Schizophrenic simulator gives glimpse into disturbing disorder

September 19, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Hearing voices calling you a "worthless loser" or seeing people on TV address you directly, being unable to distinguish what's real and what isn't, are among the most disturbing aspects of severe schizophrenia.

Doctors and nurses at Fresno Community Regional Medical Center see patients with symptoms like this every day. Now, thanks to a simulator, they are getting an idea of what their patients are going through.

Nurse Reza Beheshti tried it out. Looking through special video glasses and headphones to get an idea of what it's like to experience a psychotic, schizophrenic episode.

"Literally I felt like people were coming after me. For me as a normal person it was hard to process all the things that I am seeing and I am hearing and putting them into perspective."

In addition to the special viewing glasses and headphones, there's a small fan to blow some of the unusual odors schizophrenics may smell.

Everyone who tried the simulation including emergency room Dr. Rimon Binjamin agrees its eye and ear opening.

"It's interesting to see the constant stimulation patients experience, and just eight minutes of that is incredible, I just can't imagine living with that all the time."

Schizophrenia affects about one percent of the population. It can be treated and most that are diagnosed with the ailment do not have these severe symptoms.

However, hospital emergency rooms do often see those who experience psychotic episodes, especially among the homeless who may not have medication and those with drug or alcohol addictions.

Garth Wade, an emergency room manager explained the goal of the training is to help medical professionals understand their patients.

"It gives you empathy to what that person is going through," said Wade. "We all know what it's like to have a stomach ache or an injured leg, but not many of us know what it's like to feel a mental illness."

Like the doctors and nurses we talked to, I found the experience a bit disturbing.

After going through the simulation Registered Nurse Reza Beheshti recommends it.

Beheshti added, "I think everyone needs to somehow get this experience."

The training was provided to the hospital at no charge by a drug company that sells medicine to treat schizophrenia.


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