Schizophrenia – the Beautiful Mind of John Forbes Nash Jr.

Patient’s Information

John Forbes Nash, Jr. was born in 1928 in Bluefield, West Virginia to John Forbes Nash Senior, an electrical engineer, and Margaret Virginia Nash, a school teacher. According to his biographer Sylvia Nasar, Nash’s upbringing was stable and he benefited from his parents’ middle-upper class status.

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Although socially awkward, Nash excelled in mathematics and was described as a mathematical genius by his professors. After attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Nash began graduate school at Princeton University in 1948 where he started work on his equilibrium theory. He married his wife Alicia Lard?© Lopez-Harrison in 1957 and the couple had a child. Nash first began displaying symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia during his wife’s pregnancy in 1959 and was admitted to McLean Hospital where he spent the next two decades in and out of hospitals undergoing insulin shock therapy and taking antipsychotic medications.

Psychological Disorder

Schizophrenia is determined to be a psychotic disorder in which a person becomes debilitated and unable to function do to the impairment of their thoughts, perceptions, and behavior (Openstax, 2016). The word schizophrenia derives from the Greek terms for “”splitting”” or “”split-mind””, acknowledging the split between the person’s emotional expression and their current experiences. This split’ characterizes itself in the form of symptoms like major thought disturbances, disorganized behavior, hallucinations, delusions and negative symptoms such as inappropriate emotions and/or actions (APA, 2013). Disorganized behavior consists of unusual behaviors or movements like child-like giggling, or even catatonic behaviors like decreased reactivity to environmental stimuli. Hallucinations are perceptual experiences that occur without the presence of an outside stimulus. Auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, are the most commonly occurring symptom of schizophrenia (Barch, 2018). Those with schizophrenia can also experience different types of delusions ranging from paranoid (also known as persecutory) to grandiose to somatic. Negative symptoms are reflected in the absence of behaviors that most people tend to have, like lack of motivation or asociality.

Symptoms. For an extensive period of time, John Nash experienced severe paranoid and grandiose delusions, hallucinations, and negative symptoms including that of avolition and asociality. While still at Princeton, an isolated Nash wrote indecipherable things on the blackboards in the mathematics building, ultimately becoming known as “”The Phantom of Fine Hall”” (Kelly, 2015). Nash’s paranoid delusions and grandiose beliefs led to strains in his marriage and home life, as well as periods of irrational behavior. During an episode of grandiose delusion, Nash travelled around Europe and attempted to convince various governments to grant him asylum as a refugee and spent time finding biblical relevance to his life.

Diagnosis and Etiology. John Forbes Nash, Jr. was given an early diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in 1959 at the age of 30 due to his paranoid and grandiose delusions. He also exhibited many characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia that were not caused by any previously documented associations with posttraumatic stress disorders, communication disorders, autism spectrum disorder, or other mental disorders associated with a psychotic episode.

Etiology of the disorder. There has been no mention of a family history of psychosis or any early signs during his childhood, however it has been officially documented that Nash’s mother was hospitalized with depression by the time that his first schizophrenic episode occurred (Parker, 2015). From his diagnosis at age 30, Nash continued to experience symptoms of schizophrenia for the remainder of his life until his passing in 2015.

Prognosis. Nash falls into the category of the 0.3%-0.7% of the population that appears to have a lifetime prevalence of schizophrenia, though these statistics come from the DSM-5, whereas Nash was diagnosed before the introduction of the DSM-III (APA, 2013).

Conclusion

Over the remainder of his life, Nash learned to accommodate his delusions and discern them from reality, which helped him “”renounce [his] delusional hypotheses and revert thinking of [himself] as a human of more conventional circumstances”” (Nash, J. F., Jr., 1994)

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