The Perception of Time and Mental Illness
There have been various experiments and case studies indicating that people with disrupted mental and mood states exhibit impaired time perception. Depression, can be described as a “smothering confinement” in prolonged despair that dilates the perception of time to a tortuous degree. People suffering from depression are temporally desynchronized; their internal speed does not match the speed of the social environment. Depressiveness and sadness, expressed in a negative self-image, self-blaming, and a feeling of worthlessness, among other things, go hand in hand with the intensified, unpleasant sensation of time passing more slowly.
In addiction, time becomes arrhythmic. When intoxicated by a stimulant, thoughts and actions speed up from their ordinary rate but the brain fails to encode these sped-up experiences as proper memories. During withdrawal, the opposite happens — time dilates and expands. Hyperfocus on the present craving for the drug makes the tortuous physical symptoms seem interminable and a dependency-free future seem infinitely distant. “In a state of addiction the individual loses his or her temporal freedom — the freedom to choose between present and future opportunities.” Marc Whittmann
In schizophrenia, the temporal disruption is even more pronounced — the continuous unity as which the “self” is ordinarily experienced shatters into fragmentary moments that seem to freeze in time, preventing the person from integrating past, present, and future into a cohesive picture of being. Without the dynamic of this temporal flow, the “self” collapses into fragments of now.