Chains

Schizophrenia – the brain disease

Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating and severe mental disorders, with a very high disease burden. According to the Singapore Burden of Disease study, mental disorders were responsible for 6.9% of the total disease and injury burden in Singapore in 2010, with more than one-third of this burden (39%) from schizophrenia and one-fourth (25%) from anxiety & depression. It was ranked 10th on the Disability-Adjusted Life Year, which is the number of years lost to a healthy life.


 

 

 

The score for Schizophrenia was 10,860, which was the highest among the other mental disorders.(MOHH, 2010) Statistics show that 1 in 100 people will eventually develop schizophrenia.

What exactly is schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterised mainly by hallucinations, delusions and disorganised speech. Hallucinations may refer to seeing or hearing things without an external stimulus, which means that a person hears voices which are inside his/her head. However, these voices or sounds may sound very real to the sufferer. Other hallucinations include tactile hallucinations, gustatory hallucinations, and olfactory hallucinations. Delusions refer to thoughts which are false beliefs and may sound illogical to others, but they are very real to the person experiencing them. Disorganised speech can include incoherent, unconnected and run-on monologues where the person seems to be talking to himself/herself/imagined people or voices.  These are the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Negative symptoms include lack of emotion, or lack of interest in pleasurable things, or social withdrawal and isolation. Other symptoms include: trouble sleeping, eating more or less, irritable or depressed mood. Schizophrenia, like other mental illness, comprises of a cluster of symptoms. Thus, two individuals suffering from the same illness may present very different symptoms.  The person afflicted with schizophrenia may experience a decline in grades or work performance and/or neglect personal hygiene. However, with early treatment and detection, people with schizophrenia are able to function well and lead meaningful lives.

Personally, I came across the word “schizophrenia” before, but I didn’t know what the illness was, until I was about 17-18, when I started reading up on mental disorders.

Myths and misconceptions:

Myth: Schizophrenia is the same as split-personality.

Truth: Schizophrenia means “split-mind” in Greek. The mind of a person suffering from schizophrenia is fragmented, and he/she is out of touch with reality. Split personality is now commonly known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), where the person assumes multiple personalities.

Myth: People with schizophrenia cannot lead full and meaningful lives.

Truth: From Eelyn Saks to John Nash, schizophrenia does not discriminate, even the minds of geniuses and professors are not spared from schizophrenia. Eelyn Saks is a famous law professor who has suffered from schizophrenia. With the help of medication, she has managed to recover and function well.

Myth: People with schizophrenia are violent

Truth: People with schizophrenia may actually be fearful of others, or appear fearful or anxious, due to their hallucinations or delusions. They may not act on their hallucinations or delusions most of the time, even when they are of a violent nature. Only in very rare circumstances, they might act upon their delusions and/or hallucinations.

Myth: Schizophrenia only strikes old people. I used to think this way, but it is not the case.

Truth: Schizophrenia most commonly strikes young people aged 18-24, at the peak of their lives, where they may encounter difficulties such as transitioning to adulthood, workforce etc.

Other disorders which include psychosis and/or psychotic disorders (mainly delusions and hallucinations, not so much of negative symptoms or cognitive symptoms):

Brief psychotic disorder: People with this illness have a sudden, short period of psychotic behaviour, often in response to a very stressful event, such as a death in the family. Recovery is often quick — usually less than a month (WebMD, 2016)

Schizophreniform disorder: Very similar to schizophrenia, but usually lasts between 1 to 6 months. If it is longer than 6 months, the diagnosis may change to schizophrenia.

Schizoaffective disorder: A disorder which includes symptoms of bipolar disorder or depression together with schizophrenia.

Psychotic depression: Major depression with psychotic features (e.g. delusions of guilt for something that they did not do, ie. commit a crime or cause someone to die, or hallucinations where they may hear people criticising them) may occur after recurrent major depressive episodes. Once psychosis has occurred with depressive episodes, subsequent episodes may  include psychotic features.

Bipolar with psychotic features: Bipolar with psychosis (eg. when manic, thinking that you’re God or you have special powers. Depressed-thinking that the someone is out to kill you.

Psychosis caused by substance abuse: May be temporary psychosis caused by abusing amphetamines, cocaine or any other illegal drugs. Also, could be caused by withdrawal by those drugs.

Psychosis caused by medical conditions: Epilepsy, seizures, delirium, ICU psychosis, etc.

Note: This is not a comprehensive guide about the types of psychotic disorders. We are not medical practitioners and we do not proclaim to be. If you would like to know whether a loved one or yourself may be suffering from a mental disorder, you might like to consult a psychiatrist. (I am also not sure about the subtle differences between schizoaffective disorder and bipolar with psychosis)

For FAQs on schizophrenia, you might want to follow this reddit thread:

Frequently Asked Questions (Read This Sticky) from schizophrenia

This does not constitute medical advice in anyway.

For information about schizophrenia:
http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/schizophrenia/

Personal stories about schizophrenia:
http://health.asiaone.com/health/health-news/i-thought-i-was-possessed-spore-man-battling-schizophrenia
https://sg.style.yahoo.com/living-schizophrenia-thought-developed-superpowers-055701623.html
http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/12/opinion/saks-mental-illness/


References, Links & Sources:

  • http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/psychotic-depression
  • http://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/guide/mental-health-psychotic-disorders#1
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/dxc-20253198
  • https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/schiz.html
  • http://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/guide/schizophrenia-symptoms#
  • http://www.schizophrenia.com/szfacts.htm#
  • https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/dam/moh_web/Publications/Reports/2014/Singapore%20Burden%20of%20Disease%20Study%202010%20Report_v3.pdf
  • http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/metrics_daly/en/
  • http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/metrics_daly/en/
  • http://schizophrenia.com/diag.php#


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