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Avatars Help Schizophrenics Gain Control of Voices In Their Heads 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the teaches-the-voices-to-argue-on-the-internet-instead dept.
Zothecula writes "Imagine if there was a voice in your head that regularly threatened to harm you or your loved ones, or that even ordered you to do so yourself. Awful as that would be, such auditory hallucinations are one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia, with approximately one in four sufferers continuing to experience them even after taking anti-psychotic drugs. Fortunately, scientists have recently helped some schizophrenics gain control of their condition, by turning those voices into interactive avatars."
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Avatars Help Schizophrenics Gain Control of Voices In Their Heads

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  • Tony? (Score:2, Funny)

    by gmagill (105538) *

    "Danny isn't here, Mrs. Torrence"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:47PM (#43878859)

    People almost always hear the word "schizophrenia" mentioned when they hear of violence. Very few are actually violent. Studies have shown that about 5 percent schizophrenics are violent compared to 3 percent most other people.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:00PM (#43878977)

      People almost always hear the word "schizophrenia" mentioned when they hear of violence. Very few are actually violent. Studies have shown that about 5 percent schizophrenics are violent compared to 3 percent most other people.

      So, there are almost twice as many violent schizophrenics per the population than other people?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by denmarkw00t (892627)

        So, there are almost twice as many violent schizophrenics per the population than other people?

        No, 5% of schizophrenics are violent, however people suffering from schizophrenia only make up < 1% of the general population.

        The illness occurs in 1 percent of the general population

        Source: NIMH General Information on Schizophrenia [nih.gov]

        • by Nidi62 (1525137)
          I mean per each population, ie violent schizophrenics vs all schiozphrenics, not the whole population.
          • Can you clarify? I'm not sure I quite understand - it sounds like you're saying there are twice as many violent schizophrenics than normal violent schizophrenics??

            • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2013 @07:28PM (#43879743)

              He means that violence is more prevalent in the schizophrenic population than the general population. Are you that dense?

              • No, but the statistics he was referencing for his point weren't valid (5% schizo vs 3% of the general population) since schizophrenics make up less than 1% of the population, so comparing the 5% and 3% isn't valid.

                • ugh, sorry. forgot some words, was focused on making the numbers correct:
                  (5% of schizophrenics * 1% of the population) = 0.05% *of the general population* are violent schizophrenics
                  vs
                      3.025253% of the general population are violent non-schizophrenics (This would be the overall rate after discounting both violent and non violent schizophrenics)

                • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday May 31, 2013 @10:01PM (#43880593)

                  No, but the statistics he was referencing for his point weren't valid (5% schizo vs 3% of the general population) since schizophrenics make up less than 1% of the population, so comparing the 5% and 3% isn't valid.

                  That's not the comparison I am making: I am saying that if 5% of schizophrenics are violent, then if you see a schizophrenic they are more likely to be violent than your average person, even though there are more violent average people in terms of total numbers.

            • by citizenr (871508)

              He means you should take a statistics course.

        • by Pionar (620916)

          I still read that as saying that schizophrenics are more prone to be violent than the general population.

      • To be clear:

        1.1% of the population are schizophrenic and 98.8% are not.

        Of schizophrenics, the fraction 0.05 (5%) are violent, so the percentage of violent schizophrenics in the total population is

        1.1% x 5% = 0.011 x 0.05 = 0.00055 (0.055%) .

        Of 98.9% non-schizophrenics, the fraction 0.03 (3%) are violent, so the percentage of violent non-schizophrenics in the total population is

        98.9% x 3% = 0.989 x 0.03 = 0.02967 (2.97%).

        So there 53 (0.02967/0.00055) times as many violent non-schizophrenics as violent schizo

    • by PPH (736903)

      People almost always hear the word "schizophrenia" mentioned when they hear of violence.

      I can't help what the voices say.

    • by Udom (978789)
      Culture bound syndrome and suggestibility... Symptoms of schizophrenia vary from culture to culture and the symptom pool is interactive. In the west sufferers are met with fear and dehumanization and are believed to be violent. The patient himself holds these culturally generated expectations of his behaviour and acts them out. Also, the attitude of carers, particularly family members, in the west is aggressive, and puts the sufferer under pressure on a daily basis. The common belief is that schizophrenia i
    • by sjames (1099)

      Of course, much of the violence is situational (though a bit difficult to predict). If someone was out to harm you, you might find it reasonable to harm them first. It just happens that in the case of the mentally ill, sometimes they get the wrong idea about your intentions.

  • Well? [youtube.com] I'm waiting for an answer.

  • My doctor says it's OK to talk to myself so long as I don't say, "Hu?"
    • by bug1 (96678)

      My doctor says its ok for me to argue with myself, as long as i win the argument.

      • My doctor says it's OK for me to argue with myself as long as I wear a Bluetooth headset.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          You joke, but I was on adage once and my date and I heard a guy arguing "on his cell phone". Turns out he didn't have a phone or an earpiece. Just crazy.
          • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

            You joke, but I was on adage once and my date and I heard a guy arguing "on his cell phone". Turns out he didn't have a phone or an earpiece. Just crazy.

            I'm surprised that doctors don't prescribe cells or smartphones to their patients. That way, instead of people thinking they were psychotic, they would be thought of as cool or important.

            • by sjames (1099)

              I have heard of programs that provide bluetooth earpieces to non-violent mental patients for exactly that reason.

    • My doctor says it's OK to talk to myself so long as I don't say, "Hu?"

      It's when somebody else inside your head says "Hu?", that you're in trouble.

    • by mikael (484)

      My doctor says "it's unsporting to battle wits with an unarmed opponent".

    • My doctor says it's ok to talk to myself, so long as I untie her first. The thing is, I told myself to tie her up because I'm worried she wants to get rid of me. I like me, and I don't want to die. And she wants to kill me so that I don't have to worry about talking to me.

      I think I'll go and untie her now. I think I'll leave her tied up.

  • Fortunately, scientists haverecently helped some schizophrenics gain control of their condition
    , byturning those voices into interactive avatars.

    Not to be confused with MMORPG avatars, giving voice to fat mens' inner lipstick lesbian.

  • A low carbohydrate, high fat diet [nutritiona...bolism.com] can also help reduce, or eliminate, symptoms of schizophrenia.

    • by mikael (484) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:51PM (#43879451)

      That would suggest that the problem is due to a lack of myelin sheathing over the neurons. Which would cause the meatware equivalent of electrical engineering "cross-talk".

    • A low carbohydrate, high fat diet [nutritiona...bolism.com] can also help reduce, or eliminate, symptoms of schizophrenia.

      Your citation was based on a study of ONE patient. I am amazed that this paper was accepted for publication, even by a website. Schizophrenia affects 1% of the population, and costs hundreds of billions per year in treatment, lost income, and secondary effects (crime, courts, prisons, etc.). If it could really be fixed with just a change in diet, I think there would be a little more evidence than just this one patient.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If it can really be fixed with a change in diet, there's certainly not hundreds of billions of dollars in that

        • by Anonymous Coward

          If it can really be fixed with a change in diet, there's certainly not hundreds of billions of dollars in that

          Oh fuck off. That same lame argument can be used to justify any crackpot theory in any crackpot field like vaccination scares or moon landing hoaxes.

      • by sjames (1099)

        The evidence is much better for it's effects on epilepsy.

  • by flandre (1278778) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:03PM (#43879001) Homepage
    This is something that I've done for a long time - I've acknowledged that each voice has its own personality and ways of interpreting the world, and as long as they are working together or making efforts to find common ground on a lot of issues, then you as a whole can function productively. I function well enough - I've even seen a psychiatrist and other mental health counselors, who have gone on to say that although having 'delusions'/hearing voices is unusual, the schizophrenia may be a misdiagnosis since it's usually disabling. It's only a mental disease if it causes harm to you or others.
  • You can't control me, fool!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone know why schizophrenia svoices always seem to try and cause harm? Why don't the voices tell you to clean your house, volunteer for something, build a house, do something good?

    • Does anyone know why schizophrenia svoices always seem to try and cause harm?

      True, diagnosable occurances of schizophrenia are rare, but when they do occur and can truly be shown to be present are a symptom of a diseased mind. Diseases rarely exhibit useful or benign patterns. How many disorders, pathogenic, endemic, or internalized, are beneficial to the host or sufferer?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        off the top of my head... sickle cell anemia (malaria preventitive)... most intestinal parasites (prevent crohn's disease)... Marfan syndrome (helpful if you're a musician)... do I really need to go on?

      • Re:Why Harm? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday May 31, 2013 @07:18PM (#43879679) Journal
        I've known two people who have had it in a bad way, both had adverse reactions to dope (a good indicator), neither was violent although their behavior sometimes made people very uncomfortable. One of them went missing a decade ago in the bush, they found his car but he is still missing. Both of them had a very difficult time trying to lead a normal life. One contracted it in his late teens, the other in her mid-thirties, for both of them the onset came at the same time as an emotional crisis (breaking up with someone they loved).

        I myself have had auditory and visual hallucinations several times ( from staying awake for 3-4 days ) the auditory ones happen when it's quiet and it's always someone saying my name. It's kinda freaky and fascinating at the same time because it doesn't sound like "a voice in your head", it sounds like someone is in the room with you. I can't imagine how freaky it must be to have full blown conversations with it on a regular basis.
        • by Nugoo (1794744)

          dope

          Do you mean marijuana or heroine?

          • Cannabis actually can be risky for schizophrenics; if you have it in your family, you should probably avoid smoking pot.

            Part of schizophrenia can be thought of as losing the ability to distinguish internal stimuli from external ones. Let's say you forget to pick up the dry cleaning. A person without schizophrenia will have a little internal voice that says "you idiot!" This is recognized as an internal communication in the brain. A schizophrenic will hear "you idiot!" as if someone standing right behind t
      • by Anonymous Coward

        At least two: Sickle cell anemia [sciencedaily.com] provides resistance against malaria. Hemochromatosis can be beneficial for people at risk of anemia from insufficient iron in their diet (and might provide some resistance against tuberculosis). [wordpress.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by flandre (1278778)
      I believe that certain people who are in pain, who feel they have been wronged, or are vengeful for past events, angry at the unfairness of their lives or are otherwise suffering from clinical depression, feel inclined to inflict this pain outwards as a coping mechanism. By far it's not the right direction, and I think that those neurotransmitters which give us our various moods and emotions are partially involved in the way that the voices interact with and direct you.

      I'm not a violence-prone person, so
      • by tyrus568 (644456)

        TBH, I have had an experience with voices. I had never experienced anything like it before.

        Everyone has internal voices that represent different aspects or masks of their being - part of the exploration and learning in life is recognizing these different aspects of yourself and learning to join them together. It's sort of the process of satori, or enlightenment, IMO. One of those tasks is to unite all aspects of yourself into a single being while simultaneously still possessing understanding from different

        • Thank you. That's one of the bravest things I've ever seen written on the Internet.

          Would you mind terribly if I cut-and-pasted it and sent it to a few friends? My wife works at a state mental hospital, and I do some moonlighting there (both MD's, although neither of us is a psychiatrist). Anecdotes like yours are very rare.

          Also, and I mean this in the kindest way: be very, very careful with yourself. Every psychotic episode you have makes you more likely to have another. If you have another, I'd seriousl
          • by tyrus568 (644456)

            Of course you can share it.

            I currently see a psychiatrist and have seen them since I was a teenager. I am on antidepressants and have been on many different ones (but none of the SSRIs or MAOIs etc seem to do anything at all). I didn't get into the religious side of the psychotic break, but it's also a long story.

            If you'd like to read more about me and my struggle with addiction, you can check out http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=103331 [drugs-forum.com] which I wrote in 2009. It includes my email address if

    • Does anyone know why schizophrenia svoices always seem to try and cause harm? Why don't the voices tell you to clean your house, volunteer for something, build a house, do something good?

      Because then it would be Divine revelations, well at least in modern times, in olden times Divine revelations were very sadistic and narcissistic.

    • Does anyone know why schizophrenia svoices always seem to try and cause harm? Why don't the voices tell you to clean your house, volunteer for something, build a house, do something good?

      Because you don't need to make excuses for cleaning your house, or volunteering, or doing good in general. If your voices are saying that sort of thing, and your wife says "thank you for cleaning out the garage finally! Let's have a celebratory screw!", you're not going to say "nah, wasn't me, really - the Voices in

    • Does anyone know why schizophrenia svoices always seem to try and cause harm?

      I don't think that is true. It is just that those are the cases that you hear about. The schizo serial killer makes the 11 o'clock news. The schizo that manages to hold down a job as a web developer does not. I have a cousin with schizophrenia, and he says that most of the voices are just gibberish. They are also occasionally musical, with singing and sometimes background music. Sometimes his voices even make jokes. He puts up with the voices because anti-psychotic medication numbs his mind so much t

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Posting as AC because I was diagnosed with schizophrenia a couple of years ago and lived with it long before I knew what it was.

      Short answer: they don't.

      These cases get more attention partially because the stories are more exciting and that's what grabs people's attention. You aren't going to see news articles about someone hallucinating about the sound of a window sliding closed, but you will hear about someone who ran into a highly populated area and wrecked havoc because the voices told them so. Auditory

    • Its an interesting question. I sometimes hear voices as a result of epileptic seizures but they are invariably replays of common things which I hear, like a close relative saying "don't forget the milk" or some such.

    • by drkim (1559875) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @01:59AM (#43881311)

      Does anyone know why schizophrenia svoices always seem to try and cause harm? Why don't the voices tell you to clean your house, volunteer for something, build a house, do something good?

      The voices always tell me what to do...

      Turn right - 400 yards.

      Merge onto the freeway ahead.

      Exit freeway ahead - Exit number 102

      Prepare to turn left.

    • by bytesex (112972)

      Because they come from fear. And fear is the emotion that keeps you alive.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      Does anyone know why schizophrenia svoices always seem to try and cause harm? Why don't the voices tell you to clean your house, volunteer for something, build a house, do something good?

      Selection bias. If you have a voice in your head you're good friends with and which is helping you to become a happy, succesful person, why would you go see a doctor?

      As it happens, there seem to be to produce such voices and visual hallucinations (which may or may not have a connection to schizophrenia), which apparently [tulpa.info]

    • by ABEND (15913)

      Does anyone know why schizophrenia svoices always seem to try and cause harm? Why don't the voices tell you to clean your house, volunteer for something, build a house, do something good?

      Maybe some schizophrenics do here these type of voices but prosocial behavior tends to go unnoticed.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Possibly because people don't see a psychiatrist and get a diagnosis if it's not causing them a problem.

      There are people who hear voices giving them positive messages. They usually attribute the voices to God or angels.

  • This is like the mirror therapy used for phantom limb patients. Using a mirror they can "see" their phantom limb and regain control of it. Very cool.

    • Very cool.

      Indeed. I also wonder how effective it would be if they used real humans instead of avatars?

  • Let's Clear This Now (Score:5, Informative)

    by denmarkw00t (892627) on Friday May 31, 2013 @06:46PM (#43879391) Homepage Journal

    I've already read enough comments of people not knowing what or how schizophrenia is - it's not just voices (or always involving voices in general). The National Institute for Mental Health has this nice little bit to get you all up to a half-educated level:

    - What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
    The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three broad categories: positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms.

    - Positive symptoms
    Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors not seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms often "lose touch" with reality. These symptoms can come and go. [...] They include the following:
    Hallucinations are things a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel. "Voices" are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia. Many people with the disorder hear voices. [...]

    Delusions are false beliefs that are not part of the person's culture and do not change. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are not true or logical. People with schizophrenia can have delusions that seem bizarre, such as believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves. [...]

    Thought disorders are unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking. One form of thought disorder is called "disorganized thinking." This is when a person has trouble organizing his or her thoughts or connecting them logically. They may talk in a garbled way that is hard to understand. Another form is called "thought blocking. [...]

    - Negative symptoms
    Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for depression or other conditions.

    These symptoms include the following:
    - "Flat affect" (a person's face does not move or he or she talks in a dull or monotonous voice)
    - Lack of pleasure in everyday life
    - Lack of ability to begin and sustain planned activities
    - Speaking little, even when forced to interact.

    People with negative symptoms need help with everyday tasks. They often neglect basic personal hygiene. This may make them seem lazy or unwilling to help themselves, but the problems are symptoms caused by the schizophrenia.

    - Cognitive symptoms
    Cognitive symptoms are subtle. Like negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms may be difficult to recognize as part of the disorder. Often, they are detected only when other tests are performed. Cognitive symptoms include the following:
    - Poor "executive functioning" (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
    - Trouble focusing or paying attention
    - Problems with "working memory" (the ability to use information immediately after learning it).

    Edited down, for some brevity. Full text here [nih.gov]
    Cognitive symptoms often make it hard to lead a normal life and earn a living. They can cause great emotional distress.

    • by oldhack (1037484)
      Yes, informative in demonstrating psychiatry is load a crap - pile upon piles of ambiguous, infinitely stretchable verbiage.
    • by steelfood (895457)

      They often neglect basic personal hygiene.

      I knew it! Everyone here is schizo!

      In all seriousness though, there's some correlation between creativity and certain mental disorders, like and especially forms of schizophrenia. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if most geeks have it to some degree.

    • by idunham (2852899)

      Thanks for pointing that out...I was wondering if I would need to.
      One of my brothers has what is currently diagnosed as schizophrenia, since he started coming up with stories that had no connection to reality. These are all "memories" of events that didn't happen, with few or no hallucinations.
      Before that, they called it Asperger's or high-functioning autism; supposedly, the presence or absence of delusions and hallucinations is what differentiates those.

      Now, I'm inclined to figure that a system that can c

    • I sometimes get strong voice hallucinations just as I'm drowsing off. They're not anything coherent - just a random voice and a muddled phrase or two. On such occasions as I become aware of them, they're a sure sign I was right on the verge of sleep before something disturbed me. But they have a "real" quality - of actually hearing the sound - that simple memory doesn't, and clearly involve my auditory centre. I can understand how someone getting something similar whilst fully awake might be affected.
      • by flandre (1278778)
        This is exactly where I was a few years ago, before I was diagnosed - they would keep me awake, sometimes.
  • I guess they bring balance to people's heads too.

  • Does this mean I shouldn't invest in sock puppets?
  • "Odd groups left... even groups got right... get away from the head... whelps left side, many whelps... WTF was that shit..." That'd definitely make me want to murder somebody
  • I can see this being very effective. If I had to deal with a bunch of those ugly mugs from Elder Scrolls: Oblivion all over again, I'd want them out of my head and out of my life too!

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday May 31, 2013 @08:04PM (#43879963)

    Who knew that microsoft Bob was really just a manifestation of your inner dummy?

  • At first glance I thought it said Avatars Help Schizophrenics Gain Control of Vehicles with Their Heads

    Needless to say upon re-reading the headline I was sorely disappointed.

  • "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal"
  • by PPH (736903)

    ... my avatar is Jack Nicholson carrying a fire axe.

  • Abraham heard the voice of god. Or he may have been suffering from a disorder such as schizophrenia. Which is more likely... .

    If my guess is correct, I wish he had had such an avatar. It would have saved the world quite a bit of misery now.

    Bert

  • Whenever I recall what someone said, I literally "hear" them saying it in my head. Same with music and other audible stimuli.

    I often wonder what differentiates this from the auditory hallucinations some schizophrenics experience. From what I understand it usually isn't voices they "hear" - bells ringing is reported quite a bit, also the sound of wind.

  • Turns out the voices in your head come from Tamriel.

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