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gilgamesh's avatar

Schizophrenia : Can people have haullcinations if they have never been exposed to the experience to which the hallucination blends itself to?

Asked by gilgamesh (227points) June 28th, 2009

I had just finished watching “A Beautiful Mind” and this question popped into my head. The main character sees people throughout the movie who are figments of his mind. One of the characters is a well read literary type. Now the main character created this “book person”. How could he have made this person without having read the material to which he imagined the person to be well read at?

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20 Answers

ru2bz46's avatar

If the “book person” was created from a “real” book, which the creator had never read, then that is movie fantasy.

Now if the creator also imagined the book from which the “book person” was created, sure, why not? It’s all from the mind of the creator.

juwhite1's avatar

While I was in college, I worked on the admission ward of a psychiatric hospital. Yes – hallucinations and delusions are typical extremely complex webs of an alternate reality, and many geniuses with schizophrenia actually come up with their break throughs in states of extreme psychotic breaks. The mind is working overtime for these people, and while much of what comes through is “junk” sometimes it is great stuff. BTW – The movie you watched is based on the true story of John Nash (look up Nash equilibrium, or even just look up game theory). His work is heavily used in several different disciplines, from business to geometry to statistics… he was amazing.

jackfright's avatar

it could well be possible, considering hallucinations are essentially only limited by ones imagination. unless of course, the imaginary “book person” could recite information that was precise, specific, true, and not available to the person imagining him. THAT would raise interesting questions.

juwhite1's avatar

@jackfright – I believe that would be psychic phenomenon (which I don’t believe in). It would certainly be interesting though to find a case of a psychic schizophrenic! That’d be a tough one for the doc!

Bobbilynn's avatar

In my own experience, i have had hallucinations, for a brief time, of two or three years.

Some of them seem like it’s my imagination, others Im not sure where they come from.
They were not familiar to me at at all.

SirBailey's avatar

@juwhite1, I know Psychiatrists that knew him. He was a wife beater.

juwhite1's avatar

I’ve heard about an incident when he was psychotic… In his head, he wasn’t hurting her, but was delusional and hallucinating at the time. Not sure it is fair to call him a wife beater if he never hurt her in his sane state of mind. I’d divorce my husband (as much as I am head over heels in love with him) in a heartbeat if he ever laid a mean hand on me (or maybe I’d just shoot him since I’m from Texas), but I digress. The point is that if he hurt me because something was legitimately wrong with his brain at the moment through no fault of his own, I’d forgive and forget.

tadpole's avatar

yes….you do not need to have experienced something in order to then have a delusion about it….imagine you think you can go sit in the lions’ area in the nearest zoo…you do not need to have done this in order to delude yourself that you could safely do this without harm to yourself…you just use your imagination….which is one way of describing your psychosis or your voices….

in terms of actual knowledge…..well this is kind of interesting…..but i would suggest that the unconscious or subconscious parts of your mind know stuff you are not otherwise aware of and that a delusion could be one way in which this info comes out…..

schizophrenia and psychosis are still quite grey areas in terms of understanding….psychiatrists in other words do not necessarily fully know what is going on in a patients mind….but in terms of being ill, i would say from personal experinece that it is possible in theory to come up with anything as a deluded belief and there is no reason why you should have experienced it, believed it or thought of it first or before you were unwell….you can be ill for years and nothing you believe in is in fact true or based on something prior to your illness….but since we draw on our experiences the chances are that if you are ill and deluded for a long time your delusions will have some connection with the life you lived before….they might just be totally untrue and as you say delusional and a complete hallucination…..

that’s how i see it….hope it is of some use…

ru2bz46's avatar

@juwhite1 Lurve for the Texas comment. ;-)

SirBailey's avatar

@juwhite1, if that were the case, I would agree. However, I hear that the incidents were when he was NOT in any delusional state. The doctors I spoke with mentioned him with disdain because of it. And they are Psychiatrists. They would know if it was because of his illness.

JLeslie's avatar

Probably the scope and type of delusions are somewhat dependent on the intelligence of the person having them.

tadpole's avatar

does that mean if i’m really thick i can’t be really mentally ill/deluded…

juwhite1's avatar

I think the quality of the hallucinations are of higher calibur when had by someone with an IQ of say, 163 vs. an IQ of say, 12.

JLeslie's avatar

@tadpole it probably means you will have delusions about God and Jesus.

tadpole's avatar

i absolutely don’t agree with this intelligence thing… don’t just get really deluded cause you’re super intelligent….you show me someone who is locked up in a tiny space for years and beaten regularly and i’ll show you someone who gets real good at hallucinations etc….it’s as much to do with upbringing as any thing else….you don’t need a masters to have real bad schizophrenia….people would just rather watch a film about a genius who is mentally ill than someone who is seriously unwell and has nothing else going for him except a roof over his head… for IQ, is this not totally different to imagination or EQ etc..

JLeslie's avatar

@tadpole I did not mean you need to be intelligent to have delusions. I mean how sophisticated your delusion is might depend on intelligence. Like if you understand quantum theory and interact with scientists all day your delusion might have some details that a person who is less intelligent, less educated, and who has less exposure to the world would never dream up even in his hallucinagenic state.

I hope I did not offend you in any way. My grandfather was paranoid schizophrenic and I work in a psych hospital (I am not a medical professional) and I beleive that environment is a huge factor in mental illness. My grandfather had a HORRID childhood. Another brother of his was Schizophrenic and another commited suicide. No one in later generations has any signs of psychosis, so I firmly agree with what you said about being locked up etc.

tadpole's avatar

hey i am not offended in any way…but thank you for being considerate and concerned i might have been…..i will not deny i have had my own problems in this area and others….and i have met others with similar, and worse….i am sorry that you have history in your family on this but pleased nothing has materialized in the present…..

juwhite1's avatar

@tadpole – “i absolutely don’t agree with this intelligence thing… don’t just get really deluded cause you’re super intelligent….”

It isn’t that because you are smart, you are prone to become psychotic. It is that highly intelligent people who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses that lead to delusional states have much more complex structures that comprise their delusions/hallucinations. It makes sense if you consider the fact that people of higher intelligence have more complex thought processes in general than people of lower intelligence. There are many examples of extremely gifted people who suffered from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and were able to make amazing connections they’d never thought of before while in a state of psychosis that turned out to be absolutely ingenious. The list includes Virginia Woolf, Beethoven, Leo Tolstoy, John Keats, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemmingway, Patty Duke, Isaac Newton, Vincent Van Goph, John Nash, Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd), and on and on.
In my own experience with working with the mentally ill when they were at their sickest, on an admission ward in a psychiatric hospital, I learned from the psychiatrists I worked with, and from the patients I served, that this phenomenon actually makes it much more difficult for doctors to effectively treat highly intelligent patients at times. Other times, as they were coming out of their psychotic episodes, it made it easier because you could insert logic and reasoning into their delusional systems to help them work through what was real and what wasn’t.

tadpole's avatar

no i just don’t get it…this need to glamorize mental illness…i don’t really see the point you’re making except that you’re listing famous people who were able to enhance their skills because of their illness….so what… doesn’t mean they were less ill, or more ill…..i don’t know what i’m saying really…i’m just not happy that people think it’s alright if you’re ill if you have some sort of gift elsewhere…..i know people who have no hope of recovery and are extremely ill…..and i said before that illness is sometimes inherited and sometimes a product of your upbringing, or even both….you can be clever you can be thick it makes no difference…you can be gifted elsewhere or not….this need to link mental illness with something positive…ahhhrgh…..

juwhite1's avatar

I don’t think I’m trying to link mental illness with something positive. It is a horrible experience for many people without any upside that I can think of. I’ve watched people’s lives be destroyed when they went from completely normal with all the potential in the world to suffering from severe symptoms that hurt their families to watch and took away much of their ability to engage with society. The point being made is in relation to this topic… John Nash, a schizophrenic, came up with amazing game theories and mathematical breakthroughs used to solve problems that were previously unsolvable, and did so while quite ill. The question related to whether that was possible… to hallucinate that you know someone who wrote a book and gave you all those answers, when you had no access to the answers from any other source. My arguments are that it is not only possible, But that similar things have happened many times for numerous people who suffered from mental illness.

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