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With June estimates at 7000+ authors, 69 other Hackernoon contributors might also be a victim of schizophrenia, along with me. This article serves to demonstrate why these people are facing tougher-than-average odds to live to a ripe old age, and how society isn’t doing them justice in helping or finding a permanent solution.
Schizophrenia is the psychotic disorder that’s defined by losing control over your reality. If you start to slip into beliefs or experiences – auditory, visual – that others don’t perceive, you’re schizophrenic! There’s other qualifiers to the disorder, like having a certain frequency and total number occurrences of these thoughts – as well as a lack of other conditions which may otherwise explain these often terrifying and traumatizing thoughts.
What counts as an hallucination or delusion? A hallucination is an effect on your senses that others can’t perceive. You might see something that isn’t there, hear something in the distance that only you can hear – you might even perceive other people perceiving your hallucinations, which is a trap on it’s own because now your hallucinations are covering your other hallucinations. You can see how easy it would be to lose touch with reality when your own human mind makes up its mind to revolt!
A delusion is a belief in something, some thought or idea or pattern that nobody else can perceive. You might think the media is talking to you, telling you to do things in secret code. You might think that you are somehow special, be it superpowers or the fact that you’re President – these delusions can vary in strength and severity, and may even go unnoticed in some for years and years before causing any issues.
There are negative symptoms of schizophrenia, too – where the positive symptoms are qualities you’ve gained or acquired from the illness, like hallucinations or delusions – the negative symptoms are things that you’ve lost with the new mental state. These could be habits or behaviours like caring about one’s well-being (cooking, cleaning, self-care) or curtailing one’s hobbies due to lack of interest.
Schizophrenia affects 1% of the population, 1.5% of Americans and 1.5 million people were diagnosed with it this year. This translates to 300 000 Canadians, nearly 5 million Americans – verily, 105 million people around the world. Indeed, someone you know – more than one person you know – could very well be suffering.
Concurrent Disorders & Overdoses
Nearly half of people suffering from schizophrenia abuse drugs and alcohol. We call this a ‘concurrent disorder’ – meaning that drugs and alcohol abuse are occurring at the same time as the psychological symptoms that lead a professional to diagnose schizophrenia.
I bid you welcome to the first reason schizophrenia is a death sentence: 0.216% of the American population died from overdoses from 1999-2017 (with a noticeable trend upwards in deaths/year). Given that 9.4% of the population reported using illicit drugs in the last month:
Americans: 300 000 000
Drug abusers: 28 200 000 (9.4%)
Deaths / 18 years: 648 000 (0.216%)
Deaths / abusers: 2.3%
Abusers / schizophrenics: 50%
Schizophrenics: 5 000 000 (1.5%)
Abusers that are schizophrenics: 2 500 000 (0.75%)
Deaths / abusers that are schizophrenics: 57 500 (1.15% of # schizophrenic)
Deaths schizophrenics / deaths abusers: 8.88%
8.88/2.3: you are 3.86 times as likely to die from an overdose than the average drug abuser if you’re schizophrenic.
1.15/0.216: you are 5.32 times as likely to die from an overdose than the average person if you’re schizophrenic.
The suicide rate for Americans is 0.014% when ‘adjusted.’
Americans: 300 000 000
Suicides: 4 200 000 (0.014%)
Suicides / schizophrenics: 4.9%
Schizophrenics: 5 000 000 (1.5%)
Suicides that are schizophrenics: 245 000 (0.08%)
4.9/0.014: you are 350 times as likely to die from suicide than the average person if you’re schizophrenic.
I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves in this section.
According to the CDC, 34 000 000 Americans smoke. 90% of schizophrenics smoke. 67% of smokers die from smoking, 474500 a year. Excuse the changing numbers here, in the previous calculation the 1.5% of schizophrenics was from the stat – and in this second calculation it’s divided into my guesstimation of total Americans, so 1.666%.
Americans: 300 000 000
Smokers: 34 000 000 (11.33%)
Smokers that die from smoking: 387600 (0.1292%)
Deaths / smokers: 1.14%
Deaths / population: 2 193 000 (0.731%)
Dead smokers / deaths: 17.67%
Smokers / schizophrenics: 90%
Schizophrenics: 5 000 000 (1.666%)
Smokers that are schizophrenics: 4 500 000 (1.5%)
Smokers that are schizophrenics that die: 63 000
Deaths schizophrenic smokers: 1.26%
You are 11% more likely to die if you smoke while schizophrenic than the average smoker.
You are 1.72x as likely to die in a given year if you smoke while schizophrenic than the average population.
0.856 billion is spent on HIV/AIDS efforts a year, affecting 1.1 million Americans and 26 000 Americans die from HIV/AIDS each year. $147 000 000 000 is spent on cancer research a year and 609 000 Americans will die from cancer every year – 38.4% of people will or have had or do have cancer.
$74.65 is spent on research per person diagnosed with schizophrenia, $788.70 for HIV/AIDS per person and $1276.04 for cancer per person.
Seems a bit strange, no?
The Good News
While the debate of nature vs nature rages on – including scholarly articles with 1000+ citations, I firmly stand as a testament: nurture wins. Even when dealt with an incredibly bad – and incredibly rare – hand of cards, I’ve managed to change all the detriments of psychosis and sociopathy into benefits. In some degree or another, most of my symptomatic behaviors have indeed become some kind of tool for me to be more successful.
Hand of Cards
My current diagnoses include:
Schizo-affective disorder, which evolved from diagnoses of drug-induced schizophrenia and paranoid schizophrenia. Schizo-affective is ‘enough symptoms to be diagnosed schizophrenic but also with an underlying major mood disorder,’ in my case bipolar. Prevalence of schizo-affective disorder: 0.3% of general population.
I’m also diagnosed with panic disorder, which looks and feels very much like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder except without an actual logical trauma or trigger. It’s random, and fits in with the psychoses. Prevalence of panic disorder: 2.7% of general population.
A final diagnosis is much newer, and this one’s iffy. They discussed it, along with whether or not I’d like to be tested on the Autism spectrum, but never wrote down any of this discussion – leading me to think that my psychosis made up sociopathy. Irregardless, there’s nothing you can do to actually treat a personality type – so there’s no real point officially diagnosing it. However, it does explain a lot of my personality and some of my traits: Anti-Social Personality Disorder has a prevalence of 3% in men, 1% in women. On paper, it looks a lot like narcissism except less likely to think myself as special and more likely to discount social convention or norms, including things like paying back debts (whoops) or feeling a need to pay taxes (ha).
Probably my favorite psychotic symptom I draw strength from is called ‘clanging.’ It’s a proclivity to rhythm or cadence, rhyming in speech. It gives me a very specific way of typing and writing that a certain kind of reader finds some poetry to – and it’s one of the main reasons I like hearing or re-reading my own content. This, in turn, is one of the reasons I push out as much content as I do. Content is king, and a regular contributor is more likely to gain a following and make a dollar doing this for fun & profit! Without the symptom, I’d do far less content. Bi-winning! My content here on Hackernoon and on other publications alone has led me to basically skip interviews and acquire employment as a founding member of a tech startup that has legs – read about Coindex Labs and how we’re building a money-making machine here.
What’s more is that a sheer depth and breadth of understanding and perception gives me insight into people, communications, arguments and perspectives that not many people have. This has led me to be a fantastic manager of people and stakeholders, balancing everyone’s opinions and underlying emotions better than the average Joe Product or Project manager. Even at a less stressful level, this allowed me to excel in call centers as customer & technical support – all the way throughout my career, conquering first technical account management and then later community management (especially in cryptocurrency). This one single factor has led me to be successfully employed in extended contracts that allowed me to be alive and thrive in ways I’d never thought possible when first wrestling through my diagnoses. When you live the lives of countless people you’ve never met, you start to become more attuned with everyone – by natural extension.
While some other symptoms really do prove to be a negative – things like losing an interest in my appearance, or upkeep of my surroundings – the real benefit here comes from challenging one’s own nature and making sure that the important thing that don’t seem so important are done anyways. If you can prioritize things in your life that you might not otherwise prioritize because it improves the mood and expectations of others, then you can apply this to then workplace in wondrous and effective ways. Sometimes, the mundane and repetitive tasks might make your role as a developer or manager seem daunting on a daily basis – but there’s probably a reason you were delegated these tasks, and I assure you it doesn’t go unnoticed – someone notices it. Conquering my deficiencies in the world around me has led me to be a pro at assuming more requirements and responsibilities, making me a more and more integral and critical cog in the overall mechanism. This quickly helps me add value. When I’m delegated something that could be automated I automate it and achieve double winnings with my time and effort. After all, delegation and automation (also: elimination. Don’t delegate or automate something that can just simply not be done!) are the keys to a 4-hour workweek (or any other measure of success).
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