental illness, I can imagine no diagnosis which translates into a premature death sentence. However, people with schizophrenia most certainly do exist in  a cautionary plane. Psychotic episodes and psychotic symptoms with delusions and auditory hallucinations in particular may depict a darker image in terms of life-threatening experiences. 

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So What Can be Said About Death in Schizophrenia?

Mental illness, with schizophrenia at the forefront serves as a potent reality check. A reality check that calls into question the individual patients and their relations to their psychiatric symptoms. This reality check by nature dabbles in death, by suicide rates and also comorbidities.

Affective symptoms like auditory hallucinations and lack of mental health care or even lack of proper regular health care relay into increased fatalities. So schizophrenia might not kill you, but your hallucinations and neglect that accompanies mental illness may.

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How Might Someone Die By Hallucinations?

Death by hallucination often occurs through means of suicide. In fact let me rephrase that, in all cases of death by hallucinations it is always suicide that registers under the umbrella of risk in schizophrenia. Though obviously, not all suicides happen as a consequence of auditory hallucinations.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 10.1% of the  population who lost their lives to suicide was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health presented that people with schizophrenia were 20 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population. Also according to the National Institutes of Health between 4 and 13% of those with schizophrenia died by suicide.

Once again none of these people died directly by schizophrenia, instead it was due to issues with quality of life or hallucination. I know for a fact that in my life I have only been pushed close to the edge as a result of my auditory hallucinations. 

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Aside From Suicide, How Else Does Schizophrenia Affect Life  Expectancies 

People with schizophrenia on average die 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population affirms the National Institutes of Health. Medical News Today clarifies that the culprit of these deaths to be due to side effects of schizophrenia medications, higher risk factors of drug abuse or substance abuse, and higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

The same source contends that lifestyle shortcomings such as a sedentary lifestyle, consumption of an unhealthy diet, chronic stress, or lack of proper access to health care may contribute to shorter life expectancy. Now that we have discussed schizophrenia at large let us discuss first hand experiences with my chronic schizophrenia. 

It’s Only Silent but Deadly to the Outsider

In the minds of those with schizophrenia what seems silent to the outsider really is, simply put, not silent. I personally have fallen victim to the terror of the internal manifestations which cripples so many, known as the auditory hallucinations. Let me recount to you my first hand experiences with suicidal ideation.

 It All Started in High School

Prior to high school I had no issues which immediately tickled the fancies of someone who faced suicide. In my junior year of high school, however after facing a brief stint in children’s village, a juvenile detention center in Michigan, I found myself at a crossroads. My main problems had to do with bullying and worrying that I would never walk the halls of a college after the misdemeanor.

My issues were almost wholly due to my, at the time, latent mental health condition and emerging positive symptoms and negative symptoms.  As a student on academic scholarship at a premier private Michigan high school, I certainly did not represent the typical delinquent. I mean prior to this I had barely even had any disciplinary referrals.

The detention I experienced uncovered my latent mental illness as shortly thereafter I began behavioural therapy. As far as bullying went, to this day I cannot finitely say that my bullying was due to misperceptions from paranoia/anxiety or grounded in valid concerns. Anyways a question, that always comes up in cases of suicide, is how the victim intended to pursue the act.

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So How Did I Do it?   

My first brush with suicidal ideations and action was a little farfetched in terms of lethality. I intended on going into shock by peeling and scraping into the beds of my fingernails. I arrived at this idea after watching Black Swan and the main character Nina’s scratching into her own skin.

I believed the slow process of peeling into my fingernail beds as the most punitive method toward redemption for the problems I had caused for my family. This was the first time schizophrenia tried me.

It Did Not End There! Thankfully or Maybe Not

Regardless, contrary to my former misgivings about not being able to be accepted into college, I made it, with a full-ride at that. In my freshman year of college, I once again thought my life was over, but it obviously was not officially over.

My schizophrenia caused me to withdraw from college as a result of depressive symptoms and self-starvation. I’m not exactly sure if at the moment I was diagnosed as bulimic but that label had earned associations with me in the past. This time was another episode of digging into my skin, this time I clawed into my back, once again with my nails but the reasoning was similar to the last attempt.

This time I sought retribution against myself for wasting my scholarship foundations time and money. This episode later evolved into me bludgeoning my fist into the wall as a means of once again going into shock.

Of course none of these did the trick and I managed to survive suicide once again. During this process my auditory hallucinations maintained a prominent presence. They were the reasons behind my self-starvation and to a larger extent my withdrawal from school.

I Could Probably Drink You Under the Table but Not In the Way You’re Thinking    

Maybe that was a poor choice of words. The next occupation with suicide occurred wholly due to positive symptoms of auditory hallucinations. This time my auditory hallucinations or as they are sometimes referred to as voices felt it necessary to attempt to overdose on alcohol.

In this particular episode I could probably have drank anyone under the table, as that’s where they would have found me, passed out underneath the table. The circumstance and dialogue with my voices went something along these lines.

Voices: “Your brother bought a shiny brand new bottle of whiskey all for you and better yet he’s not home”

Me: “Hey, I don’t even know how much I can drink? Maybe I should test the waters” in this case I guess it would be better to say instead of waters, the liquids or liquors.

Voices: “Grab a glass and knock a few back.”

Me: “I think I should just face it and knock the whole bottle back.”

Voices: “Yeah good idea!” I promise that my auditory hallucinations are really this casual.

Me: “Let’s see how much I can take in one shot.”

Voices: “Do it, try to finish the bottle before your brother gets home.”

Me: “Glurg! Glurg! Glurg! Ahh that burns.” The next morning comes.

My Brother: “What the hell is wrong with you I found you passed out with an empty bottle of whiskey and you laying in your own vomit on my carpet”

Me:” Oh man! I didn’t even think I drank that much” I look over to the table to an empty bottle. “Nevermind” 

I’m not sure what the exact intention of my voices were at this point but I am sure that they were not positive as the action did register as self-detrimental, at least in my opinion. I certainly felt like I could consider this as another attempt on my life by the shadow of schizophrenia. Of course, once again I’m not saying schizophrenia kills but it certainly bares the character of a disease with malice.   

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Back to Strange Drinking Episodes

The homicidal voice in my head did what?!? Back at it again, it wanted me to drink something else that was “contrary” to life’s intended purpose. This time we would venture toward toiletries, while I may have been better off drinking water from the toilet, toilet water was not the method of hydration.

Instead this method of hydration ended up doing the exact opposite of just that. Ladies and gentlemen, it was shampoo. The whole dialogue follows in this podcast episode. In the words of Pokémon, it was super effective, at least if I was the other trainer’s Pokémon. The result was projectile vomiting straight out into the kitchen floor of my brother’s apartment. 

Yet again I found myself as victim to my auditory hallucinations, once again surviving suicide. Mind you the two former incidents occurred in the same year. 

You Jumped Out of What?!?

Hopefully, the previous statement is not too misleading. No I did not jump off a bridge or out of plane. Though I do want to jump out of a plane someday, for recreational purposes, “la di da”. Instead the next near death encounter happened under different circumstances. Once again my auditory hallucinations managed to get the better part of my better judgment, which at this point I’m sure anyone would doubt my even my best moments. The dialogue went something like this.

Voices: “Today’s your sister first day of high school, we should go check out the school to make sure she’s okay”

Me: “NO! NO! NO! I’ve had it with your trouble”

Voices: “Too bad. I’m the captain now and I’m going to make you even if you don’t want to.” At this point I’m sure the audience is like lolwut? What an unfortunate turn of events?

Me: “Yeah right, what are you going to do force me to walk to her school?”  

Voices: “Good Idea!” the hallucinations then proceed to force me out of the house with full motor control over my body. My mother immediately follows me out of the house and ask what I am doing.

Me: *no reply*

Voices: “Good this trip will be our little secret”

Me: “But my mom already knows we are leaving”

Voices: “Too bad Uh Oh! Here comes your brother”

Mayo: “Where are you going?”

Me: I say out loud “for a walk”

Mayo: “To where?”

Me: “Around” *I say in my head* “They know something’s up” 

Voices: “Just keep walking! Just keep walking”

Mayo: *Goes to tackle Maf* “Get over here were going to the hospital.” At this point my family was pretty exhausted in terms of my rousing of trouble at the worst of times so this all seemed pretty routine for them. What happened immediately thereafter was not so routine for them. So my brother gets me into the car so we can go to the hospital for another psychiatric hospitalization and the voices cook up perhaps the stupidest plan in the book.

Voices: “Hey jump out of the car”

Me: “No that would hurt”

Voices: “I don’t think you get how this works,” *flings me out of the car like a rag doll.*

Gladly, the car was only going about 15-20 mph at the moment. I’m not sure where I would be if that were not the case. I escaped with some scrapes and bruises but in terms of luck I guess I had experienced a lucky streak by escaping death quite a few times.

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Then There was That Time I was Not so Lucky (Still Alive Though Obviously)

It’s crazy how something as simple as a touch can set somebody off. For me a touch of the hand meant the difference of 2 or 3 years of traumatic pain. This time had nothing to do with suicide but the subsequent pain resulted in more trauma than any of my encounters with self harm. In fact it was the most pain I had ever felt.

Oddly enough, it happened in a hospital, a psychiatric hospital to be exact. It did however have to do with hallucinations or an episode of psychosis. Prior to the incident I had previously exhibited slight violent behaviour, nothing so severe to warrant this response.

By chance today was the day I was to be discharged from the psychiatric care facility. Something did not feel right. My voices were highly present and very persistent. Though this happened often during my hospitalizations, toward the latter end of my hospitalizations the voices were often very scarce. My mental health professional came to my inpatient room to tell me ride had arrived and it was time to go.

I was relieved and happy but my voices were not. They saw my status as a psychiatric patient as an opportunity to “save the world.” Apparently the matters of my mental health care had relations to the overall social well being. A couple minutes passed as they had given me my bags to leave and asked me to sign all my paperwork. Then it happened.

The mental health practitioner came to me and said let’s go. However, as we leave the voices see an opportunity to “save the world.” For some reason the voices fixated on the heads of one the mental health workers. It said something to the tone of “touch the middle of his forehead, or else we all die.” By all it meant the human race.

Then Came the Moment

I touched the middle of his head, and then he reacted. With a flash and a bang I find my head smashed against the wall, experiencing the most pain I had ever experienced in my whole life. He had responded with a reflex as his hand forced my head into the brick wall. The pain in my neck and head lasted for 2 years and a perceived weaker immune system all served as the consequences. 

So Schizophrenia cannot Kill You but Like a Bad Friend or Associate It Sure can Put You Into Some Dicey Situations

People with psychosis experience positive symptoms and negative symptoms. Any symptom in mental illness is less than ideal. Daily life with psychiatric disorders means challenging the prospect of what makes you, you. Abnormal behaviour in schizophrenia sometimes drives even the most seemingly of sane people to the edge.

The best opposition to the no so deadly but still deadly threat of schizophrenia is the clinical judgments of mental health services and the usage of antipsychotic drugs. Put yourself in the best position of not having to deal with life or death situations. This means proper health management in all diagnostic categories. Just because one suffers from mental disorders, it should not mean the end of their life. With some extra effort we can manage to lead wholesome and worthwhile lives.  

It Ends Here (Not Talking About My Life, Please!)

While the former may be a poor choice of words considering the circumstances, still its true. In matters of word choice, perhaps one piece of advice I may leave you with is don’t leave your wounded mental any chance to capitalize on careless wording.

Every word or turn of phrase you contribute to your mental well being has the capability of becoming something bigger. While I am not saying you should hang onto your every word, I am saying that you should know where words count.

For those with associates or relations with mental illness, know that their person with mental illness may be grappling with worlds of pain beyond your comprehension. For those with mental illness know that although we suffer from psychosis we still are alive, and that fact should be precious enough to continue on. Prevention of suicide in mental illness remains the ultimate goal.

Let my story serve as a testimony for your or your person’s goal of proliferation. Like you I know that suicidality in schizophrenia remains an overly apparent and cautionary tale. Regardless of psychotic disorders that may hinder you, realize that your life is valuable and you do matter. Work with 21SCHIZM in your efforts of coping with mental illness.

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