Tuesday, January 5, 2010
What is Schizophrenia?
Hi Everyone, I hope you are doing well, I am doing good. I decided today to start a series on Schizophrenia. It is hard for me to write about this, but that is what this blog is all about for me and hopefully others, to talk about it, heal and continue on with a healthy life. In 1960 my Mother was diagnosed with the disease Paranoid Schizophrenia. From 1960 to 1989 she was given shock therapy as a form of treatment, I can't really remember how often she had it, it seemed like once or twice a year she would go away for 30 days at a time. In between these treatments she would return home with the medicine Thorazine, which kept her in quite a fog. Growing up in the 60's we didn't talk about things as openly as we do today. Even though I feel we still have a long way to go when it comes to talking about Mental Illness in society. Getting back to the no talking thing, the not knowing what this disease was all about added to my biggest fear. I was so afraid of growing up and inheriting this disease, having seen what it did to her and my family. The fear grew even more so as I began to look more and more like her. Now that I am middle age, I'm 100 percent sure that I have not inherited this disease. Even if I had, thanks to time and medical advancements, I would not have to endure what she did. This disease does not need to be feared any longer. It is just another disease like the many other ones out there. It is especially not a disease of two personalities that somehow people came to associate this disorder with! My hope is that by sharing this information, I can help another person, or family, who may be living in fear of this disease like I did. The fear alone can take a heavy toll, trust me, I know! I truly feel education, discussing what this disease entails, and the progress that has been made now allowing people to live a functioning life, will help end the Stigma that still surrounds it. If you have someone in your life that has been afflicted with this disease, know they are still there, they just need your love and patience to help bring them back to their true selves. My siblings and I were blessed to have seen it ourselves.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that has affected people throughout history. About 1 percent of Americans have this illness.
People with the disorder may hear voices other people don't hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated.
People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk. They may sit for hours without moving or talking. Sometimes people with schizophrenia seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking.
Families and society are affected by schizophrenia too. Many people with schizophrenia have difficulty holding a job or caring for themselves, so they rely on others for help.
Treatment helps relieve many symptoms of schizophrenia, but most people who have the disorder cope with symptoms throughout their lives. However, many people with schizophrenia can lead rewarding and meaningful lives in their communities. Researchers are developing more effective medications and using new research tools to understand the causes of schizophrenia. In the years to come, this work may help prevent and better treat the illness.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three broad categories: positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms.
Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors not seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms often "lose touch" with reality. These symptoms can come and go. Sometimes they are severe and at other times hardly noticeable, depending on whether the individual is receiving treatment. They include the following:
Hallucinations are things a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel. "Voices" are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia. Many people with the disorder hear voices. The voices may talk to the person about his or her behavior, order the person to do things, or warn the person of danger. Sometimes the voices talk to each other. People with schizophrenia may hear voices for a long time before family and friends notice the problem.
Other types of hallucinations include seeing people or objects that are not there, smelling odors that no one else detects, and feeling things like invisible fingers touching their bodies when no one is near.
Delusions are false beliefs that are not part of the person's culture and do not change. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are not true or logical. People with schizophrenia can have delusions that seem bizarre, such as believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves. They may also believe that people on television are directing special messages to them, or that radio stations are broadcasting their thoughts aloud to others. Sometimes they believe they are someone else, such as a famous historical figure. They may have paranoid delusions and believe that others are trying to harm them, such as by cheating, harassing, poisoning, spying on, or plotting against them or the people they care about. These beliefs are called "delusions of persecution."
Thought disorders are unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking. One form of thought disorder is called "disorganized thinking." This is when a person has trouble organizing his or her thoughts or connecting them logically. They may talk in a garbled way that is hard to understand. Another form is called "thought blocking." This is when a person stops speaking abruptly in the middle of a thought. When asked why he or she stopped talking, the person may say that it felt as if the thought had been taken out of his or her head. Finally, a person with a thought disorder might make up meaningless words, or "neologisms."
Movement disorders may appear as agitated body movements. A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may become catatonic. Catatonia is a state in which a person does not move and does not respond to others. Catatonia is rare today, but it was more common when treatment for schizophrenia was not available.
"Voices" are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia.
Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for depression or other conditions. These symptoms include the following:
* "Flat affect" (a person's face does not move or he or she talks in a dull or monotonous voice)
* Lack of pleasure in everyday life
* Lack of ability to begin and sustain planned activities
* Speaking little, even when forced to interact.
People with negative symptoms need help with everyday tasks. They often neglect basic personal hygiene. This may make them seem lazy or unwilling to help themselves, but the problems are symptoms caused by the schizophrenia.
Cognitive symptoms are subtle. Like negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms may be difficult to recognize as part of the disorder. Often, they are detected only when other tests are performed. Cognitive symptoms include the following:
* Poor "executive functioning" (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
* Trouble focusing or paying attention
* Problems with "working memory" (the ability to use information immediately after learning it).
Cognitive symptoms often make it hard to lead a normal life and earn a living. They can cause great emotional distress.
Learn more about RAISE (Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode), an NIMH research project designed to improve treatment approaches in the earliest stages of the illness at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/raise/index.shtml
Learn more about the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness
(CATIE), a clinical trial that studied treatment choices for schizophrenia at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/trials/practical/catie/index.shtml