Many of us have become familiar with the causes of mental disorders – genetics, environmental factors, traumatic events, substance abuse problems and individual tendencies are a few of the most common ways to develop a mental disorder. Time Magazine has recently uncovered a rather unexpected, but understandable, concern for developing psychosis: mountain climbing. If you love adventure and plan to go hiking this spring, be weary of just how high you go.
At an altitude of 27,000 feet, Jeremy Windsor was climbing Mt. Everest in 2008, and he began to experience some strange things. As stated on Time Magazine’s website, a man named Jimmy was providing Jeremy with words of encouragement and would then disappear amongst the snow. Also known as “third-man factor”, these hallucinations are found in high-altitude Alpine settings, and can quickly become dangerous if it causes a trekker to go off-route or engage in risky behaviors due to the hallucinations.
Research is unclear exactly what leads to the development of psychosis during these higher altitudes; some believe it’s faith or religious-based, some believe it’s caused by biochemical reactions, yet others believe it to be “misfiring brain activity”. The discussion surrounding “third-man factor” hasn’t just been in relation to high altitudes, however. Stories exhibiting this have been shown in contexts such as war or terrorist attacks – this hallucination has been said to provide added comfort, guidance, and strength to a person in times of significant stress or life-threatening circumstances, according to the National Public Radio.
Schizophrenia is often associated with delusions and hallucinations, but with “third-man factor”, the hallucinations disappear once the person has reached a lower altitude. Additionally, the psychosis experienced with mountain hiking and other extreme events have proven to aid, or provide support, to the person undergoing extreme stress – individuals with schizophrenia may become paranoid or may hallucinate that induce more stress and anxiety. Seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing hallucinations in your daily life and you have not been diagnosed. For mental disorders such as schizophrenia, there are medications that can help you better manage daily life.
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