Dealing with schizophrenia- part 1

When you hear the word schizophrenia, it often brings the wrong sort of connotations. The common misconceptions are that people with schizophrenia are hostile and have multiple personalities. Often people get this connotation from watching psychological-thiller movies or other forms of media.  Therefore, the public wrongly assume that people afflicted with mental illnesses should be sectioned and kept away from society for the greater good. 

The truth is that people with schizophrenia are more harm to themselves than to others. Separating these people will prove more harm than good. People affected with this mental illness need the most support from family and friends as well as a good team of healthcare professionals. This is due to the fact that the direct cause of this illness remains unknown, and also the fact that each schizophrenic patient has an almost unique set of symptoms. Research suggests there is a combination of different environmental and genetic factors which cause schizophrenia. However, the evidence remains inconclusive. I will discuss these factors in more depth in a later blog. For now I wish to outline what schizophrenia actually is.

Psychologists have found that in most cases, it can alter the perceptions, thoughts and consciousness of an individual. Schizophrenia has been defined by the DSM -V (diagnostic statistical manual for mental health) into many categories depending on the symptoms patients have exhibited in the past. Before I explain these types, I need to emphasise the fact that any individual suffering from this should never be defined by these labels. Personally I object to the DSM paradigm however I can see the practicality in it; in so far as it enables psychologists to get to a knowable solution for the patient quicker. 

Therefore here are the common types of schizophrenia:

  • Paranoid Schizophrenia-prominent hallucinations and/or delusions. 
  • Hebephrenic Schizophrenia- thoughts and behaviour are disorganised and without purpose.
  • Catatonic Schizophrenia- patient deviates from being over active to being very still. Does not communicate very much.
  • Undifferentiated schizophrenia-fits only some the symptoms of the above categories.
  • Residual schizophrenia-only experiences negative symptoms 
  • Simple schizophrenia-negative symptoms develop early on and get worse quickly, positive symptoms are rare.

As mentioned above some symptoms have been categorised into positive and negative.

Positive symptoms indicate changes in behaviour or thoughts, for example: hallucinations, delusions, abnormal changes in behaviour (aggressive, repetitive, sexual etc) and thought disorder. 

Negative symptoms indicate a general lack of vitality or functions, for example: Apathy (lack of energy), anhedonia (lack of an ability to express emotion) and a lack of social or cognitive attentiveness.

So what we can see here, is a wide spectrum of people with schizophrenia, with different levels of delusions, hallucinations and degree of attentiveness. There has also been research into what schizophrenic patients tend to hallucinate or what delusions they carry. 

Hallucinations in schizophrenia strike the person as very real and persistent. The common types of hallucinations are: Auditory (voices in head), tactile (burning or tingling sensations), olfactory (perceiving foul odours from the person’s body), and visual hallucinations. It is often the voices an individual with schizophrenia experiences that can torment them and interfere with their daily lives. These voices can be saying anything, for example: “you’re worthless” or “kill yourself”. This re-emphasises my point that people with schizophrenia are more of a danger to themselves; especially when they start to believe or listen to the voices in their head. If you add on top of this, other forms of hallucinations you can only imagine how stressful and confusing it must be for the person who is suffering from schizophrenia.

Delusions can result if a person starts to believe the voices they hear in their head. On the other hand, delusions can arise that are independent of any experiences the person has had. By definition, delusions are “beliefs which are held rigidly in spite of their preposterous nature” (Mahler 2001). For example: “A patient became convinced that a radio had been implanted in his nose. He went to dozens of major medical centres, seeking a surgeon who would remove it…” (Fuller-Torrey, 2006). As we can see here, without support from anyone an individual has no-one to challenge these delusions. Therefore, they are lead blind by them and suffer the consequences.

In general it is crucial that if we spot any of these symptoms in someone; we must firstly give moral support to the person. The symptoms of schizophrenia can only be fed when the person is isolated. Therefore, giving them support and getting therapy would be the fastest option. After this, it can be decided about which other forms of treatment should be taken in parallel with therapy. Nevertheless, I shall discuss this in more detail in a later blog.

 If you are out there and you are suffering from this, please believe that you can recover and that you are not alone. These days attitudes towards schizophrenia has changed. People are gradually becoming more open to it, thanks to the good work of mental health charities such as Rethink Mental Illness.

So generally, things are progressively looking hopeful and more positive. Nevertheless, I feel more action is needed to brake the stigma. Hence, why I started writing these blogs. I want to break down this topic into a few more short blogs, since I feel that one blog will not do this subject justice. So stay tuned for that.

Before I go. Remember this: Only love can heal a wounded heart and ease a worried mind, so be compassionate before you decide on giving advice to anyone that suffers.

Take it easy folks.

Azeem

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