A breakdown in the correct circuitry between the prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum is likely to blame for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. According to a new study from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, doctors can now treat negative symptoms directly, this is something traditional antipsychotic treatment (which treats only positive symptoms) has never been able to do. This is a huge breakthrough for people with schizophrenia. People tend to see schizophrenia through one lense, assuming that the only symptoms are hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. This certainly isn’t true for anyone. Some people with schizophrenia will have only hallucinations while others might have only delusions (with no hallucinatory symptomology). But even this is flawed because this view of schizophrenia leaves out all negative symptoms like social isolation, inability to feel happiness, flat affect, and total lack of motivation and many, many more. Many people attribute these symptoms as side effects of strong medications, this would be incorrect. While antipsychotics can, and often do, have side effects, negative symptoms stand on their own.
Negative symptoms are debilitating, for some people just as much or more so than positive symptoms. We tend to over-associate positive symptoms with the disease, and as a repercussion, many of the trial treatments, and much of the research tend to sound only in the direction of treat the one type of symptomology. This mindset leaves an entire, exhausting, aspect of schizophrenia untreated.
So, what is most important about this study, is that researchers and doctors are finally pushing to uncover and treat the source of negative symptoms. If this type of treatment was approved it would bring relief to many, even if it doesn’t work for everyone.
Negative Symptoms: Apathy, absent, blunted or emotional responses, reductions in speech, social withdrawal, trouble paying attention, inability to feel pleasure, sexual problems (near to total lack of libido), lethargy, lack of facial expression, talking very little.
Positive Symptoms: Hallucinations (visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory), delusions, thought disorders(illogical thinking), movement disorders(repetitive movements, or a complete lack of movement or speech).
Every person’s experience with schizophrenia is different and varies greatly in severity. While some people may have many of these symptoms, others may have less. Additionally, all of these symptoms run on their own spectrum (from very severe to less severe versions of the same symptom).
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. (2019, January 30). Researchers ID, treat faulty brain circuitry underlying symptoms of schizophrenia: Non-invasive brain stimulation alleviates the chronic, treatment-resistant symptoms of schizophrenia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 9, 2019 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190130075801.htm
A recently published study suggests a strikingly high mortality rate for people schizophrenia, epilepsy, or the combination of both illnesses. Many of whom died between 25 and 50. In SARDAA’s campaign for the reclassification of schizophrenia from mental illness to a neurological one, they also present supporting information that, “There are published studies suggesting that patients with schizophrenia die on average 28.5 years sooner than other Americans…Unfortunately, lack of treatment leads to severe negative health outcomes. If correct, this means that individuals with schizophrenia have a life expectancy similar to that of Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, co-occurring medical conditions, such as heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes, contribute to the higher premature mortality rate among individuals with schizophrenia. Possible reasons for this excess early mortality are increased rates of these medical conditions and under-detection and under-treatment of them” (SARDAA’s reclassification letter to the CDC).
This study specifically says that “The mortality rate for these subjects at age fifty was 3.1 percent for people who did not suffer from epilepsy and schizophrenia; 10.7 percent for people with epilepsy; 17.4 percent for people with schizophrenia; and 27.2 percent for people with both epilepsy and schizophrenia.”
With more than one published study pointing to an epidemic amount of younger people dying from treatable conditions, it’s impossible to dismiss. Schizophrenia has too long been stigmatized and seen as an impossible to treat condition, not unlike epilepsy. This stigmatization should be viewed for what it is, discrimination. Discrimination which is leading many people to early deaths with little consideration from medical professionals. People with schizophrenia have done nothing to deserve to die so much earlier than the general population, and yet, we are. We aren’t dying from schizophrenia (not directly, although death by suicide will claim about 15% of people with schizophrenia). We are dying from diseases which are treatable, curable, and reversible. Although many of these diseases are bought on by poor lifestyle choices, they are still treatable. Physicians choose not to treat people with schizophrenia simply because they have schizophrenia. Physicians choose not to educate and work with patients on healthier lifestyles simply because they have schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia are often over-medicated simply for having schizophrenia, physicians are choosing not to work with patients on correct medication dosing SIMPLY FOR HAVING SCHIZOPHRENIA.
This isn’t stigma, this is discrimination.
This isn’t a misunderstanding, this is the conscious choice not to educate and understand schizophrenia.
WE CAN DO BETTER.
WE HAVE TO DO BETTER.
- Katrine M. Andersen, Liselotte V. Petersen, Mogens Vestergaard, Carsten B. Pedersen, Jakob Christensen. Premature mortality in persons with epilepsy and schizophrenia: A population‐based nationwide cohort study. Epilepsia, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/epi.15158
- SUPPORT THE RECLASSIFICATION OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
- Schizophrenia and death by suicide.
Join me and sign letters to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) to promote the reclassification of Schizophrenia from a mental illness to a neurological/brain disease. Reclassification of Schizophrenia would greatly improve the care of those with the illness, as well as make treatment options more accessible. Reclassification would also end incarceration of those with the illness and reduce homelessness in people with Schizophrenia.