One thing which I find missing in physics is the eclectic mix of observations known as “case studies.” Really, those medical types don’t know how lucky they are when stories like an 84-year-old woman who believes she’s receiving e-mails in her brain sound like old hat.
Malgorzata Gosia Raczek and Robert Howard of the Institute of Psychiatry (King’s College, London) write the following in the Int J Geriatr Psychiatry:
We report the case of an elderly lady with no experience of using a personal computer or internet technology, whose delusional experiences included the direct personal receipt of email.
Ms T, an 84-year old female with a 40-year history of schizoaffective disorder, presented with a delusional belief that something precious and of value ‘for all people’ had been inserted into her body by a doctor in Germany in the 1950s. She had sought medical help because she believed that an abdominal operative procedure would be necessary to remove a “rat and a teddy bear made of diamonds” that she believed had grown within her.
Ms T received this information via e-mail from a friend she had not seen since 1945. . . an e-mail which transmitted directly into her brain, without the usual preliminaries. Four weeks of risperidone treatment stopped the e-mails.
There have been previous reports of delusions [with] specific equipment components (Schmid-Siegel et al., 2004) and general activity in the internet (Tan et al., 2004). Most reported cases tend to be in young people, often with a particular experience in using the internet (Bell et al., 2005). To our knowledge, there have been no previous reports of the particular delusion of email receipt by the self. Our case shows that internet-based delusions are not restricted to the young or to those familiar with use of the internet.
It makes me wonder if the division between schizoaffective disorder and my daily life is only one of degree.
(Tip o’ the EEG helmet to Mind Hacks.)