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Flat affect - what is that? Can someone explain a bit more?

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I want a pet. I was thinking about getting a budgie. But my parents disagree. They think I cannot care for a pet. I told this to my psychiatrist. I also told my psychiatrist I am going to get one to prove my parents wrong. My psychiatrist said this was part of my flat affect. That most people who can't look after a pet don't get one.


Well guess what? My mothers friend has a bird and she gave her to me to look after for two weeks. My mother wanted to see how I can care for it. I have been cleaning the cage everyday, giving her food and water and she is not neglected like she has been neglected by her owner.


Why is it that she notes my every move down as part of a symptom. It is most annoying. I feel like I am not me but schizophrenia.

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A flat affect means that someone has no emotional expression or no connection. They may think you can't care for a pet because you may not feel emotion towards caring for it. Do you think you feel emotion when you give the bird food and water and change the cage? Or do you feel nothing while you perform the tasks?

Edited by redsaturday
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When she came in she was thin, was losing a lot of feathers and all. She looked like she'd been neglected. I was extremely worried for her and my cousin said "quit worrying, it's only a bird". Do I feel emotion towards caring for it? Of course I do. But I do kinda agree, I do lack a little emotional expression. I find it hard to express myself.

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Flat affect is when a person lacks emotional reactivity. They don't really express emotions verbally or non-verbally. This does not mean that they don't feel the emotions though. They just aren't expressing them. However, flat affect is similar to anhedonia, which is an inability to experience pleasure. So, if you have flat affect and anhedonia at the same time, you can see how the person would be very blunted and unable to feel or express feelings of pleasure. 


It sounds to me like you are doing an excellent job of caring for the bird, and I think getting a budgie could be a wonderful idea if you feel you can properly care for one. Birds are very demanding pets. They require a lot of social interaction, and it's actually wise to get 2 budgies instead of just one, so that they can be buddies when you're not around.


But enough about budgies. 


It's common in people with schizophrenia to find that they have trouble expressing their emotions. I'm not entirely sure why your psychiatrist equated a flat affect with inability to care for a bird. I think maybe because flat affect is related to anhedonia and sometimes you may find you don't get pleasure from caring for the bird anymore. This may cause you to not care for the bird in the way it needs, such as cage cleanings, socializing and feeding.


Some things to think about before you get a pet:


Can you socialize with it every day? This means taking it out of it's cage every day to play for a few hours. Do you have time for this?

Can you handle cleaning it's cage every few days, feeding every day and changing it's water?

Do you have the time to learn all about budgies, so that you may be the best owner possible? Do research before you get your budgie, so you know what it's like to own a budgie.

What will happen if you get sick? If you become psychotic, who will care for your budgie? If you are having strong negative symptoms, who will care for your budgie? Your parents may be worried that THEY will be stuck caring for a bird they didn't want. 

Budgies live 5 to 8 years on average, sometimes longer. Do you have the time to commit to such a long living pet?

If you get your budgie and it turns out you are struggling to care for him/her, who can you give the budgie to instead? Can you return it to the store or can you surrender it to a pet shelter? Do you know anyone who would take care of it for you?

If your budgie gets sick, can you afford to bring it to the vet? Is there an exotic animal vet around that you can bring it to?


Those are just a few things to think about. 


If you feel you can handle a budgie after caring for this one, I think it's worth a shot. Pets can bring so much love into our lives. Pets can give us a purpose. :)

Edited by Parapluie
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" My psychiatrist said this was part of my flat affect. That most people who can't look after a pet don't get one."


Well, that you "can't look after a pet" hasn't been at all settled yet!

That some people are judging from your "flat effect " that you wouldn't be able to is something else.


" I do lack a little emotional expression. I find it hard to express myself."

Flat effect is mainly something others notice: lack of variation on emotion, expression, tone of voice (especially the latter in respect of some of us with autism)

Someone speaking with a flat monotone may well be read as not having much interest in what they or saying, or have their intelligence "marked down" for having such poor speaking skills.

These may be drastically poor judgements, false understandings taken from what these cues *might* mean in *some* people.

(See for a parallel those with stroke-affected voices, who can get treated as though their mental ability has also been badly affected.)


With facial expression and emotions a failure to "mirror" in fair degree people in a conversation or social setting may be taken as indicating a lack of engagement, or as indicating an inability to feel emotions or connect with others using empathy.  This can indeed be an issue, but a flat effect is not *reliable* evidence of it.  The flat effect may be the "anomaly " and the only anomaly.

That would have to be addressed as a separate question.


I've had to put deliberate conscious effort into discovering social expectations in this area, and learning to go some way to meeting them.

(When I choose to, which is quite often, as a courtesy.  Not because "conformity is king.")



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