By Max Guttman
The most ornate and complex set and manifestations of symptoms exist in Schizophrenia and the related psychosis family of mental health diagnoses. Schizophrenia has both positive and negative symptoms. The symptoms are labelled differently in order to address and explain the experience of the person. Symptoms are divided into positive and negative categories in order to differentiate between an added feature to your presentation or an internal sensation or belief at work in your thought process.
Thought broadcasting is a positive symptom. It’s when a person believes his or her own personal thoughts are available to other people anywhere in the world. It differs from telepathy in that these thoughts are not transmissions per se. Rather they are a vast web of shared knowledge between the people listening or accessing the information being broadcast.
I experienced this symptom first hand during my final days in the community before I was hospitalized for full onset of first episode psychosis. This symptom is not so much scary as it is confusing and disorienting to experience. I was driving down a major interstate when I first believed my thoughts were being listened to by friends and family who were hundreds of miles from me in reality. I felt as if my family could personally hear my thoughts immediately and without regard to space or time. And even their response to my transmission was as if my imagination or subconscious really had a choice about such things.
Voices and delusions colliding
In this sense, voices and delusions collide together to make this feature of psychosis even more difficult to experience without breaking from reality. The break is not a sharp departure in orientation. It’s noise and interference of thoughts with these positive symptoms. Also, the space needed to hold on to these overly complex delusional systems, in processing information effectively as it occurs. This is why very psychotic people speak slowly and their reaction time is longer. There is so more to process to maintain even basic life functions. So much is happening or not happening in the person’s speech and language centres in the brain. So the person experiencing the symptom must sort out the overabundance of stimuli. This is in order to stay connected to the world without getting lost in internal preoccupation.
Must acknowledge it
In order to broadcast thoughts, the person transmitting must be listening. Since thought broadcasting is a symptom and not existent under normal circumstances, the person must acknowledge it’s happening as it is happening. Thought patterns which are too involved, and overly complex, are even more diffuse to decipher as real or a symptom of illness. This is why as this symptom progresses, people get more and more lost in internal preoccupation. They are unable to come out of their heads per se. And they spend their time just listening to or even responding to their internal thoughts externally or out loud. This is when you typically hear of people responding to their voices. When this happens, it becomes extremely problematic to not attract attention and appears bizarre to others. Since this occurs late in the progression of the diagnosis, people experiencing the symptom are usually already in hospital.
It really can happen
Without experiencing this symptom it is hard to believe it can happen to a person. I thought I had extra powers from a government experiment. I believed I needed to use them in order to solve the mysteries already at work from a growing delusional system. In my case I was driving. You may be walking the dog. Just be safe in any event. And remember safety is first and foremost the goal when you begin experiencing something so otherworldly. It is also so personal it breaks the very conventions of time, space and communication between people subject to physics and human anatomy.
Reproduced with permission, originally posted on mentalhealthaffairs