Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Forget the headlines-schizophrenia is more common than you think

That is the title of this article.  What do they mean by it is more common than we would think? “Schizophrenia isn’t a specific, rare or rigorously defined illness. Instead, it covers a wide range of often unrelated conditions, all of which are also seen in people who are not mentally ill.  Which illness frightens you most? ‘Cancer?’ ‘Stroke?’ ‘Dementia?’ To judge from tabloid coverage, the condition we should really fear isn’t physical at all. Scared of mum’s schizophrenic attacks, Knife-wielding schizophrenic woman in court,  Schizo stranger killed dad, Rachel murder: schizo accused and My schizophrenic son says he’ll kill… but he’s escaped from secure hospitals 7 times are just a few of dozens of similar headlines we found in a cursory internet search.  Mental illness, these stories imply, is dangerous.  And schizophrenia is the most dangerous.”  All those headlines do to me is get me mad.  We are not all like that.  When I was ill I just was trying to figure what was wrong with me.  In prison when I first was ill I just wanted to be left alone and was paranoid.
Why do the headlines always make the mental ill to be bad why don’t they put up stories about the people that are doing well? “Such reporting is unhelpful, misleading and manipulative.  But it may be even more inaccurate than it first appears.   This is because scientists are increasingly doubtful whether schizophrenia- a term invented more than a century ago by the psychiatric pioneer Eugen Bleuler – is a distinct illness at all.  This isn’t to say that individuals diagnosed with the condition don’t have genuine and serious mental health problems.  But how well the label ‘schizophrenia’ fits those problems is now a very real question.  What’s wrong with the concept of schizophrenia? For one thing, research indicates the term may simply be functioning as a catch-all for a variety of separate problems.  Six main conditions are typically caught under the umbrella of schizophrenia: paranoia: grandiosity (delusional beliefs that one has special powers or is famous); hallucinations (hearing voices, for example); thought disorder (being able to think straight); anhedonia or the inability to experience pleasure; and diminished emotional expression (essentially an emotional ‘numbness’).  But how many of these problems a person experiences, and how severely, varies enormously.  Having one doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily develop any of the others.”  I had most of them when I was ill.  Not in prison then I just had paranoia.  That was one time I did talk to a psychiatrist even though I am shy by nature.  I just wanted to figure out what was happening to me.
Well what causes it to happen to people? “Experiences like paranoia are also linked with a number of psychological traits, such as a tendency to worry, feel depressed, sleep poorly, or jump to conclusions,  These factors seem to work in what scientists call a ‘dose-response’ manner: the more of them you experience, the more likely it is that your mental health will suffer.   Genetic factors also play a part, though there’s no evidence for a single ‘schizophrenia’ gene. Instead, a multitude of genes are likely to be involved- with their effect, crucially, conditioned by environmental factors.  So the people who end up being treated for schizophrenia aren’t the unlucky few who happen to have inherited a rogue gene. The more of the relevant genes you possess, the further you are to the extreme end of the spectrum and the less of a push you’ll need from life events to become ill.”  All I did was get angry and that is the last thing I remember in prison.  I was in solitary and laid down all I remember after that is waking up in a different cell and paranoid.
The last of this article says: “This isn’t merely a theoretical issue: if we target specific problems, rather than a loosely defined illness, we’re likely to improve treatment outcomes for the many people struggling with these debilitating experiences.”  Not everyone has schizophrenia but fall into one or more categories of the illness.  Schizophrenia is the worst to have so I guess they all would not like to be diagnosed with it if they only have one of the criteria.

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