Do Psychotic Delusions Have Meaning?

Do psychotic symptoms like hallucinations have meaning, or are they just the products of a broken brain that misfires neurons? For years, psychiatrists and psychologists have struggled with this issue, at times attempting to decode patients’ delusions and at other times using medicine, like antipsychotic drugs, to dismiss them.

Now, patients with psychiatric and neurological conditions are finding a middle ground for themselves, studying their own symptoms and identifying the meaning behind them, while simultaneously addressing the problems posed by the disconnection between their own sensed experiences and those of others around them.

In a recent New York Times feature, reporter Benedict Carey wrote about the case of Milt Greek, a computer programmer in Athens, Ohio, who manages a successful work and family life, despite living with schizophrenia and having a long history of delusions about meeting God and Jesus.

Carey described Greek’s reaction to his mother’s death several years ago:

It was Mother’s Day 2006, not long after his mother’s funeral, and he headed back home knowing that he needed help. A change in the medication for his schizophrenia, for sure. A change in focus, too; time with his family, to forget himself.

And, oh yes, he had to act on an urge expressed in his psychotic delusions: to save the world.

So after cleaning the yard around his house — a big job, a gift to his wife — in the coming days he sat down and wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, supporting a noise-pollution ordinance.

It was a small act, but important: Greek has learned to live with his diagnosis by understanding and heeding its urges.

“I have such anxiety if I’m not organizing or doing some good work. I don’t feel right,” Greek told the Times. “That’s what the psychosis has given me, and I consider it to be a gift.”

MORE: Report: 1 in 5 American Adults Takes Mental Health Drugs

Carey’s story describes how people with schizophrenia are starting to come together and share their stories of living with the disorder. They are helped not by viewing their delusions as mere neural nonsense or symptoms of disease, but by working with them and modulating them — sometimes with medications, sometimes with social support and therapy, often with both — into the impetus for living a good life.

In doing so, they are part of a larger trend in mental health care: combining traditional medical treatment with support from other people with similar experience, guided by the principle that recovery requires living a meaningful life.

These ideas perhaps first entered the mainstream via 12-step programs for addiction, which have long believed that people with addictions could often offer the best help for each other. The 12-step model generated widespread acceptance of the importance of social support in overcoming addiction, and now research shows that some form of social support for recovery — whether it be from 12-step programs, religious organizations, family, friends or other groups — is often critical.

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are also themselves essentially a guide to a meaningful life, encouraging a focus on humility, service to others, and making amends for wrongdoing. People with addictions have also long incorporated the pursuit of purposeful living into their ideas about how to get better.

However, the same notion has also long been used to support a moralistic view of mental illness and addiction. And consequently, it has also often fed opposition to medical treatments like anti-addiction medications or even professional therapy. A similar problem occurred in earlier self-organization attempts by the mentally ill, which tended to oppose psychiatry itself while trying to help people recover.

MORE: Anxiety: Friend or Foe?

Today’s recovery movement — as Carey’s Timesseries and earlier coverage has shown — is much broader. These days, people with mental illnesses incorporate medication, therapy, social support and other tactics as needed, not seeing them as mutually exclusive but as options that can be right at one time and not needed at another.

This “mad pride” or “neurodiversity” movement characterizes mental differences not only as illness, but also as a potential gift — albeit one that has dangers — defining conditions like addictions, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism as sources of potential talent, productivity, human connection and wisdom.

While that may sound paradoxical — and while falling prey to delusions or other symptoms, rather than appraising them appropriately, can be problematic — the strictly medical model has downsides, too. By dismissing those who have mental differences as simply mentally diseased, we exclude them and deny them meaningful participation in life.

That means we do not benefit from the insights that their unique perspective can bring or from the volunteer work they are deterred from doing or from other contributions to the arts and business world they could make.

Happily, finding meaning in life is linked to health, longevity and productivity for all people — and helping those with mental differences can help everyone.  Not all delusions or mental symptoms have a deeper meaning, but being open to harnessing and using such hallucinations in some cases may help the rest of us see further too.

As Greek told Carey, “When I began to see the delusions in the context of things that were happening in my real life, they finally made some sense. … And understanding the story of my psychosis helped me see what I needed to stay well.”

MORE: How Economic Inequality Is (Literally) Making Us Sick

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME Healthland’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEHealthland.

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UNLV falls behind in substance abuse aid

November 28, 2011 by Angelina Dixson 

University does not match the recovery programs of other schools in nation

As most colleges have a variety of scholarships to fulfill the needs of students, UNLV has a list of many programs and scholarships within their database.

But scholarships for recovered students of alcoholism and substance abuse have not made it to the the university’s list as of yet.

Universities around the country have started launching recovery programs for students seeking resistance from alcoholism and drug addiction. Some universities have even awarded recovering students scholarships just for staying sober and keeping good grades.

“To the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing in the works behind the scenes to create a scholarship institutionally for that,” said UNLV Financial Aid and Scholarships Director Norm Bedford. “There are no donors or no campaigns that I know of through our foundation development actively seeking dollars from private funds to have such a scholarship here at UNLV as well.”

Such a scholarship would be questionable to the student population, as it has its pros and cons. This scholarship would financially assist students just like any scholarship would, but the scholarship title alone can potentially bring forth a negative perception of UNLV as a “party school,” according to Bedford.

Bedford also said it is a bit of a “slippery slope.” Some donors might be offended to be asked to contribute because of possibilities that they may have been psychologically abused by a family member who drank or did drugs. But conversely, there could be another donor who would be willing to contribute because of being a victim of growing up in a family of substance abuse.

Aside from scholarships and recovery programs, there are people who have had the strength to clean up without the assistance of therapy or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“You never get cured from substance abuse. It’s with you for the rest of your life,” said one UNLV student, who wished to remain anonymous. “Whether you’re one of those people who can quit one day and say they never look back, or you’re one of those people who battles it daily – you never get cured. It’s there like a scar. I personally battle constantly, but I have school, I have the love of my family, and the support of my girlfriend to keep me strong on a daily basis.”

The student said she started with drugs when she was young and used them until her mother’s passing, which was the turning point of her life. At that point, she vowed to finish school.

Other people are not affected by alcoholism and substance abuse directly, but become victimized by it as their family members or close friends go through it. Angi Martin is an example of a victim who observed the trials and tribulations her friend went through with alcoholism. After his tragic car accident one night back in 2004, he survived, even with severe head injuries. Following his recovery, he remained sober and went on to college. He also became a speaker who discussed the dangers of drinking and driving before passing away from a brain aneuyrism in 2007.

“The only way it affected the relationship is with the strain and frustration stemming from the several attempts I made to make him realize how dangerous his habit was,” Martin said.

UNLV does offer non-profit programs that can assist students with recovery. The Student Health Center is among the list of programs that offers free health information and health education upon request. Another program offers scholarships to students studying addictions and is also a foundation for returning back to health.

“We, also, have the Student Organization of Addiction Professionals (SOAP) on campus which is open to students interested in addictions,” said UNLV Addictions Specialist and Mental Health Coordinator Larry Ashley. “SOAP is involved at UNLV and the community. The Department of Educational and Clinical Studies offers many programs, both graduate and undergraduate.”

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Former girlfriend testifies in Komisarjevsky trial

NEW HAVEN – The former girlfriend of convicted killer Joshua Komisarjevsky told a jury Monday that the strict and isolated religious upbringing the two shared left them with little sense of “practical morality” outside the church.

Fran Hodges, who dated Komisarjevsky for two years as a teenager while living in a New Hampshire “discipleship” and attending the Evangelical Bible Church, said the two bonded over their doubts about their religion and their status as outsiders in the small and stringent community.

Despite objections from Komisarjevsky’s mother, the couple grew close and even began a sexual relationship in spite of the church, which viewed sex outside of marriage as an abomination.

Hodges described their complicated bond, which involved supporting and encouraging each other’s efforts to fall in line with the community’s version of morality, but also flouted it.

“I remember us trying to abstain, and sort of support each other in our faith because it was a source of tremendous guilt all the time. Daily, you’d feel like you were engaging with an evil drive….you sort of hated yourself for it,” she said.

“We were failing all the time, so knowing him was a comfort, because I felt not alone in that.”

Komisarjevsky, who was convicted last month of murdering Cheshire woman Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two young daughters during a brutal 2007 home invasion, is hoping to convince a jury to sentence him to life in prison and avoid a trip to death row.

His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death last year.

Hodges also said that the church’s emphasis on an imminent apocalypse filled her and other children with fear. Elders often cited natural disasters or the “moral degradation” of society as evidence of prophecies in the Book of Revelation, and warned parishioners that they should be prepared to die for their beliefs.

“When I was very young, I was very anxious about the inadequacy of my faith. My parents talked about martyrdom as though it were potentially in our future, so growing up, the prospect of that made me extremely concerned,” she testified.

After repeated behavioral issues, Komisarjevsky was eventually expelled from the church – effectively ending his relationship with Hodges.

Hodges has since left the Evangelical Bible Church, and has struggled with alcoholism, anorexia and other problems she said stemmed from having little concept of the secular world or its concepts of morality.

“Everything was built on this apocalyptic worldview. I had absolutely no moral conscience after leaving. I felt like I was damned to hell,” she said. “You have no idea what morality looks like in an applicable, culturally acceptable way.”

She added that other youths who grew up in the community have experienced problems similar to her own, and recalled three peers who had committed suicide, including “John” – a well-liked youth who apologized to fellow parishioners after revealing he was gay.

“He reacted by apologizing and living in constant cycle of repentance and self-hatred,” said Hodges. “I think we all just felt trapped.”

When asked by lead defense attorney what ultimately befell “John”, Hodges said he “jumped out of a window” before bursting into tears. Judge Jon C. Blue interrupted the questioning and called a brief recess to allow Hodges to compose herself.

Hodges will continue her testimony when court resumes at 2 p.m.

Follow Dan Ivers on Twitter for live updates from the courtroom.


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Community Calendar



DANVILLE: Kiwanis Breakfast Club, 6:45 a.m., CRIS Healthy-Aging Center, 309 N. Franklin St.

DanvilleRotary Club, noon, Days Hotel, 77 N. Gilbert St.

Narcotics Anonymous, noon, Prairie Center, 128 N. Vermilion St.; 7:30 p.m., Community Church of God, 535 S. Bowman Ave.

Visually Impaired Persons Inspiring Others (VIPIO), 1-3 p.m., Danville Public Library, 319 N. Vermilion St.

Golden K Kiwanis Club, 2 p.m., CRIS Healthy-Aging Center, 309 N. Franklin St.

VermilionCountyBoard Judicial and Rules Committee, 4:30 p.m., courthouse annex, room 319.

708 Mental Health Board, 5 p.m., Mental Health office, 101 W. North St.

Young Women on the Road to Success, 6-7 p.m., Laura Lee Fellowship House, 212 E. Williams St.

Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, 6:30 p.m., Salvation Army, 855 E. Fairchild St.

Kennekuk Road Runners, 6:30 p.m., Jocko’s Pizza, 305 W. Williams St.

DanvilleShow Chorus of Sweet Adelines, 7 p.m., Harrison Park Clubhouse on West Voorhees Street.

Vermilion Festival Chorus Rehearsal, 7 p.m., Holy Family Church, 444 E. Main St.

Bradley-Maberry American Legion Auxiliary Unit 736, 7:30 p.m., Laura Lee Fellowship House, 212 E. Williams St.

CAYUGA, Ind.: Alcoholics Anonymous, 6:30-7:30 p.m. EDT, town hall.

CHRISMAN: City Council, 7 p.m., city hall.

COVINGTON, Ind.: Fountain County Council, 9 a.m. EST, courthouse.

Narcotics Anonymous, 6 p.m. EST, United Methodist Church, 419 Fifth St.

Narcotics Anonymous, 6:30-7:30 p.m. EST, town hall.

GEORGETOWN: Georgetown-Ridge Farm School Board, 7 p.m., district office.

OAKWOOD: School board, 6 p.m., Oakwood Grade School, closed session to discuss student discipline; public session to follow.

TILTON: Alcoholics Anonymous, 9 a.m., John Milewski Lions Club Senior Center, 607 E. Fifth St.


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Alcoholism is not a disability, it’s a choice

City worker who drove drunk will get job back (Nov. 25)

The arbitrator’s ruling saying that “alcoholism is a disability … ” is totally misused or misrepresented.

The word “disability” means to be disabled. Examples are the blind because they can not see, the deaf and hearing impaired because they can not hear, or the paralyzed because they are missing the use of arms or legs. There is no choice there.

The city worker had a choice. So where is he disabled? He chose to use the city vehicle for his own personal use. He chose to get drunk and drive the city vehicle. Again, where is his disability?

Granted, alcoholism is a sickness. And I am glad that he has been given a second chance at his job. But please, do not label it a “disability.”

I, myself, do not have a choice when I can not hear. He had a choice.

Karen Mulrooney, Burlington

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The Globe 100: Non-fiction

The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright – Puritan Child, Native Daughter, Mother Superior

By Julie Wheelwright

In this highly readable, meticulously researched history, Wheelwright explores the adventurous life of her distant relative, Esther Wheelwright. In doing so, she provides a fascinating portrait of New England and New France in the 18th century, and of the complex negotiations among the French, the English and the Abenaki as they battled over land, religion and hunting rights.

– Margot Livesey

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John Lloyd addresses alcohol issue by not addressing it, ignores Ruffa exposé


John Lloyd Cruz

John Lloyd Cruz

MANILA, Philippines — John Lloyd Cruz has finally addressed the issue raised against him by ex-girlfriend Ruffa Gutierrez – alcoholism.

In a report posted by Marie Lozano on “TV Patrol,” Nov. 23, she noted that, “Kuwela sa kusina si John Lloyd Cruz habang ipinapamalas ang kakayahan niya sa paggawa ng pizza. Hindi man lang mababakas kung apektado ang box office king sa mga intriga sa kanya.”

“Natuon ang pansin kay John Lloyd matapos ang pag-amin nila ng girlfriend na si Shaina sa problema sa kanilang relasyon kung saan nakaladkad ang pangalan ni Ruffa Gutierrez. Sinundan pa ito ng tell-all interview ni Ruffa Gutierrez. Blow by blow na ibinunyag ng aktres ang relasyon, break-up at naging problema umano nila ni John Lloyd, ang babae at alak. Ngayon matapos ang matagal na pananahimik, hinarap ni John Lloyd ang media.”

On the issue of alcoholism, the actor explained that “never naman ako hindi naging healthy living.”

He added that he’s not a party person.

“Actually, alam mo hindi naman talaga ako gumigimik, ‘yung mga gimik like clubbing or going to the bars, hindi naman.”

“Pinili ni John na ‘wag nang himayin at sagutin punto por punto ang banat sa kanya. Mananatili daw siyang maginoo at hindi magsasalita ng makakasakit sa iba,” Lozano reported.

“Siguro ganoon ako pinalaki,” the actor noted.

John Lloyd explains that it is not in his nature to retaliate.

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin pagka binato ka ng bato o ‘pag may ginagawang masama sa’yo o kapag inaagrabyado ka, dapat gumanti ka. At all times naman parang you try to do what’s best, what’s good, ‘di ba? ‘Yung hindi makakaapak sa iba o ‘yung hindi makakasira sa iba.”

Ruffa, in a no-holds barred interview on “Paparazzi,” Nov. 6, exposed John Lloyd’s alcohol problem.

“Let’s first go to the problem na sinabi niya sa akin na ayun, ‘Hindi mo magugustuhan ‘pag nakilala mo na ako.’ And I said, ‘Ano ‘yun?’ Then sinabi nga niya sa akin na, ‘I drink a lot, hapon pa lang minsan umiinom na ako.’

“And of course coming from a relationship so volatile [and] abusive, ang sagot ko sa kanya, ‘You can drink all you want till you turn blue, I don’t care.’ Pero naging problema ‘yun, kasi there were times na we would go out, bigla na lang siya nakakatulog. Binubuhat siya palabas ng club, siyempre nahihiya naman ako. So that was our main problem,” Ruffa shared.

When asked for a message for Ruffa, John Lloyd did not oblige.

“Wala po akong gustong sabihin kahit kanino. Nasabi ko na ‘yung gusto kong sabihin.”

“Tumanggi na ring magbigay ng detalye si John Lloyd sa estado nila ni Shaina na kababalik lang mula sa Amerika,” Lozano reported.

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The Rope

The story tells about a mountain climber, who wanted to climb the highest mountain. He began his adventure after many years of preparation, but since he wanted the glory just for himself, he decided to climb the mountain alone.

The night felt heavy in the heights of the mountain, and the man could not see anything. All was black. Zero visibility, and the moon and the starts were covered by the clouds. As he was climbing, only a few feet away from the top of the mountain, he slipped and fell into the air, falling at a great speed. The climber could only see black spots as he went down, and the terrible sensation of being sucked by gravity. He kept fallingand in those moments of great fear, it came to his mind all of the good and bad episodes of his life. He was thinking now about how close death was getting when all of a sudden he felt the rope tied to his waist pull him very hard. His body was hanging in the air. Only the rope was holding him, and in that moment of stillness, he had no other choice but to scream: HELP ME GOD!

All of a sudden, a deep voice coming from the sky answered: What do you want me to do? Save me God!! Do you REALLY think I can save you? Of course I believe you can, said the man. THEN CUT THE ROPE TIED TO YOUR WAIST. There was a moment of silence. The man decided to hold on to the rope with all of his strength.

The rescue team tells that the next day a climber was found dead and frozen, his body hanging from a rope. His hands holding tight to itONLY 10 FEET AWAY FROM THE GROUND And you? How attached are you to your rope? Will you let go? (Anonymous–unless someone can tell me the author.)

Someone sent this to me a number of years ago. I thought I had lost it but found it today while searching for activities for a sponsee. When I read it, I had the same intense feelings I had when I read it the first time. It is super-powerful, for lack of a better description, because I know I dont let go and let God as much as I should. I ask for Gods help and blessings but when He speaks to me (and He does in many ways), do I acknowledge Him? Do I listen to what He has to say? Or do I continue on my own paththe path I have chosen for myself? Am I willing to trust God in every aspect of my life or do I trust Him when it is convenient?

There is no doubt that working the 12 Steps in recovery changes many things about us. At one time I couldnt and wouldnt trust anyone especially a Higher Power. I didnt believe anyone could save me and didnt bother to ask. Even if I had, I am sure I would have continued to do what I wanted to do.

Today I know that the Promises have been fulfilled or at least I can say I have tasted them all to a certain extent. How they continue to work for me is based on how I continue to let God guide me. I know that God could and would if He were sought. But am I going to follow His voice when I hear it? Or am I going to be like the friend who consistently asks for help and advice and yet ignores it when it is not what he or she wants to hear?

I offer all of this to you so that you might reflect, as I have, about how you hold onto your own rope. Can you and do you listen to your Higher Power and accept His plan for you? Or like the man in this story, do you ask for help and then do what you want?

I think we probably all do a bit of both. There are times when we feel that spiritual oneness with a Higher Power because we have been consistent in prayer and meditation; and then there are those times when we become a bit lazy and complacent in our lives and our sobriety.

When I read a story I visualize. I can put myself into the written word as if I were a part of it. I did that with this story, called The Rope. I felt fear. Had I been the climber, would I have trusted God and lived? Or would my fear have been so powerful that it would have ended my life. Pretty strong stuff to think about, yes? I know it is a story but wasnt it fear that kept most of us in our disease? Wasnt it fear that first put us in our disease? Wasnt it isolation and thinking we knew best?

The story is extreme. It puts fear and trust at a level above the everyday norm but I believe we all understand the meaning and how it relates to what we have learned in recovery and what we must do to stay sober. Can we let God lead the way or do we hold onto our own rope? The decision is always ours.

Namaste. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.

Like Grateful Recovery on Facebook . Share The Intervention Book by Kathy L. with someone who needs your help.

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Is alcoholism in your genes?

London, Nov 25 (IANS) Scientists have found that people may be genetically inclined to becoming alcoholics at birth.

Researchers studying the brainwaves of problem drinkers have discovered a gene which may be linked to drinking, a Daily Mail report said.

In a study, the researchers carried out a brain scan of people who are alcoholic, and discovered patterns common to those at risk of dependence.

It was found that children of problem drinkers had the same patterns of brain activity — apparently at risk of becoming alcoholics.

The team from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute tested 1,064 people in the US with several generations of problem drinking in the family.

After identifying the echo of a brain wave, they discovered a strong link between drinking and the serotonin receptor gene, HTR7. Serotonin affects mood and sleep, and anti-depressent drugs are often regulated by it.

The researchers also found people were more likely to become alcoholics due to their ability to metabolize alcohol.

‘Some people are uncomfortable with the idea that there’s a genetic component to addiction,’ said geneticist Laura Almasy.

‘We know that there are biological components to risk of addiction, some have to do with how you metabolize alcohol,’ she said.

‘Some of them have to do with differences in people’s brains that make them more or less susceptible to addiction. We think this difference in brainwave patterns between people at risk and people not at risk is an echo of the underlying biological difference that makes some people more susceptible than others,’ she added.

The findings are being published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics and have been printed in the Biomedical Research Institute‘s newsletter.

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A sweet 12 steps to love for chocoholics

Last Updated: 4:56 AM, November 25, 2011

Posted: 10:32 PM, November 24, 2011


* * * A sweet 12 steps to love for chocoholics

An adorable, quirky chocolatier looking for love? One guess which country this heavily whimsical comedy hails from. Still, there are genuine Gallic charms to be found in Jean-Pierre Améris’ lighthearted tale of Angélique (Isabelle Carré), who attends the titular self-help group for individuals who are overly “emotional,” as the subtitles awkwardly put it. A masterful chocolate maker, she’s so shy she can’t take credit for her work — let alone go on dates.

Angélique takes a sales rep job at a third-rate chocolate company run by the equally neurotic Jean-René (Benoit Poelvoorde), who wants to romance Angélique but flop-sweats so often he has to carry extra dress shirts in his briefcase. Of course these two are made for each other, but it takes a joint mission to save the company for them to see life is, as it were, sweet.

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At its best, “Romantics Anonymous” is a love letter to everyone who’s ever felt hopelessly awkward about being in a relationship, which is just about all of us.

Running time: 80 minutes. In French, with English subtitles. Not rated (nothing offensive). At the Quad, West 13th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

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