The ‘Sign’, ‘Signified’ and “Psychosis’: The Intersection of Language and Psychosis

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Re-positioning terms used commonly with Psychosis

There is no universal way or signified of capturing the experience of Psychosis. 

To determine my original comment’s validity, I suggest a critical linguistic praxis-based study of Psychosis. 

The concept of ‘signs’ has been around for a long time—classic philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle studied these terms. The terms are now associated with semiotics. Derived from the Greek root seme, as in semiotics (an interpreter of signs), Saussure and American philosophers used the term through history, rhetoric, and communication.  

Saussure created the terms signifier and signified to break down what a sign was and broke from previous studies on language. He focused on the present. He studied communication and believed that interaction was the best pathway to learn these terms, not history and language development over time. 

The breakdown of basic semiotic interpretation during episodes of Psychosis

On the language level, ‘signs’ and the ‘signified’ make up understanding and interpreting the world. 

My argument has three sets of assumptions:

1)The accumulation of ‘psychotic symptoms and the worsening of psychosis symptoms are rooted in the ‘changing of signs’ within a person’s ‘system of signification’ and 

2) Identifying psychosis symptoms doesn’t mark or capture a single ‘signified or sign’; relatively, the worsening of corresponding, primary, residual or inactive symptoms.

3) The fundamental restructuring of a person’s interpretation of their system of signs, in language, oral expression, and all brain functions interact with the world through use and passage through the mind’s interpretive eye.

Connection to the world

I believe that we spend so much conjecturing, arguing, and surmising what Psychosis is, not ignoring wholesale commonalities between people’s extreme states. 

Shift the focus: effective treatment, either psychotherapy or some modality, based on the threefold set of assumptions I dispensed earlier.

What are the implications for clinical treatment and people?

The term universal, by definition, means “common effect” (Noun) or “applicable to all cases” (Adjective). Suppose we analyze both sentencing structures in a linguistic breakdown universal of both meaning and usage. In that case, any trained linguist will see what I am tracing through a study of language and altered or extreme states/psychosis. 

Familiar signifiers increase in any given system of signification. 

The likelihood or odds of a common effect experienced by people in crisis and going through the throws of first-episode Psychosis becomes more and more likely. Given the projection of worsening psychosis symptoms and the uniqueness of each experience, the chances of any person seeing, hearing, feeling, or smelling something the same way as another person is implausible. And, the commonality—the diversity of the sign—is ever-present.

The physiological impact of Psychosis on the human body: coping with the loss of connection to the world

Psychosis symptoms can serve as the body’s response to a life adjustment and, in doing so, have also created a mal-adaptive coping mechanism to cope with the damage to the brain. Instead, how the body compensates and handles the change in brain function is, in essence, both a method of coping and adaptive to something altogether wrong for the body.

The response, which is both a means of coping with a brain disorder and creating its reality by changing or challenging a person’s interpretation of their signification system, is healthy. Sometimes, the mind needs to deal with the dysfunction of its regulation by systematically changing its signs.

During initial psychotic symptoms, I fully believe the early moments of a person’s ‘break; are generally experienced as more systematic in the composition of the changing sign itself. Before psychosis symptoms worsen, I suggest that they shift from more systematic sign changes to more disruptive, arbitrary, and altogether difficult-to-follow changes within a person’s system of signification and interpretation of the world. 

As brain tissue becomes more damaged, neurons and their pathways become more misaligned and signals more chaotic and dysfunctional to and from the brain. Therapists can measure the rate of change before things get really out of hand and introduce measures into worsening psychosis symptoms by charting and mapping out the rate of change within the person’s signification system.


Clinical Significance  


The clinical Significance of these claims has potential. If we assume my claims regarding the experience of Psychosis can be measured, mapped out, and analyzed for degradation between linkages of signifiers, the usefulness of this scheme becomes clear. Further analysis will have to research the correlation between sign linkage and the experience of the individual who has Psychosis.  

Given all signs of change, the active disease process moves toward a higher degree of chaos and instability. Measuring distress tolerance to such changes will also be necessary for the research to add new meaning to understanding how everyone’s unique experience shares commonalities. 

Psychosis carries with them a constellation of related and altogether unique symptoms differently. At different times, psychosis symptoms exist in a dark harmony along a spectrum, sometimes feeding off one another and sometimes working in complete isolation. 

The scope intensifies in many cases overtime upon initial activation. The range of psychosis symptoms delineates the impact of the sign on a person. Triggers, age, and developmental circumstances around the symptoms activation and life circumstances matter, but on a case-by-case basis. 

The intensity of the related symptoms, their subsequent manifestation into behavior, and their possible impact on a person’s mood are all individual. Almost every aspect of how someone experiences Psychosis is individual to the person experiencing the disturbance. Therefore, the current provision of clinical treatment is far too broad for the disorder’s individualistic impact.  

Forging new treatment pathways ahead

Too often is the otherworldly nature of Psychosis as its first activating. There is a certain mystique to Psychosis. Indeed, Psychosis does distort how we perceive reality and plays around with our level of attachment to the world. People in extreme situations, unusual situations, experiencing a new or reoccurring crisis, and bizarre situations complicate our existence. We know I and introduce new angles or world-views to cope. 

These angles can sometimes be fascinating and are seemingly needed to pull ourselves out of a holding pattern. The symptom’s impact on the individual may seem welcome, timely, and needed to experience a necessary change. 

In my own experience, my psychosis symptoms activated when I needed to experience a change and adjustment in my life, how I interacted with the world, and how I understood it. A person’s need to adjust or make a life change ‘course correction’ increases the potential for psychosis symptoms. 

I suspect these ‘symptoms’ are mal-adaptive bodily coping mechanisms. They paint the world in more palatable colors and perhaps even shift your perception enough to identify alternate and new solutions to existing problems that persist because you haven’t been able to step outside your perspective. Job loss or unemployment, relationship changes, and significant life circumstance adjustments are complicated to tolerate. 

Periods of adjustment can sometimes be the pathway to more meaningful, more complex issues if we let our problems go unresolved for long periods. The brain activates psychosis symptoms so the body can more easily tolerate the change without feeling or thinking about the situation as intensely and as painlessly as possible. There is a reason why homeless people who have Psychosis become psychotic after losing their homes and need to adjust to life on the streets. People who go through significant life adjustments can take solace and comfort in the initial stages of Psychosis.


Risks and Hazards


Psychosis and how individuals are impacted by additional stressors, the symptoms worsen and become unmanageable. So, the gradual and welcome shift in perception will seem and feel welcome for a while, but if the same stressors continue to aggravate, agitate, worsen or persist, expect the detachment to increase and a sharp departure from reality to be in your cards in the near distant future. 

For the person adjusting to life on the streets or going through a tremendous loss, anything a person needs to do to cope with their reality will accommodate our minds during a crisis to make the change work. The mind doesn’t work the way it should. In the case of Psychosis activating, it may seem to work for some time. 

Ultimately, the symptoms are overwhelming and become so profound that life becomes too distant and unrecognizable to live without incident. I suggest that initially, some variance in our reality may seem appealing. Still, as the symptoms worsen and become more extreme, the interplay between our already stressed situations and our bodies’ response to the stress is overwhelming, disturbing, and can be very scary to experience. 

There is no question that those prone to Psychosis becoming active or reactive chronically understand this mystique about how our bodies experience this response to whatever we want to escape or sometimes forget because it’s so traumatic or just worth forgetting.

About the Author

J. Peters

J. Peters is the Editor-in-Chief of Mental Health Affairs.

Award-winning book author and Bold 10 Under ten award recipient J. Peters, LCSW. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mental health therapist and disability rights advocate Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various care systems, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health, or the city's Department of Corrections.

Mr. Peter's battle with Schizophrenia began at New London University in his last semester of college. Discharged from Greater Liberty State Hospital Center in July 2008, Jacque's recovery was swift but not painless and indeed brutal after spending six months there.

He has published several journal articles on recovery and mental health and three books: University on Watch, Small Fingernails, and Wales High School. He is also a board member of the newspaper City Voices. Mr. Peters currently sits on the CAB committee (Consumer Advisory Board) for the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene in NYC and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) as a peer advocate.

Owner of Recovery Now in New York, a private psychotherapy practice, Mr. Peter's approach is rooted in a foundation of evidence-based practices (EBP). Jacques earned a master's degree in Social Work from Binghamton University and worked as a field instructor for master's and bachelor's level students in NYC.

He is blogging daily on his site, Mr. Peters regularly writes articles relating to his lived experience with a mental health diagnosis.




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