Perspectives: At Risk for Psychosis; September / October 2011; Scientific American Mind; by Carrie Arnold; 2 Page(s)
Mike (not his real name) had always been an unusual child. Even as a toddler, he had difficulties relating to others and making friends, and he seemed strikingly suspicious of other people. After he entered high school, Mike became increasingly angry, paranoid and detached. He worried that people were searching his room and his locker when he was not around. His grades plummeted as he turned inward during class, sketching outlandish scenes in his notebooks and muttering to himself rather than listening to the instructor.
Paranoia and difficulties connecting with others are signs of psychosis, a mental illness in which people lose touch with reality. Psychotic individuals usually have problems forming rational, coherent thoughts. They also may hear voices or hallucinate while believing that what they perceive is real. Often such delusions result in bizarre behavior and, in severe cases, an inability to manage everyday life. But a psychiatrist deemed Mike’s symptoms too mild to qualify him as psychotic. Mike obviously needed some kind of professional intervention, so he bounced among psychiatrists who could not figure out how to help him.