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Arkansas Catholic
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November 18, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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lel -',.~.~' :!,7~*~.t L?| ~flr;~",/,".lil "%: 7,~'~,L.TT,'$-', "~i',.~!>li',.!:'ll~ I? PAGE 12 ARKANSAS CATHOUC NOVEMBER |8, !990 [ A misunderstood illness By Carol R. Siemon, Phi) Fashion Page headline: Fall Fashions Schizophrenic! Many people use the word "schizo- phrenia" casually, as if it described a common, every- day experience. Fortunately, it is not an experi- ence common to most of us. Un- fortunately, it /s common to one out of every ten Americans, and ~ ' "g it is a much more IIL Dr. Slernon painful and se- vere problem than most people realize. At least two million people in the U.S. suffer from schizophrenia on any given day. It has been estimated that 30 percent of all hospital beds in the U.S. are occupied by people suffering from schizophrenia. Persons with schizophrenia who are not in hospitals are often unable to work, and many receive Social Security Dis- ability. Consequently, the costs of schizophrenia - economic, personal and social - are high. Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain which frequently develops at a relatively young age and is rarely "cured." Young adults, adolescents and even some children may develop the disease. People who develop schizo- phrenia tend to remain chronically ill for much of their lives and are unable to function at a high level. A few may have scattered episodes of the illness and be relatively symptom- free in between. Others may be able to perform low-stress jobs which do not demand much social interaction with other people. Some people who have schizophrenia live in the community with help from social assistance pro- grams and some depend on half-way houses or sheltered workshops. In the past, treatment for schizo- phrenia relied on the use of drugs and a once-a-week psychotherapy session. Current treatment strategies use case management to help people with schizophrenia learn or relearn basic coping skills. Goals for treatment are to help them manage the demands of daily living such as paying the rent and utility bills, grocery shopping, hygiene and social interaction. They are also given information about their disease and how to recognize and manage their symptoms. Schizophrenia has many symptoms, all of which can also occur at least occasionally in other diseases of the brain. Therefore it is essential that the diagnosis only be given after a careful and complete evaluation from a medi- cal professional to "rule out" other dis- eases. The first symptom of schizophre- nia is often a gradual deterioration in overall functioning. Relatives and friends may notice social withdrawal, poor functioning, odd behavior, poor hygiene, odd emotions, unusual com- munication styles and peculiar ideas. Sometimes the person reports height- ened sensoryexperiences such as extra loud noises, more intense colors and exaggerated sensitivity to smell, taste and touch. On the other hand, the op- posite effect can also occur, particularly in the later states of the disease when the patient's senses are blunted. Then the person may experience little or no sensation or emotion, even to the point of being insensitive to pain. Another common symptom of schizophrenia is the inability to put ideas together to form sensible thoughts. Schizophrenics may make jumbled connections between words and ideas, or they associate unusual meanings to words. If we were to listen to a schizophrenic talking, we might hear words put together that almost seem correct, but suddenly at the end of the person's sentence or paragraph realize that what she or he is saying doesn't make sense. Frequently schizophrenics string unrelated words together in a "word salad." The person "The contemporary his- toryof schizophrenia in the U.S. is a history of neglect." might say "goofball, jungle not, yester- day?" Sometimes schizophrenics seem to be unable to make decisions. For instance, a person might go back and forth for five minutes at the end of a hallway trying to decide which way to turn. This is not the common indecisive experi- ence you and I may have trying to de- cide which color we should choose when we buy a new car. Probably the most dramatic and well- known symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions and hallucinations. Although delusions and hallucinations do not have to be present to diagnose schizo- phrenia, they are very important and common symptoms of this disease. To patients, their delusions and halluci- nations are the logical results ofwhat is happening in their brains. Only to outsiders do the delusions and hallu- cinations seem "crazy." Delusions are false ideas believed by the schizophrenic but not believed by other people in his or her culture. The belief cannot be corrected by trying to reason with the person. A schizophrenic may, for instance, believe she is re- ceiving messages from somewhere in outer space that only she can under- stand. A common theme of delusions is that the FBI or CIA are controlling the schizophrenic by means of wires that have been implanted in the person's skull. Grandiose delusions that often lead the person to believe she or he is an important person like Napolean, Jesus or the Virgin Mary are also common. Hallucinations, on the other hand, are greatly distorted sights or sounds which the schizophrenic's brain creates out of common experi- ences. An example might be seeing an- other person appear to grow taller and taller and suddenly shrink to a very small size. Or, a hallucination might be sights, sounds, smells or tastes that the brain makes up without any outside stimulus. Schizophrenics often hear voices in their heads or coming from other parts of the room or just out of the air. Most of the time the voices are unpleasant, cursing the person, blaming him for past mistakes or accusing her of shame- ful deeds, thoughts or feelings. Visual hallucinations usually occur with audi- tory hallucinations. Examples might be flashes of brightly colored lights, faces or visions of people who aren't really there. (But other disorders can also cause hallucinations, and ifa person is "seeing things" or "smelling things" but never "hearing things," the cause may well be from some other brain disease / or alcohol or drug intoxication.) | People often mistakenly think 0] schizophrenia as a "split personality th but it's more accurate to think of it]in a "shattered personality." It is notk multiple personality disorders, and though many schizophrenics feel tta, pressed from time to time iris differ f0] from maniodepressive illness and o thl mood disorders. Psychotic reacfi0 J ("breaks from reality") can look a fit we like schizbPDresnid, bUt are short- ] and can y extreme trau d0 drug overdose, tumors, high fever I' other medical problems. J In the past, physicians were tau that schizophrenia was caused]iih childhood trauma resulting from u] .,' interactions of the child and the "C ! ents. Mothers were descnbed as ! eaz and aloof" while fathers were "passie] Later theorists believed that patholq 0 cal family interactions were lmpor. lia factors in the development of schi xi0t phrenia. But studies in recent point more and more to genetic, chemical, viral and nutritional as possible causes of schizophrenia. In the next ten years we will ably have considerable new about brain diseases, including phrenia. New technologies for the human brain are generating knowledge and theories about puzzling mental illness. Lack of and a relative shortage of will be the main factors in limiting data unless schizophrenia research creases in priority. One writer that "the contemporary history schizophrenia in the U.S. is a historY neglect." One of the most hopeful trendt recent years is that more and families and friends of schizophreL" people are forming lobbies and acrid| groups to raise public and le consciousness. They are equally cerned with making services widely available and the resources available for researCl* People interested in learning about this debilitating mental may want to read Surviving phrenia; A Family Manual Torrey, MD; How You Can Guide for Families of Psychl Hospital Patients by When the Mental Patient "by George Bennett. _, The National Alliance for the 1 tally Ill is a self-help group for fa# of people with serious emotional orders. Their address is 1234 chusetts Ave. NW, Washington, 20005. In Arkansas this group is kst as Help and Hope, Incorporated i the phone number is 661-1548. / gist for Professional Counseling asso h-j., r, in LRae Rock and is a member of I~'t~ late Conception.) .L '