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Prolonged solitary confinement causes schizophrenia?

  1. Dec 26, 2014 #1
    I read an interesting bit in the magazine psychology today about how prison inmates who are kept in solitary confinement for very long periods of time (months/years on end) can develop severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, delusions, as well as visual and auditory hallucinations.

    This can even happen to people who have no prior history of mental illness.

    Can anyone verify these claims?
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
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  3. Dec 26, 2014 #2

    jedishrfu

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    Didn't the article have references? or if you search on the authors you might find some references.
     
  4. Dec 26, 2014 #3
    Yes, of course. The human mind is not designed to handle the lack of social and mental stimulation. It will start making things up if there's nothing there. I believe for the inmates to be diagnosed with schizophrenia the symptoms would have to persist after leaving solitary, which is entirely possible with the induced change in brain chemistry. I don't know the average for when it occurs but I'd assume it's different for everyone.

    Edit by mentor: removed non-peer reviewed links
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 26, 2014
  5. Dec 26, 2014 #4
    The United Nations and the Geneva conventions have condemned extended solitary confinement to be outright psychological torture.
     
  6. Dec 26, 2014 #5

    Evo

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    Please be sure that references posted be actual links to scientific studies, preferably peer-review accepted journals or articles in an accepted publication which reference peer reviewed studies. Linking to google scholar that has questionable links mixed with valid sources is not acceptable, also blogs, opinion pieces, etc... are not acceptable.
     
  7. Dec 26, 2014 #6

    berkeman

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    @ElliotSmith -- which issue of Psychology Today was it in? Do you still have the issue? If not, I may know somebody who subscribes to it so we can get the references...
     
  8. Dec 26, 2014 #7

    Bystander

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    Be interesting to know if the study included any pre-confinement mental health assessments.
     
  9. Dec 26, 2014 #8

    Pythagorean

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    The closest thing I've found, but no schizophrenia.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/...ionid=4E6428EC338AF8647D4E1A335EF4A4C2.f02t02

    Here's another that posits that social isolation is one of the primary causes of schizophrenia:

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2768057?sid=21105514297523&uid=3739448&uid=4&uid=2&uid=3737720

    But we have to be careful about interpretation because solitary confinement can make an undiagnosed mental illness that's already there bad enough to observe, since solitary confinement is a major stressor. One interpretation could be that people with undiagnosed mental illness are more likely to end up in solitary, which exasperates the mental illness.

    http://www.jaapl.org/content/38/1/104.short
     
  10. Dec 26, 2014 #9

    Evo

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    I believe that since this paper was published in 1934, research appears to disprove this theory, that isolation is the primary cause of schizophrenia, although it may exacerbate the illness.

    http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/Schizophrenia9/Causes.htm [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  11. Dec 26, 2014 #10

    Vanadium 50

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    Evo's right - without a reference, this is impossible to discuss.
    Bystander and Pythagorean are right as well - there are a number of uncontrolled variables. Ideally, one would like to compare two groups of prisoners selected for solitary confinement, one cohort so confined, and another cohort not so confined. The selection of the two groups has to be as random as possible, and should not depend on behavior. I doubt this is possible, so studies will have to make certain assumptions.
     
  12. Dec 26, 2014 #11

    Pythagorean

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    Evo's post reminds me of some recent research that was able to classify schizophrenia into eight categories based on genetics:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25219520

    Of course, this relates to "risk architecture". Having the clusters doesn't automatically make you a schizophrenic, but stressful life events coupled with the right genetics can probably help it to manifest.
     
  13. Dec 26, 2014 #12

    berkeman

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    I've contacted my psychologist friend with a subscription to Psychology Today, and she is not able to find this article so far. Little help?
     
  14. Dec 27, 2014 #13

    Pythagorean

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  15. Dec 27, 2014 #14

    berkeman

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    Thanks Pyth! :-)
     
  16. Jan 5, 2015 #15
    One should remember here that certain meditative practices require that people live secluded for long periods of time. Many times these seclusions will be much like solitary confinement.

    I would go so far as to hypothesize, that a person trained in meditation would be able to cope with solitary confinement to a much larger degree than would the average person. To take it further, it is not the mere seclusion and confinement that will cause trouble; it is your thoughts.
     
  17. Jan 5, 2015 #16
    when I developed schizo I was basically alone in my apartment for 9 months with my only contacts with the outside world being a hacking forum, I'd go out to get food and do laundry and buy weed but other than that I spent about 16 hours a day on the computer.
     
  18. Jan 6, 2015 #17

    Ryan_m_b

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    An experimental study like this would be out of the question, it would never get past ethical considerations, but there are studies that have looked at the prevelance of various mental illnesses in inmates experiencing solitary confinement and those that have not:

    A longitudinal study of prisoners on remand. Repeated measures of psychopathology in the initial phases of solitary versus nonsolitary confinement.

    I very much doubt that meditative retreat is as psychologically stressful as solitary confinement. The big difference is that the first one is a personal choice. You can leave your self-induced isolation at any time, in the latter case prison inmates are forced into it and have little to no choice in the matter. Add to that the completely empty environment (concrete floor, walls, a bed and a toilet) and cheap food.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2015
  19. Jan 6, 2015 #18

    strangerep

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    Well, I know one person very well who'd spend hours each day in "meditation", attempting to "commune, and become one with, higher beings on the inner planes". o0)

    The end result was a psychotic breakdown -- a complicated mix of schizophrenia, delusions, and delerium/hallucinations.

    Seriously tragic.
     
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