Imagine questioning what is real and not real as if you were in a nightmare that you couldn’t awaken from.
Imagine the fear of facing an incurable disease that robs you of the hopes and dreams for your future.
Imagine withdrawing from friends and family as your inner world shatters and your new reality destroys your sense of security and sense of self.
This is life for many who suffer with schizophrenia.
<p>What is it like to have schizophrenia? What is it like to hear voices and not be able to shut them up? CNN’s Anderson Cooper did a special report on what it is like to hear voices while trying to perform everyday tasks. His conclusions will help you to understand how devastating schizophrenia can be. Watch the episode here. </p>
<p>This video includes patients who have schizophrenia - the first one could not get help from a crisis intervention program, so had to call and pay for an ambulance to get him to the hospital since he knew was was suicidal.</p>
by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.
Schizophrenia is a cruel disease. The lives of those affected are often chronicles of constricted experiences, muted motions, missed opportunities, unfulfilled expectations. It leads to a twilight existence, a twentieth-century underground man. The fate of these patients has been worsened by our propensity to misunderstand, our failure to provide adequate treatment and rehabilitation, our meager research efforts.
A disease which should be found, in the phrase of T.S. Elliot, in the “frigid purgatorial fires”, has become – through our ignorance and neglect – a living hell.”
A PATIENT’S PERSPECTIVE
“For almost seven years – except during sleep – I have never had a single moment in which I did not hear voices. They accompany me to every place and at all times; they continue to sound even when I am in conversation with other people, they persist undeterred even when I concentrate on other things, for instance – read a book or newspaper, play the piano, etc.; only when I am talking aloud to other people or to myself are they of course drowned by the stronger sound of the spoken word and therefore inaudible to me.” (Page 34)
Schizophrenia – a tormenting illness
FACTS ABOUT SCHIZOPHRENIA
Schizophrenia is a brain disease, not a psychological disorder. It has a devastating effect on all aspects of human thought, emotion, and expression. Only about 20% of patients reach full recovery after a first episode.
Schizophrenia typically occurs in men in their late teens and early twenties. For women, it is typically mid-twenties to mid-thirties. However, it can occur at any time. It affects people of all races, socio-economic backgrounds, from all parts of the world.
In spite of sometimes frightening behavior, people with schizophrenia are no more likely to behave violently than are those in the general population. In fact, these patients are more apt to withdraw from others or to harm themselves. Between 20-50% of patients with schizophrenia attempt suicide, and an estimated 9-13% commit suicide.
There is no singular cause. There is a genetic factor and most experts agree that if someone has an immediate family member with schizophrenia, they have about a 10% chance of developing it as well. However, about 60% of people with schizophrenia have no close relatives with the disease at all.
There is anecdotal evidence that there is a 5-8% greater risk of developing schizophrenia in people born in winter months when colds and viruses are more prevalent.
There are also non-genetic environmental factors that can affect the development of schizophrenia.
There is a higher risk for an unborn child when a pregnant mother is exposed to certain viral infections during pregnancy, such as rubella, measles, and chickenpox, or if become infected with toxoplasmosis, caused by contact with a parasite most frequently associated with cat feces.
Other factors that can lead to schizophrenia include overuse or misuse of psychotropic drugs (prescribed, over the counter, and recreational drugs), and even major, stressful life events.
There is no cure for schizophrenia. Medication can help relieve some of the symptoms, but that often comes with severe side effects, causing many patients to stop taking medication.
Research has shown that an integrative approach – medication, psychosocial counseling, residential and outpatient treatment programs, and job training programs geared to mentally ill patients can have a powerful effect on survivability and functionality, in addition to giving patients a sense of hope and the ability to care for themselves.
Programs that teach patients how to shop, eat, cook, clean, do laundry, and work independently, are now being emphasized in new treatment programs. Unfortunately, at this time, few patients with schizophrenia are in programs that help them find and keep jobs, and up to 90% of patients with severe mental problems are unemployed.
In the 1970s, tens of thousands of patients were put on anti-psychotic drugs and released from institutions into the community. In spite of the attempt to reduce mental hospital costs, schizophrenia still accounts for 40% of all long-term hospitalization days. More than half of patients with schizophrenia require public assistance within a year of their reentry into the community. Community treatment programs are highly beneficial and cost effective (compared to frequent hospitalizations). At this time, however, only a small percentage of patients participate in such programs.
Today, schizophrenia costs between $32.5 and $65 billion each year.
Excerpts from – Schizophrenia – In-Depth Report, from The New York Times; http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/schizophrenia/print.html