Maybe You Have
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Are you crazy? The joker in the deck? Maybe you're even a bit proud of it -- the non-conformist that doesn't see eye-to-eye with the sheeplike herd of humanity. Aldous Huxley called the brain a "reducing valve" that saps novelty from experience by allowing just a trickle of chaos to leak into your dim, slave-like mind. Artists and writers cherish the idea that insanity and genius are two sides of the same coin. But those conceits swiftly vanish after meeting a real patient suffering from the "broken brain" of Schizophrenia.

Your symptoms might include auditory hallucinations -- "hearing voices" that seem to be spoken by an unknown entity -- repeating phrases or commentary about yourself in the third person, often wheedling, negative, angry or suicidal in tone. This leads to the belief that your thoughts are being broadcast, controlled, inserted into your head by computers or radio signals, or that you are possessed by demons. Schizophrenics may develop delusional ideas that sound ridiculous to normal people, but are deeply imbedded and beyond rational argument. As the condition worsens, you might experience disordered thought, inability to make coherent sentences, and eventual flattening of emotion that leads to a robot-like emotionless state. By now you are in a remote place -- unreachable by family or friends. Drugs, sleeplessness or even stress can produce schizophrenia-like conditions, so the DSM-5 -- published May 18, 2013 by over 36,000 mental specialists, most of whom are crazy themselves -- recommends the symptoms persist for around 6 months before you can make a confident diagnosis. That won't delay treatment with powerful tranquilizers that cost Americans over 17 billion dollars in 2010 -- drugs like Thorazine, Haldol or Geodon that shut down whole sections of your mind and can inflict permanent brain damage. The chilling truth is that there is no plausible model for human thought, a reality that turns psychiatrics -- struggling to exorcise demons from the minds of stricken victims -- into witch doctors. An incredible 1% of the world population suffers from schizophrenia -- yet there is still no understanding as to the cause, mechanism of disease, or means for cure.

Although regularly exploited by horror movies, schizophrenics are much more likely to kill themselves than anybody else. Their misery is compounded by the innate cruelty of a society which provides limited services of medical care and hospitalization for a chronically afflicted population that is often cast out by relatives to become helpless, penniless and homeless -- and often hopeless.

Decided you don't have schizophrenia after all? Then spare a minute to help those who do. You can start by paying your taxes, since government services are often the last resort for people who have lost their most valuable possession -- their sanity.

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