Are you normal? Are you mad?

BBC Radio 4 is running a series at the moment called Am I Normal? that looks at differences in the body and mind. The most recent edition was on madness and psychosis, and the audio is available online.

Psychosis is the mental state in which delusions and hallucinations are prominent, and is usually linked to diagnoses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The programme tackles the experience of psychosis and how frequently these experiences occur in the general population.

Recent research has indicated that the experiences previously thought to be diagnostic of madness, actually occur in many people who never become distressed or impaired.

It may be the extent and impact of these experiences, rather than just their presence, that is important.

Weight is something which is distributed throughout the population, with some people being heavier than others, and some being considered so overweight as to need medical treatment.

In the same way, psychosis-like experience is thought to operate on a continuum, and those with the more frequent or intense experiences being more likely to end up being treated by mental health professionals because they are distressed or impaired.

One of the factors known to impact on how distressed and impaired people become is how they evaluate and make sense of strange experiences.

Knowing that odd ideas or hallucinations are common (studies estimate about 10-20% of the population report them at some point) can significantly reduce distress in some people, and makes others less likely to stigmatise or react badly.

Weird is the new normal. Spread the word.

Link to ‘Am I Normal?’ programme webpage.
realaudio of programme on madness.

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