What Is Schizophrenia, Anyway?

No, Einstein was not schizophrenic. But his son, Eduard was. And Mileva’s sister. I have media-inspired notions of schizophrenia, such as from the movie A Beautiful Mind, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but wasn’t sure how a visual medium like film might have necessarily distorted what it really is. L. Fuller Torrey’s book, Surviving Schizophrenia, makes for interesting bedtime reading.

I like this book for its clear explanations and its use of literature (stories by Poe and Chekov) and fine art (paintings by Henri Rousseau and Edvard Munch) to render the experience of life from inside the mind of a person beset with a schizophrenic episode. Schizophrenia is typified by a heightening of the senses and a malfunction of the brain’s limbic system to adequately screen out the irrelevant input. Think of the heightened sense of hearing in Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Other senses may also be overstimulated simultaneously, which, with no filtering, is an overwhelming experience. For this reason, schizophrenics cannot follow television–a misnomer presented by the media where we often see patients in a ward staring at the television. Heightened and non-discerning sensory input seems to be the one distinguishing characteristic of the disease and the one most frequently experienced at onset–typically in late adolescence.

. Edvard Munch, “The Scream”with-edourd-and-hans-albert-1914.jpg44_eduard_einstein__einsteins_sohn_eduard_2224.jpegeduard-einstein.jpg

About Nancy Pinard

Professionally-speaking, Nancy Pinard is an author-educator who spends her days writing, teaching, reading, and researching for her writing and teaching. She is the author of two published novels, Shadow Dancing and Butterfly Soup, and numerous short stories. She has taught the craft of fiction writing in many venues including Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton Life-Long Learning Institute, Antioch Writers' Workshop, Mad Anthony Writers' Workshop, and Molasses Pond Writers' Workshop. Personally, her faith is what sustains, inspires, and motivates her to continue to explore meaning through literature. "You are right in demanding that an artist approach his work consciously, but you are confusing two concepts: the solution of a problem and the correct formulation of a problem. Only the second is required of the artist." — Anton Chekov to Alexei Suvorin, October 27, 1888
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4 Responses to What Is Schizophrenia, Anyway?

  1. If you’re looking for a fictional narrative that’s compelling, read Maryanne Stahl’s “Forgive the Moon,” which is about living with a schizophrenic mother.

  2. Nancy says:

    Thank you, McKenna! I was looking for a compelling one.

  3. Judi Rohrig says:

    James W. Hall offers a wonderfully loving character, Gracey, in his fine, fine novel FORESTS OF THE NIGHT.

  4. Nancy Pinard says:

    Thanks, Judy. I’ll look into that. It happens that Eduard Einstein was violent when he was hearing voices. He suffered extreme earaches as a child which seemed to have been the genesis of the illness, according to the medicine of the day. Eduard was born in 1910, so these symptoms developed in the 1920’s.

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