I choose to write about schizophrenia because for some odd reason It’s a mental health disorder that has popped up in my life a few times not to mention on the news frequently. It always seems that on the news you hear about a person doing harm to others and that they suffered from schizophrenia. If you go by what society and the media say about schizophrenia it all sounds so very confusing. I had this friend who was a psychologist. When a mutual friend of ours, would get depressed she’d start telling everyone she was schizophrenic. She didn’t take any medication for it nor did she ever see a doctor. This was a self-diagnosis. I did find out she wasn’t, schizophrenic she was bipolar but, I often wondered what causes it how are people treated for it and can they live a productive life.
Sadly, it is not known what causes schizophrenia. It has been believed for decades that it is inherited but, it’s not quite that simple. Just like the BRCA1 gene that predetermines your susceptibility to breast cancer it doesn’t mean you will get it. Doctors are starting to theorize that it may be more than one gene that is involved. Despite this, it does occur in families where there’s no family history of the disease. Some other theories are a lack of nutrition in the womb and environmental triggers such as a bacterial infection. Scientists are even looking at the brain itself. They have found some variances in the brains of a schizophrenic are different but as to if and how it correlates is still unknown.
With so much misinformation out there many people think that schizophrenia is those bums on the street screaming and ranting. To a degree, they are right but not fully. Only 1% of the population is diagnosed with schizophrenia, although not as common as media leads us to believe the lifetime risk is 1 in 100. It appears in men and women equally, although men tend to show symptoms earlier than women. Not all schizophrenics have all the symptoms but, they at least experience 2 of them for at least 6 months. The symptoms can vary from month to month. One thing many don’t realize, myself included is much like autism, schizophrenia is more of a spectrum disorder. Originally it was put into subtypes by it didn’t work well. Schizophrenia includes all the following catatonic, disorganized, paranoid, residual and undifferentiated. These subtypes can cause the following symptoms.
- Disorganized speech – using words in jumbled up sentences that make no sense to others
- Loose associations
- Neologism – made up words or phrases
- Clang – Meaningless use of rhyming words
- Strange behavior
- Walking in circles
- Excessive writing
- Sitting perfectly still and quiet for hours on end
- Withdrawn/Depression – Disorganized behavior
- Unpredictable erratic emotional outbursts
- Lack of impulse control
- Erratic sleeping habits
- Lack of hygiene
Although schizophrenia can occur in children it mostly starts in young adults. Unfortunately, there are many other illnesses and even drug abuse that can mimic schizophrenia, it is vital for a patient who has received this diagnosis to make sure that in addition to the psychiatric evaluation, that the doctor not only does a physical exam and lab tests but that they are aware of your complete medical history. With movies like “Strange Voices (1987)” and nothing new to reflect on the daily lives of those that suffer, the future seems bleak. Till you hear the TEDTalks by Elyn Saks and Eleanor Longden and you realize the answer is not being locked up in a hospital or some group home. Treatments can vary. Often treatment is via medication but, listening to Eleanor, I learned that it is possible to realize what the voices mean and what triggered the episodes. Sadly what worked for her may not work for everyone. The best results occur from a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Here is a list of treatments.
- Antipsychotic Drugs
- Electroconvulsive Therapy
- Self Help
- Manage Stress
- Social Support Groups
- Proper nutrition
Although much is still quite unknown about this spectrum, society has come a long way in the past 30 years. 30 years ago the meds available had serious side effects whereas today there are more options available. Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia can live productive lives and not be locked up. With the understanding of mental health our idea of what may cause this disorder and how to treat it will change. Although much is still quite unknown about this spectrum, society has come a long way in the past 30 years. 30 years ago the meds available had serious side effects whereas today there are more options available. Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia can live productive lives and not be locked up. With the understanding of mental health our idea of what may cause this disorder and how to treat it will change.