Healing the Mind:Living with Schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a life-changing disorder of the mind and most specifically of the thinking processes. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and generally needs medicine to treat the imbalance. It can be genetic, hereditary and sometimes it can be brought on by stress for individuals who have the predisposition for the disease. As well, there are reports that state schizophrenia has been brought on by drug abuse, particularly in
youth. Males usually start to show symptoms around the age of 17-25 and females may show signs later than this.
An individual with schizophrenia is diagnosed with this disorder in relation to criteria from the DSM-IV, a diagnostic manual for doctors to follow.There are two basic groups of symptoms that will be observed. The "postive" symptoms will manifest by visual or auditory hallucinations. There are also a number of other types of hallucinations, such as those related to the body(hallucinating being pregnant or not having a nose etc).Individuals with schizophrenia may also experience delusions. These are ideas about themselves that are grand and usually absurd but are completely believed in and may or may not be acted upon at some level. They may believe they are involved in a conspiracy and are needing to rescue themselves or someone else or that they are the direct family line of the queen, or a special individual with special powers sent by God etc.In addition it may also be that they feel persecuted and are experiencing paranoid thoughts and behaviours. Some individuals with schizophrenic symptoms may hear the radio or the TV talking to them, and referring to them.
The second set of symptoms (negative symptoms) relate to a more depressed presentation. This is noted by depressed mood, poor motivation, withdrawal,lack of energy, lack of hope, poor attention to hygiene, sleeping too much or too little, poor nutrition due to fatigue of lack of appetite, and an altered sense of self worth. At times this can result in self harm or suicidal thinking.At times the medications prescribed may cause side effects that give the individual a different gait or an odd facial expression.Awell the illness can sometimes create odd mannnerisms for those suffering wiht schizophrenia, but this is not always so.Schizophrenia has nothing to do with a person's intelligence, worth as a human being, potential for compassion and contribution, or level of talents.In spite of the illness, all these attrubutes are just as prominent for those with the disease as those who do not have the disease.
Often,a doctor can provide medication for both sets of symptoms. However, medication is only part of the healing profile. An individual with schizophrenia needs connection with others, purposeful activity, meaningful income, and much understanding and compassion from family, friends and healthcare providers. They need to set goals and succeed and move forward in their lives. If they are receiving the support they need, it may be that an individual with schizophrenia may be hard to identify from the general population. A healthy balanced lifestyle can prove to be extremely healing for schizophrenia: stability,sleep, predictability, exercise, nutrition, appropriate housing, support, appropriate income or disability insurance and hope, can be all that an individual struggling with schizophrenia needs to have a fulfilling life. Our local mental health programs can be a great resource for those who struggle in this area and it is recommended that a doctor and a case manager become involved for those in need. Education, recreational and employment programs can provide enrichment for those who are interested in keeping a healthy outlook, even while struggling with the thought distortions that occur.
As a population we need to remain informed about mental illness and erase the stigma, replacing it with compassion and understanding for individuals who battle symptoms of schizophrenia every day.