There’s a great piece on PLoS Blogs about the question of exactly how psychosis starts. When is eccentricity suddenly psychosis? When does a fantasy or a fascination become a sign of illness? And how does a mind attempt to deal with the transition? The discussion here is very interesting, and even moreso the original article, which was published in Harper’s behind a paywall (though there is a useful link in the discussion to a pdf of the article). Anna’s story is fascinating. She struggles with the feeling that matter is not solid, and, as Downey points out:
The delusional theories she comes to do not hatch from nothing, but from a mind actively trying to figure out why solid objects suddenly seem less than fully tangible, why people appear distant and small, why time temporarily shifts and becomes disarticulated into unconnected moments. Her odd worldviews and theories about reality do not create the delusions but rather arise from an attempt to impose sense on the increasingly nonsensical.
That last is a wonderful point. That’s the frightening thing about such illnesses: when all your senses and perceptions are telling you the same thing, day after day, at what point do you trust those messages instead of what you’ve been taught? At what point do you start to think that maybe you’ve been wrong about the nature of reality all along?