A TikTok artist’s depiction of his schizophrenia-induced hallucinations has captivated millions of viewers on the platform by providing an accurate and rare visual representation of the disorder.
Christopher (@xoradmagical) never thought he’d be able to change public perceptions of the disorder before he was diagnosed in 2017. Prior to his diagnosis, Christopher had studied psychology, but his interest in the field didn’t prepare him to actually experience it.
He even admitted that he too used to stigmatize schizophrenia, dismissing those who had the diagnosis as “insane.”
“I feel sorry for that,” he told In The Know. “By 2016, 2017 I had a wake up call.”
His path has not been easy since then. Christopher was frustrated by the diagnosis while also grappling with the misconceptions others had about what the diagnosis meant for him.
“People think ‘schizophrenia’ is a bad word,” he said. “The media often portrays us as deadly, murderous and clueless – that’s just not true.”
In fact, people diagnosed with schizophrenia are at greater risk of being victims of violence, a study published in the monthly medical journal shows Psychiatric Services found. A person with schizophrenia is up to 14 times more likely to be a victim of violence than to be arrested.
“Schizophrenia is a spectrum,” added Christopher.
Christopher was initially drawn to TikTok to vent his anger. At the time of his diagnosis, he felt very alone and was also homeless for a time.
“If you go back [my] In previous videos, I have an obvious anger inside that I’ve had a hard time articulating,” he explained. “By continuing [to make] In my videos, I brightened as I realized I wasn’t as alone as I felt. So many people are going through what I’m going through and I realized I have a responsibility to take care of myself.”
Christopher now has over 1.5 million followers on the platform.
Part of what draws so many viewers to Christopher’s videos is his attempts to portray his hallucinations, which are a common symptom of schizophrenia. Hallucinations aren’t just limited to seeing things that aren’t there — they also include hearing voices or even smelling things that others can’t perceive.
Christopher told In The Know that acknowledging his hallucinations in this way – recreating them for his audience – helped him create a “connection” between himself and the images that once terrorized him.
“The inconvenient truth that a lot of people don’t want to hear is that I’m comfortable with my hallucinations and the faces — yes, even when they get dark,” Christopher said in a TikTok. “I’ve done the work and self-care to get to a point where I’m OK with it.”
Some of Christopher’s TikToks feature “schizophrenia simulators,” which represent his best attempts at recreating what he sees and hears as he goes about his day. In another TikTok, he described how his process feels like the hallucinations are “drawing themselves.”
One of Christopher’s recurring hallucinations, Chester is now a quasi-celebrity to Christopher’s millions of followers. Christopher explained that he named Chester to humanize the experience of seeing him. Chester is a “helpful, funny, witty and energetic” hallucinator who has conversed with Christopher for several years.
“I know that sounds sad for neurotypicals, [and] I have many friends who are people from all over the world, but over the years, talking to this hallucination and spending many nights with him has created an uncanny bond that I can’t even put into English,” he told In The Know.
Since expanding his platform, Christopher has continued to share his animations on TikTok to destigmatize schizophrenia and educate others about what his life is like.
“[The response] makes me feel like what i do includes those who may feel [like] You can’t speak out,” he told In The Know. “I’ve met with a lot of psychosis advocates and other schizophrenic people, and we talk about hallucinations, [the] nature of reality and what it means to be who we are.”
The comments speak for themselves – it’s hard to find a video that viewers who work in the mental health field or have family members with schizophrenia haven’t thanked Christopher for.
“As a therapist,” a viewer commented on Christopher’s TikTok, “your simulator videos give me a deeper understanding of what some of my patients are really going through, beyond the mere DSM explanations.”
“Personally, I don’t have schizophrenia, but my mom did and she raised me,” wrote another commenter. “She’s now dead, but these videos kinda give me a glimpse. Many Thanks!”
Many neurotypical viewers ask Christopher about medication or solutions to his hallucinations. Schizophrenia remains one of the more difficult psychiatric disorders to treat today because symptoms can vary so widely from patient to patient.
“I take mood medication, but not psychosis,” Christopher explained in response to a question from a TikTok follower. “When I take something antipsychic, I don’t feel human. I don’t feel anything, I’m just a zombie.”
Additionally, as Christopher’s platform has grown and his reach has positively impacted millions of people, he’s in no rush to “fix” himself.
“The whole point is that I love who I am and I’m OK with my experience, but people want to blame you for being ‘fixed,’ even when you’re happy,” Christopher wrote in one other comment. “It’s strange.”
What Christopher hopes viewers can take away from his videos is just a basic understanding of how schizophrenia really works.
“We’re human like everyone else and the stigma has made it difficult for us to express ourselves,” he said. “We appreciate ourselves no less for what we experience.”
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