Schizophrenia

I was very excited when I started medical college. The excitement resonated in my daily life and all my activities. But, of course there were a million things to study and loads of books to gobble up.
I met Anita  (name changed). She was a fellow first-year. She was a very vivacious girl and completely my type. We used to study together while pouring in several cups of coffee, laugh over silly jokes and dance together on Saturday nights. People, who knew us well, started calling us the ‘troublesome duo’ because we managed to conjure jokes on them out of thin air.
English: A schizophrenic patient at the Glore ...
English: A schizophrenic patient at the Glore Psychiatric Museum made this piece of cloth and it gives us a peek into her mind. The Glore Psychiatric Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Anita was a day scholar. She lived in a girls’ lodge. When we entered second year, I observed a distinct change in her. She suddenly grew serious. At first, I ignored it thinking it was the outcome of the hectic life as a medical student since everybody used to get serious at some point or the other. But Anita suddenly stopped sharing things with me like she used to earlier and would also get annoyed at the slightest joke. She would sometimes stare at me incomprehensibly and used to remain completely wide-eyed. Then she started having frequent out-bursts and would get extremely rude to everyone around her. But soon she would come to me, hug me and cry profusely.
I could not understand the sudden change in her. I really wish I had. After a few months, Anita completely stopped coming to college. I even tried to coax her into coming but she wouldn’t budge. When I noticed her staring at the windows blank eyed with all the lights in the room turned off, as she mumbled to herself, I immediately informed her parents. But it was already too late. Before she let anyone help her, she killed herself.
That might seem like a long story but it’s something a person needs to know about. After Anita passed away,I went on reading and trying to figure out what had actually transpired in her head that made her take her own life. Anita had schizophrenia. She was probably even planning to get psychiatric help but we, her friends, who were with her most of the time, never bothered to understand what was troubling her. That is very very sad indeed.
Schizophrenia, a severe,disabling brain disease affects millions of people world-wide every year. One of the reasons for the growing number of cases is also the fact that most of these cases go unnoticed (people mistake it as mood swings pertaining to a certain age) and thereby do not receive proper, prompt treatment.
Terrifying symptoms like hearing internal voices, believing others are reading their thoughts, or are controlling them or may be plotting to harm them, all these accompany schizophrenia. I should have realized that Anita was at constant conflict with herself, always in two minds about things.
The first signs of the disease are shocking changes in behaviour, the patient lives in fear and withdraws. There may be a psychotic phase in which the patient becomes violent, loses emotional responsiveness, and keeps on feeling remorse for totally irrelevant things. his ability to think straight is impaired, thoughts come and go rapidly and he is not able to focus on one thing for long. The sufferer has an incomprehensible speech and behavior, which may be frightening to others. A schizophrenic lives in a world of delusions, hallucinations, and illusions.
Space-filling model of the chlorpromazine mole...
Space-filling model of the chlorpromazine molecule. X-ray diffraction data from H. S. Yathirajan, M. A. Ashok, B. Narayana Achar and M. Bolte (April 2007). “Chlorpromazinium picrate”. Acta. Cryst. E63 (4) : o1795-o1797. DOI:10.1107/S1600536807011555. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Schizophrenia is NOT a split personality disorder. It is a mental disease characterized by breakdown of thought processes.
The etiological factors are many. There are genetic factors, environmental factors as well as neurological factors. Majority of cases though are attributed to excessive dopamine function (due to misfiring of dopaminergic neurons and excessive activation of D2 receptors in the brain). Drugs like amphetamine,cocaine can cause psychotic symptoms similar to schizophrenia hence they should be excluded through blood tests, urine analysis and other lab tests. Thyrotoxicosis can sometimes cause psychotic symptoms too hence excluded through analysis of TSH levels. This disorder should also not be confused with bipolar disorder (for the entire diagnostic criteria, please refer to Wikipedia and www.schizophrenia.com).
What I wrote above must have given a very dreary picture right? Well the truth is schizophrenia is very difficult to treat. There is a high frequency of relapse, high rates of suicides and people often resort to drug abuse. But, I have even come across patients who have an indomitable spirit to live, and live as life should be led; those, who refuse to bow down to voices, refuse to be bogged down by depression. Patients often have to take antipsychotic medications life long. Although these medications have a few side effects, like tardive dyskinesia(involuntary movements of the extremities),and cognitive impairment, proper follow-up must be carried out by consulting a well-qualified psychologist or a neurologist.
 Schizophrenics can lead an absolutely normal life with the proper medications, lots of love and care and just a little patience.
John Nash, the Economics Nobel prize winner for the game theory was a confirmed schizophrenic. Not much different was Beethoven who was deaf.
Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing t...
Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing the Missa Solemnis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The patients should be counselled, and motivated to continue treatment. The family should be educated about the condition and mental state of the patient.
So, y’all stay alert. If you notice any signs of depression, withdrawal, or any unusual behaviour in any of your people consult a doctor immediately. It might only be a mild mood swing but it will at least save people  from a lifetime of distress. And most important, stay happy! Because the world was supposed to end in 2012 (nothing could be worse than that!)…and yuppie it didn’t!! A very happy new year, everybody!
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© The Idea Bucket, 2013. (Submitted By team-member, Pallavi)
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8 Comments

  1. I am sorry about your friend. Thank you for trying to inform people. I’d like to leave a note to your readers on behalf of my aunt, my brother, and my friends.

    Please do not get information from either of these two sources: Wikipedia or http://www.schizophrenia.com. Wikipedia is just plain ridiculous; the other is only there to help the APA push drugs, and get more money. Same with the NIMH.

    The dopamine theory is not the cause.

    The drugs have more than a “few” side-effects. They are really quite horrible: brain damage, early death, organ damage, increased psychoses, addiction; they’re all crap, and they are pushed through regulation with improper testing by an FDA that takes Pharm industry, lobbying money.

    Patients need support; proper diet low in sugar, toxins, carbs (endocrine balance); CBT; consistent and effective out-patient therapy; low-dose medications based on complete blood/hormone tests and physicals; exercise; socialization; regularly anticipated tasks with expected completion; routine; and no TV or internet until functioning is restored.

    Drugs are not the answer. The source is not the brain. Do not buy the hype.

    Thank you.

  2. That is a really good post and I’m sorry to hear about your experience. You know it is no way your fault. I have experience of mental health issues and I think every person is different and it is impossible to know what is going on in other’s heads. I agree, it is good to be sensitive to changes in friends moods, etc. Any support helps when dealing with such scary things! I do love your blog, thank you!

  3. I also knew a man who descended into schizophrenia during my college years. I so did not get it. His parents came and took him home. Thirty years later my own son developed schizo-effective disorder. It is on the spectrum between bi-polar and schizophrenia. These are ruthless, heartbreaking illnesses. A normal life with schizophrenia is rare. Medicines improve, but are not perfect. Ten years later, as he approaches 30, he improves. He can have a good life, just not the life we all envisioned, or that he envisioned. He is alive, and we are fortunate for that. He has come close to death numerous times. As you aptly point out, compassion, understanding, and patience as well as love from friends and family matter greatly.

  4. Am sorry to hear about your friend. Sometimes we take for granted when someone has a mood change, that eventually it will right itself until later it is too late; but it is not real easy to know a person very well even if you live with them everyday.

  5. It is really sad what happened to Anita. I dated one guy who had schizophrenia. He told me, and I accepted him the way he was because I believe the nurture also can help people. Everything was great until one day he abandoned me without any reason. Then, five years later he showed up asking me to be back with him. But, I moved on and we remained friendship.

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