For many young people who develop Schizophrenia goals and aspirations are often neglected or given up on because of the severity and range of symptoms. Often associated with the disease are positive symptoms, auditory and/or visual hallucinations, delusional thinking, and beliefs. These things are most frequently associated with the Schizophrenia Spectrum because they are misunderstood by the general public and are very often exemplified on tv and in films. But are the negative symptoms (lack of interest and motivation, as well as flat affect and loss of socialization) overlooked and oversimplified?
A recent article in Science Daily, covering research by University of Nevada, Las Vegas, suggests that this may be the case. Positive symptoms are often the first to be treated, and perhaps that is because they are most typically treated with medication. But this same medication may not easily treat negative symptoms. However new treatment protocol may increase emphasis on behavioral interventions and therapies as well as traditional treatments with antipsychotics and other psychiatric medications.
- Gregory P. Strauss, Alicia Nuñez, Anthony O. Ahmed, Kimberly A. Barchard, Eric Granholm, Brian Kirkpatrick, James M. Gold, Daniel N. Allen. The Latent Structure of Negative Symptoms in Schizophrenia. JAMA Psychiatry, 2018; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.2475
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (2018, November 27). Keep it complex: Study shows that previous research oversimplified Schizophrenia symptoms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 26, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181127171402.htm
I’ve been fighting chronic health conditions for years.
Every day when I didn’t want to get up I knew I couldn’t give in. But it wasn’t always so easy for me. When the voices started I listened to them. When they told me to hide I hid. When they told me to stay in bed I pulled the pillow back over my head. When they told me that there was a higher power, unnamed though it was, that whispered when the wind blew, I prayed to the wind. When they told me I was a piece of shit I believed them. When they told me my medicine was poison I dumped them down the toilet. I ate when they said I could and didn’t eat when they wouldn’t let me. I counted the patterns in the colors of the cars that drove by me.
When they suggested I kill myself I gave it my best shot.
Now I’m glad I’m here, alive, breathing, thinking, writing and creating. I’m glad to see the sunrise and the wind doesn’t whisper like it used to.
I used to have visual hallucinations. More real than you in front of me. More real because that’s what my brain told me. So real that I felt their breath sometimes, felt their fingers on the back of my neck, saw their eyes move as they watched me. You can’t know what it’s like to hallucinate until you have.
My last visual hallucination was of an alien set upon reading my mind by sticking his fingers in my brain. That was three years ago. My brain’s last attempt at lying to my eyes. Though sometimes it still plays tricks and I see red cats out of the corner of my eye.
But the voices, they never stopped. They’ve been a constant part of my life for about five years now. It’s never quiet. There is never an instant of silence. It sounds like a beehive inside my head. Like a congested subway. Like a too full elevator. It sounds like panic and sadness and mania and anger. Some I can understand and some I can’t. Some sound like a radio in the other room. Some voices sound like voices sound. Some sound like dull hum of white noise. Some come from outside my head and make me turn around, scan the landscape or the crowd. There’s never a source, at least not one other than my own head.
Not to be confused with, “It’s all in your head.” One thing I’ve learned is to never let anyone get away with saying that. As if your brain isn’t part of your body. As if they don’t function as a whole. As if they don’t work together to create absolutely every experience you’ve ever had, every feeling you’ve never felt, every movement you’ve never made, any sound you’ve ever heard, every taste you ever tasted. You cannot have one without the other. The brain and body exist together, one thing that has one goal. When you are sad it’s the whole body that is sad, and when you cry it’s the whole body that cries. It’s the whole body that becomes tired. It’s the whole body which achieves happiness. It’s the whole body which becomes sick. You cannot have the oceans without the moon, or day without night, or spring without winter.
It’s with my entirety that I have Schizoaffective Disorder, it’s my entirety with which I fight. It’s my entirety with which I breathe. This how all things exist. With their entirety.
I’ve learned that my hallucinations are part of me. It’s who I am. Illness is a part of me. But life is a part of me too. Happiness is a part of me. And my body and my brain, they are me.
“It’s not all in my head.”
“It’s all of me.”
You cannot fight a war against yourself. Instead, you’ve got to learn to live with yourself. You’ve got to learn to be gentle with yourself. To let yourself breathe and sleep and wake and you’ve got to move and experience. But that’s all. If you can’t bare anything else today, just exist. Exist from where you are. Life can’t ask anything more from you.
Just exist and tomorrow try and exist a little bit more.
Chronic illness, mental illness, an illness which endures is indescribable. It’s made up of pain which cannot be fully understood without actually experiencing it. People with illnesses and injuries, people like myself, aren’t placated into inaction. It’s not as if we don’t strive for the same things you do. It’s not as if we don’t want to excel. It’s that, to no fault of our own, one day we were thrust into a world inept to meet our challenges. This world wasn’t designed for us. The dreams we once had are dashed when we are told what we won’t ever be able to do again.
After my diagnosis of Schizophrenia, it was a death sentence. I’d never do anything worthwhile for the rest of my life. Called ‘profoundly disabled’. It was suggested that I live in a group home until I might end up in the hospital for a long-term stay. But almost four years later I’ve bought my own house and work part-time. I’m a student about to embark on a four-year program to a masters degree. I’m a published author and advocate for other people with psychotic disorders.
I’ve come so much further than any doctor would’ve dare predict. I am not afraid and in fact, I feel powerful. Like I have power over myself and a mind which doesn’t have my best interest at heart. Battles waged against ourselves are often the scariest. And certainly, they are the most difficult. But, when we face ourselves we experience a transformative journey. One which spurs us onward to wellness. That journey wasn’t easy for me and at times I lost myself. Those closest to me, those who were with me at my worst, know that at times I came close to losing the light. But I’m here now and ready to help those who find themselves on the edge like I once did. People with Schizophrenia are told there is no recovery. But I beg to differ. Hard work, harder work than you’ve ever done before, determination, and support dictates your own journey. Everybody’s recovery may look different in the end. But what’s most important is that you didn’t give up. Even when your symptoms were at their worst. And that you pushed yourself as hard as you possibly could.
The message here isn’t just, “don’t give up!” It’s, “recovery is possible, don’t lose hope.”
A new glance into our neurodevelopment poses that the placenta may play a key roll in a heightened risk for developing Schizophrenia. This study suggests that complications of the placenta may help to ‘turn on’ some of the genes that have been associated with diseases of the brain. Ones like ADHD, Autism, and Schizophrenia. For years now brain development has been the key hypothesis that points to the likelihood that Schizophrenia is actually a neurodevelopmental disorder. As opposed to a mood or personality disorder. Unfortunately, the biomechanisms on how this change occurs in the growing brain has remained misunderstood.
“While the subject of myth and ritual in many cultures, the placenta remains a scientifically neglected human organ, despite its essential role for supplying nutrients and chemicals critical for normal prenatal development. Indeed, the placenta is the only organ removed from a human body that is not routinely sent to the laboratory for examination.
For over a quarter of a century, brain development during pregnancy and shortly after birth has remained central to a hypothesis that Schizophrenia is a neurodevelopment disorder. However, the biological mechanisms involved were poorly understood. Previous studies have shown that genetic variants alone increase the odds of developing Schizophrenia by only a fraction, while early life complications during pregnancy and labor can increase the risk by up to two-fold. The Lieber Institute investigators studied over 2800 adult individuals, 2038 of whom had Schizophrenia, of various ethnic backgrounds from four countries, including the USA, Europe, and Asia. All had undergone genetic testing and were surveyed for obstetrical history information.”
Researchers have found a prominent link between genetic variations in Schizophrenia and serious pregnancy complications.
These hypotheses begin to help us understand the larger male than female ratio in developmental behavioral disorders, a list in which Schizophrenia is included. Males have a two to four times greater risk of developing these type of disorders and this study may help us see why. It’s become partly clear that placenta complications are more abundant in male birth.
Finding ways to understand the why and how people go on to develop something as serious as Schizophrenia can help us to intervene with high-risk individuals. This research, though at its beginning, could help us immensely in the future.
Burness. “Genes, environment, and schizophrenia: New study finds the placenta is the missing link: “Placenta may also hold the key to why neurodevelopmental brain disorders are more common in males.”
ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2018.