This week I would like to introduce a guest blogger, The Beast. The Beast is a college student majoring in Biology, who also happens to suffer from schizophrenia, making everyday tasks that are autonomous to us, such as showering, eating, talking, etc. potentially quite difficult to nearly impossible. Portrayal of schizophrenia is often quite extreme in the media, showing either criminals who are mentally ill, or homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. In addition to, and perhaps because of this portrayal, there are many misconceptions about the illness, which hinders social awareness. This article by The Beast gives great insight into further understanding schizophrenia, as well as potentially dispel misconceptions individuals may have associated with the mental illness.
by The Beast at Mouth of the Beast
My sophomore year in college was a difficult one. I went from having excellent grades to failing all but one class, I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t study, at night voices rung inside my head, and at my worst, I became immobile, frozen for over half an hour. After a few weeks of this, I got help, and was eventually diagnosed with prodromal schizophrenia. The early, less severe, stage of the disease. Statistically, I have about a fifty fifty chance of developing the full disorder…
What is Schizophrenia?
Positive symptoms are symptoms that are added when the disease develops. Positive does not mean good, it simply means something additional is happening to the person. They may include the following…
Delusions, adamant belief in things that are untrue or not real. For example, a person may believe they are the reincarnation of Jesus, or that the FBI is stealing their thoughts. They will believe these things despite evidence against it.
“Word Salad” is another word for disorganized speech. Sometimes people with schizophrenia may be unable to coherently form sentences and thoughts that make sense to other people. This is often called “word salad” because it presents as a bundled hodgepodge of words.
Hallucinations, hearing, seeing, feeling, or even tasting things that are not real, such as the voices and noises I hear at night. Often, and unfortunately, the voices are negative in nature. They may also command the sufferer, for example, to kill or hurt themselves. For this and other reasons suicide and self harm rates in schizophrenia are extremely elevated, with about forty percent attempting suicide at some point.
Catatonia, this is what I was experiencing when I was “frozen”, it is the inability to react to the outside environment. It can present as complete lack of motion or repetitive movements with no reaction to the outside world. It can go on for hours, day, or longer…
Many schizophrenia sufferers also suffer from negative symptoms. Negative symptoms are when a person loses a capacity that they had before the onset of the disease. They include…
Flatness, inability or lack of propensity to display emotion, they may also speak in a flat, monotone voice.
Lack of Enjoyment, people with the disease may find themselves unable to enjoy life.
Lack of Motivation, inability to complete or start objectives. This makes school, work, and life in general difficult for many people with the illness.
Alogia, or lack of speech, is when a person speaks less, speaks less fluently, and/or takes longer to speak.
Schizophrenia often affects the way people think in a negative way, these are cognitive symptoms. Schizophrenia is a disease that slowly eats away at the grey matter of the brain. Because of this, it should be no surprise that cognitive symptoms occur.
Disorganized Thinking, inability to think in a logical manner.
Difficulty Understanding, this was my biggest problem before I got treatment. I could literally not read a word on a page due to not understanding the letters. It is truly a horrendous feeling.
Trouble with Memory
Lack of Awareness, many people with schizophrenia are unable to understand that they have the disorder. Oftentimes this makes treatment difficult.
Types of Schizophrenia
Although removed from the DSM V, the “Bible” of psychiatry, I will include the old subtypes of schizophrenia here, so that you may see just how different the disease can be from person to person.
Paranoid Schizophrenia, this subtype mostly presents with positive symptoms, including paranoid delusions that someone, or something, is out to get them. Although this may sound bad, those with this subtype actually have a comparably high recovery rate. This is also the most common form of schizophrenia.
Disorganized Schizophrenia presents mostly with negative symptoms, and is also grossly disorganized in everyday life. This makes mundane tasks such as showering and remembering to eat difficult. Many homeless people have disorganized schizophrenia.
Catatonic Schizophrenia, is a diagnosis given when catatonia is present in the person. Relative to the other forms of the disease, the recovery rate is fairly low for catatonic schizophrenia.
In the modern day, schizophrenia is treatable, but not curable. The first anti-psychotics, called typical anti-psychotics, were laden with problems and horrible side effects which made them most unpleasant to take. Modern medications are called atypical anti-psychotics, and are often more tolerable than their predecessors. Although these medications manage symptoms, they will never cure the illness.
Many people stop taking their medication, whether it be due inability to pay for it, lack of awareness of their illness, or severe side effects, this puts them at a higher risk of relapse. Anti-psychotics also do not fully protect a person from relapsing into a psychotic episode (a period where symptoms are at their worst), and medications may not work for everyone.
A lot of choosing the right medication comes down to trial and error, and that is something that must be done with the help of an experienced psychiatrist. Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) in which the person learns to manage their symptoms, is also very helpful in schizophrenia.
In addition to blogging about mental health and mental illness, The Beast also blogs about biology and photography! Check out his blog at http://www.mouthofthebeast.com/