Uniquely Wired: People With Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia . . .
Some of the clients I work with are diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I've learned so much from them about their experience of first getting symptoms, and then living with them.
I've learned that Schizophrenia is a family matter. It alters the lives of the parents and siblings, other relatives and friends. It's especially frustrating for all involved because a cure has not been discovered and medications only mask the symptoms. There is also the risk of serious side effects when taking anti-psychotics or other medication.
BUT, Schizophrenia is not all darkness. Some of the most courageous, funny, compassionate, intelligent people I know, have this diagnosis.
Schizophrenia Is . . .
Schizophrenia is almost always considered a chronic brain disorder, affecting more than one percent of the population. When active, symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, difficulty thinking and focusing, and lack of motivation. However, when these symptoms are treated properly, a large portion of those diagnosed will greatly improve over time.
Types of Schizophrenia
- Paranoid Schizophrenia
People with paranoid schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia where the person believes someone or others are out to get them or their family.
- Disorganized Schizophrenia
People with disorganized schizophrenia display disorganized thinking, grossly disorganized behavior, and absent or inappropriate emotional expression. The disease significantly disrupts a person's ability to function in regular daily activities.
- Catatonic Schizophrenia
People with catatonic schizophrenia display extreme inactivity or activity that's disconnected from their environment or encounters with other people (catatonic behavior). These episodes can last for minutes or hours.
Your View On Medications
There are pros and cons to taking psychotropic medication, according to people I know with Schizophrenia. What are your thoughts?
A True Story of Hope
One of my co-workers at the community mental health center has Schizophrenia. From her early twenties to her mid thirties, Tara was considered a "hopeless schizophrenic." She was on and off medication, estranged from family, and in and out of hospitals during those years.
As Tara tells it, "One day I decided I could get better by doing one small everyday thing at a time. So I started by making myself a cup of tea and drinking it."
Today, Tara is on a medication combo that works for her. The medications slow her thought process but she says, "I need the meds if I'm going to function in this world." Occasionally, she misses a day of work due to her symptoms.
Tara is married, and right now has a 3 year old dog, and a puppy. Its important to remember that her story happened because Tara made the decision to change her lifestyle, and was committed to making that happen.
The Coin's Other Side
I know people with schizophrenia that choose not to medicate. Many become/are homeless, go from one hospital/haven to another. Others stay with family.
Some with Schizophrenia say they'd rather have their mind be "weird," than to dull their thought process with meds.
Would I choose differently?
The History of Schizophrenia
The word "schizophrenia" is less than 100 years old. However the disease was first identified as a discrete mental illness by Dr. Emile Kraepelin in the 1887 and the illness itself is generally believed to have accompanied mankind through its history
Excellent overview of what Schizophrenia is and its effect on those diagnosed with it.
The Card Project - Handcrafted Greeting Cards
Spreading the dream of recovery to those suffering with mental illness . . .
- Click Here for THE CARD PROJECT
If you want to support projects of the mentally ill, enjoy art, and would like to order GREETING CARDS, this is the place for you. Here you'll able to order specialized greeting cards with a special artistic touch. All of our cards are handcrafted an
What Are Delusions?
Delusions are personal beliefs that are not rational, and they are believed to be true even when proven false or are contradicted. They can't be explained by a person's cultural background (i.e., religious practices).
A person's delusions may revolve around a theme, such as grandiosity, or persecution. A grandiose person believes they are someone famous or powerful. Those with delusions of persecution may think people they know, including family, are trying to poison them, that they are always being cheated or conspired against.
Some delusions experienced by people with schizophrenia are rather bizarre. A person may believe people on the radio or television are giving them special messages. They may think others can hear what they are thinking, as if their thoughts are being broadcast.
Its important to remember that to someone with Schizophrenia, the delusions seem real, and likely, not at all bizarre.
Profiles: People with Schzophrenia
No one's real name is used
I knew Jon for nine years. He was diagnosed with the disorganized type of Schizophrenia, meaning his thought and communication processes were confused (by "normal world" standards). His affect was flat. That is, his face was without expression, unless he heard a good joke. Then he'd break into a light-up-the-room smile. Even with medication, Jon heard voices constantly, making it difficult for him to carry on a conversation.
As with many other schizophrenics, Jon blamed himself for the illness. As a young adult he experimented with drugs, and talked about committing minor infractions of the law. In the time I knew him, Jon never let go of his guilt over that, believing the drugs and misbehavior caused his Schizophrenia.
After graduating high school, where he was a star wrestler, Jon became a licensed pilot. To make money, he had a vending machine and sandwich cart business. He remembered both accomplishments, and especially grieved over losing the ability to fly planes.
Jon was kind and showed compassion, and had a sharp, quick wit. His one-liners were hilarious. His family was devoted to his care, making Jon one of the lucky ones. A year ago, Jon died from a physical illness. He was 60 years old. He's one of the dearest people I've ever met.
Update - June 2010: When Jon's mother passed away he moved to another state to live with a sister. Shortly after the move he was diagnosed with cancer and died a year later./b>
I worked with Eric 5 years. Recently he moved, with a friend, into the city of Chicago, and is looking for part time work.
Every spring, Eric went off his medication, the first 4 years I knew him. He would then experience a 4-6 week "high" before "crashing into the darkness." For a few months, Eric would manage his symptoms as best he could, but eventually went back on medication. Eric would say, "The high is wonderful, the crash is horrible, and I end up in a dark, painful place I can't see out of." This past spring he did not go off medication, saying he wanted to try "staying in the world."
Eric started getting symptomatic during college. He talked about getting into exploring "other states of consciousness" during that time, but its impossible to say if the exploration is the chicken, the egg, or neither.
Besides composing songs, Eric plays the guitar and sings in a band or solo. He paints fascinating symbolic pictures using acrylics, and likes writing poetry and short stories. He is extremely insightful, and turned to spirituality to help him manage symptoms and come to terms with Schizophrenia.
People sometimes call Eric "the Buddha" or "guru" because he has a compassionate and wise way of talking to people. He's a natural counselor. If you sat next to him on a plane, you'd have a fascinating conversation and wouldn't guess Eric had Schizophrenia. Chances are he wouldn't tell you due to the stigma attached to the diagnosis. I'm thrilled he's moving on with his life, but I miss direct contact with this amazing person.
Update - June 2010: Eric successfully shared an apartment with a friend for several months and found a part time job. Then he went off his medication and eventually had to move back to his mother's house. Once he resumed his medication he was writing songs and painting again. I haven't seen Eric for several months. I heard he moved out of state with his mother but I haven't verified that.
I first met Wendy 11 years ago. She was angry and volatile, making conversation with her difficult. Delusions dictated much of her behavior, such as not using any food or product with sodium chloride on the label (like some shampoos), because salt was poisonous.
Wendy is now in her forties. Until I met her, she'd spent most of her adult life living like a dandelion seed riding the wind. She can remember many times "bumming a ride" and ending up "wherever I ended up."
After a couple years of mixed results on different medications, Wendy and her doctor found a medication combination that changed her life. She never has lost her "wild child" aura, but her anger diminished and she was/is able to think more clearly. Wendy likes who she is now, has a long-time boyfriend, and lives in her own apartment (with one roommate).
Wendy still dresses like she just came from Woodstock, but on her its charming. There is still some delusional thinking, but it doesn't run her life. She's a wonderful poet, enjoys art, and a good philosophical discussion.
Update - June 2010: About a year ago Wendy began having side effects from her medications that put her health at risk. She was switched to different medications however she has, over the past months, become more reclusive, delusional and angry. She recently qualified for subsidized housing and will be in her own apartment soon.
Documentary: I Have Schizophrenia - EXCELLENT 30 MINUTE MTV "TRUE LIFE" DOCUMENTARY
- "I HAVE SCHIZOPHRENIA" (video)
Follow 3 young adults: Josh, Amber and Ben as they try to lead normal lives despite being diagnosed schizophrenics.
Life in the Shadows
by Martica King
There are those of us who live in the shadows, never being seen in the true light because we are coping with mental illness. I am sorry for congresswoman Giffords and those who were murdered and injured in Tucson Arizona, and yes, it appears to those in the profession, Jared Laughner has mental issues, but don't lump us all together and assume every "lunatic" should be locked up, put away, or at the very least be mocked and scorned.
The point is Laughner is a person and he does not represent the vast majority of those persons who suffer from mental illness. Isn't everyone who murders someone deranged at least during that act or, as in so many murder cases, deranged premeditation? Statistics show the mentally ill are far more often the victims of crime rather than perpetrators. I do not agree with the verdict, Innocent by reason of insanity. If you do the crime, you should serve the time, regardless of your state of mind.
Do you realize 1 in 5 Americans cope with some form of mental illness each year and in the course of a lifetime 49%? It is very likely in your family. We are your sisters, brothers, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, neighbors and fellow workers. To paint us all with one broad brush is grossly unfair. That creates a false and distorted impression about the truth of mental illness. Such attitudes perpetuate fears that are totally unfounded. Because of stigma many suffer great mental anguish being diagnosed with schizophrenia, severe depression or bi-polar. Many are those who are homeless, in nursing homes, or jails for their own protection. You, the reader, the public in general must learn to look at us above the media frenzy and panic peddling against the mentally ill. Look at us with the eye of the "Golden Rule. The fact is, by and large, the vast majority of the mentally ill population is filled with good hearted, honest, gentle and intelligent folks who are less likely to be violent than the so-called "normal" population.
In spite of the negative perception many have of the mentally ill, there is a positive movement underway. It is called the Recovery movement. This is a clarion call to all: There is hope and evidence of success in treating severe mental illness. Many have been helped by medication and by lifestyle changes. Even more important is in believing that one can recover. The expectation is recovery, and not thinking we are condemned to a hopeless hapless life.
Community mental health Centers provide much of the solution by providing services that include psychiatric services, counseling, recovery education, outreach services, and peer support. They help the homeless by assisting them with benefits. They help keep people with mental illness out of nursing homes by helping them to live in the community. They also help keep people out of jail by providing alternatives. The community mental health center is also the most effective and cost efficient way to assist the mentally ill today. Currently funding is being increasingly restricted (so access to help will be reduced) and this was dramatically so in Arizona. We need government funding. And we need private funding just as desperately. We are, unfortunately, government's stepchild.
So as you look into the faces of those with mental illness, know that each person is unique. Just as you would not fear a person with cancer or assume all cancer victims are alike, do not assume all victims of mental illness are alike either. But just as you do with a cancer victim, show compassion and understanding, not hatred or loathing towards the mentally ill. You may find yourself dealing with it in your own family. We are all God's children. Please treat us as such.
Martica works as a counselor in a coumunity mental health center
Video: Schizophrenia Gene Puzzle
PEOPLE WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA HAVE THE SAME IQ RANGE AS THE NON-SCHIZOPHRENIC POPULATION.
SYMPTOMS OF SCHIZOPHRENIA MAY HINDER SOMEONE FROM USING THEIR NATIVE INTELLIGENCE . . .
BUT . . .
DISORDERED THINKING, DELUSIONS, AND HALLUCINATIONS DO NOT INDICATE A PERSON'S LEVEL OF INTELLIGENCE.
What is Recovery from Schizophrenia?
In repeated, confirmed studies* by the World Health Organization, it was discovered that those with schizophrenia in less developed countries do better, in the long run, than those in the industrial West. (The test results remain controversial).
One theory suggests that less developed countries:
~ Put fewer demands on their people.
~ May have greater tolerance of symptoms and limitations.
~ Have extended families providing support and more opportunities for useful work.
~ Alcohol and drug abuse could be less a factor.
However, more developed countries have extensive resources, ongoing research, easier access to medication, and more treatment services available.
In a different schizophrenia study, (all participants had that diagnosis) recovery was defined by the participants as "freedom from symptoms," by only 14%.** Most participants gave a different definition, which they called, "Psychological-recovery."
They said that psychological-recovery is:
~ Having self-acceptance.
~ Having a strong social network.
~ Being able to monitor and control their symptoms.
~ Taking responsibility for their health recovery.
The psychological-recovery list is similar to "less industrial" list. The obvious difference is that psychological-recovery is less tribal, focusing on individuals coping with schizophrenia.
My thought is, the best "list" is a combined one.
*The WHO studies included China, Czechoslovakia, Colombia, Denmark, India, Nigeria, the Soviet Union, Britain, and the United States.
**The same as studies done with patients who had physical illnesses.
What we perceive is our reality
What Are Hallucinations?
Hallucinations (and illusions) are quirks in the perception of people with schizophrenia. When hallucinating, a person's sensory experience does not match what others pick up with their five senses. Hallucinations can be auditory (sound), visual (sight), tactile (touch), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell).
The most common hallucination is hearing voices that others do not hear. The voice(s) might converse with the person, give commands, or warn them of danger (often where there is none). A voice may keep a running account of the person's activities. Voices can also be comedians.
Illusions are a little different. The senses are stimulated by something verifiable by others, but the sensory experience is misinterpreted by the individual with schizophrenia.
The Precepts of Recovery from Mental Illness
THE 10 FUNDEMENTALS OF RECOVERY FROM MENTAL ILLNESS
SELF-DIRECTION: Consumers lead, control, exercise choice over, and determine their own path of recovery by optimizing autonomy, independence, and control of resources to achieve a self-determined life. By definition, the recovery process must be self-directed by the individual, who defines his or her own life goals and designs a unique path towards those goals.
INDIVIDUALIZED and PERSON-CENTERED: There are multiple pathways to recovery based on an individual's unique strengths and resiliencies as well as his or her needs, preferences, experiences (including past trauma), and cultural background in all of its diverse representations. Individuals also identify recovery as being an ongoing journey and an end result as well as an overall paradigm for achieving wellness and optimal mental health.
EMPOWERMENT: Consumers have the authority to choose from a range of options and to participate in all decisions-including the allocation of resources-that will affect their lives, and are educated and supported in so doing. They have the ability to join with other consumers to collectively and effectively speak for themselves about their needs, wants, desires, and aspirations. Through empowerment, an individual gains control of his or her own destiny and influences the organizational and societal structures in his or her life.
HOLISTIC: Recovery encompasses an individual's whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. Recovery embraces all aspects of life, including housing, employment, education, mental health and healthcare treatment and services, complementary and naturalistic services, addictions treatment, spirituality, creativity, social networks, community participation, and family supports as determined by the person. Families, providers, organizations, systems, communities, and society play crucial roles in creating and maintaining meaningful opportunities for consumer access to these supports.
NON-LINEAR: Recovery is not a step-by step process but one based on continual growth, occasional setbacks, and learning from experience. Recovery begins with an initial stage of awareness in which a person recognizes that positive change is possible. This awareness enables the consumer to move on to fully engage in the work of recovery.
STRENGTHS-BASED: Recovery focuses on valuing and building on the multiple capacities, resiliencies, talents, coping abilities, and inherent worth of individuals. By building on these strengths, consumers leave stymied life roles behind and engage in new life roles (e.g., partner, caregiver, friend, student, employee). Th e process of recovery moves forward through interaction with others in supportive, trust-based relationships.
PEER SUPPORT: Mutual support-including the sharing of experiential knowledge and skills and social learning-plays an invaluable role in recovery. Consumers encourage and engage other consumers in recovery and provide each other with a sense of belonging, supportive relationships, valued roles, and community.
RESPECT: Community, systems, and societal acceptance and appreciation of consumers -including protecting their rights and eliminating discrimination and stigma-are crucial in achieving recovery. Self-acceptance and regaining belief in one's self are particularly vital. Respect ensures the inclusion and full participation of consumers in all aspects of their lives.
RESPONSIBILITY: Consumers have a personal responsibility for their own self-care and journeys of recovery. Taking steps towards their goals may require great courage. Consumers must strive to understand and give meaning to their experiences and identify coping strategies and healing processes to promote their own wellness.
HOPE: Recovery provides the essential and motivating message of a better future- that people can and do overcome the barriers and obstacles that confront them. Hope is internalized; but can be fostered by peers, families, friends, providers, and others. Hope is the catalyst of the recovery process. Mental health recovery not only benefi ts individuals with mental health disabilities by focusing on their abilities to live, work, learn, and fully participate in our society, but also enriches the texture of American community life. America reaps the benefi ts of the contributions individuals with mental disabilities can make, ultimately becoming a stronger and healthier Nation.
article found at SAMHSA
DVD's About Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia enjoy the RIGHTS OF ALL CITIZENS, i.e.:
Participation in legal agreements: marriage, & business, etc.
Most states have a bill of rights for those with serious mental illness. These include:
The right to privacy.
Treatment with the fewest possible restrictions.
Video: What Schizophrenia Is Part 1
Video: What Schizophrenia Is Part 2
Mental Health/Schizophrenia Links
- Natiional Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families, and friends of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia . . .
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is dedicated to research focused on the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health. Go to the "science news" section for many good articles on Schizop
- Website Dedicated To Schizophrenia
The leading independent info source on schizophrenia diagnosis, treatments, news, blogs, support groups and education.
- Schizophrenia: Costly By-product Of Human Brain Evolution?
"Our new research suggests that schizophrenia is a by-product of the increased metabolic demands brought about during human brain evolution". . .
- Science Daily
Many articles on different mind/brain disorders, including several interesting ones on new schizophrenia research.
- Planned Lifetime Assistance Network
PLAN programs were developed to meet the needs of families who are actively planning for the future of an adult child with a disability.
- Article: Brain's Wiring Stunted, Lopsided in Childhood Onset Schizophrenia
Growth of the brain's long distance connections, called white matter, is stunted and lopsided in children who develop psychosis before puberty, NIMH researchers have discovered. The yearly growth rate of this brain tissue was up to 2.2 percent slower
- Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder symptoms look like a mixture of two kinds of major mental illnesses that are usually thought to run in different families, involve different brain mechanisms, develop in different ways, and respond to different treatments: mo
Patient assistance programs are run by pharmaceutical companies to provide free medications to people who cannot afford to buy their medicine. RxAssist offers a comprehensive database of these patient assistance programs . . .
- Earth House: Residential Treatment
Earth House is a model residential treatment center for young adults suffering from major mental disorders such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder. To complement medical treatment, the program requires a wholesome diet, daily exercise and the deve
- Brainscans Show Transmission Problems in Bipolar/Schizophrenia
German researchers are now able to answer this question, at least for one common genetic variant: the genetic variant impairs the interoperation of certain regions of the brain . . .
- Schizophrenia Does Not Influence Risk of Violent Crime Schizophrenia Does Not Influence Risk of Viol
. . . the idea that people with schizophrenia are generally more violent than those without is not true," says Dr Niklas LÃ¥ngstrÃ¶m, one of the researchers behind the study.
- The Card Project
Here you'll able to order specialized GREETING CARDS with a special artistic touch. All of our cards are handcrafted and use original art created BY MENTALLY ILL CONSUMERS.
What Is Disordered Thinking?
Schizophrenia often causes a person's thoughts to rapidly come and go. It affects a person's ability to think "straight" and interferes with an individual's ability to concentrate and focus.
Thoughts can come to those with schizophrenia in illogical order, or in fragments. Their thoughts may not be relevant to the situation they are in (as far as others are concerned). Needless to say, this makes conversing a challenge.
Someone with schizophrenia told me his mind is like an old fashioned, manual, telephone switchboard, and his calls (thoughts) are routed to the wrong place.
The poet's brother had Schizophrenia
Do we haunt images
or do they haunt
Is the chicken
of the egg?
Or is the egg
of the chicken?
do we go
Are we haunted
or do we haunt,
as we play
hide and seek
~ Bob Crew ~
. . . we play hide and seek with images
Another Piece of the Puzzle Found - The pieces are slowly making a picture
- GENETIC SITE FOR SCHIZOPHRENIA DISCOVERED
An international group of researchers has found genetic evidence linking schizophrenia to a specific region of DNA - on chromosome 6. This is the same area where key genes for immune function are located. While a single gene does not appear to be th
Warning Signs of Relapse
Change in sleep habits (getting more or less)
Change in attitude about treatment (skipping therapy appts or doses of medication, apathy, etc.)
Tension, agitation or irritability
Change in eating habits, (or in appetite)
Gradual drift into depression or giddiness
Withdrawal from people
Related Mental and Personality Disorders
- Schizoaffective Disorder
Schizoaffective disorder is a condition in which a person meets the criteria for both schizophrenia and a mood disorder, such as depression . . .
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder
People with schizotypal personality disorder often have trouble engaging with others and appear emotionally distant. They find their social isolation painful, and eventually develop distorted perceptions about how interpersonal relationships form. Th
- Schizoid Personality Disorder
A condition in which people avoid social activities and consistently shy away from interaction with others. People with the disorder are generally loners with a profound inability to connect with others and form personal relationships . . .
Your opinions, experiences, suggestions, etc.