Guest Post: Understanding Schizophrenia

This week I would like to introduce a guest blogger, The Beast. The Beast is a college student majoring in Biology, who also happens to suffer from schizophrenia, making everyday tasks that are autonomous to us, such as showering, eating, talking, etc. potentially quite difficult to nearly impossible. Portrayal of schizophrenia is often quite extreme in the media, showing either criminals who are mentally ill, or homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. In addition to, and perhaps because of this portrayal, there are many misconceptions about the illness, which hinders social awareness. This article by The Beast gives great insight into further understanding schizophrenia, as well as potentially dispel misconceptions individuals may have associated with the mental illness.


Understanding Schizophrenia

by The Beast at Mouth of the Beast

My sophomore year in college was a difficult one. I went from having excellent grades to failing  all but one class, I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t study, at night voices rung inside my head, and at  my worst, I became immobile, frozen for over half an hour. After a few weeks of this, I got help, and was eventually diagnosed with prodromal schizophrenia. The early, less severe, stage of the disease. Statistically, I have about a fifty fifty chance of developing the full disorder…

What is Schizophrenia?

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, schizophrenia is a thought disorder that effects about one in a hundred people. That may not sound like a lot, but think about sitting down in a large lecture hall or busy theater, chances are one or more people in those rooms have schizophrenia. One out of every hundred adds up to millions of sufferers in the US alone.  But what exactly IS schizophrenia? Well, there’s no easy answer, because the disease effects everyone so differently. Most psychiatrists break the symptoms of schizophrenia into negative, positive, and cognitive symptoms. People who have the disease may have few to all of these symptoms.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms are symptoms that are added when the disease develops. Positive does not mean good, it simply means something additional is happening to the person. They may include the following…

Delusions, adamant belief in things that are untrue or not real. For example, a person may believe they are the reincarnation of Jesus, or that the FBI is stealing their thoughts. They will believe these things despite evidence against it.

“Word Salad” is another word for disorganized speech. Sometimes people with schizophrenia may be unable to coherently form sentences and thoughts that make sense to other people. This is often called “word salad” because it presents as a bundled hodgepodge of words.

Hallucinations, hearing, seeing, feeling, or even tasting things that are not real, such as the voices and noises I hear at night. Often, and unfortunately, the voices are negative in nature. They may also command the sufferer, for example, to kill or hurt themselves. For this and other reasons suicide and self harm rates in schizophrenia are extremely elevated, with about forty percent attempting suicide at some point.

Catatonia, this is what I was experiencing when I was “frozen”, it is the inability to react to the outside environment. It can present as complete lack of motion or repetitive movements with no reaction to the outside world. It can go on for hours, day, or longer…

Negative Symptoms

Many schizophrenia sufferers also suffer from negative symptoms. Negative symptoms are when a person loses a capacity that they had before the onset of the disease. They include…

Flatness, inability or lack of propensity to display emotion, they may also speak in a flat, monotone voice.

Lack of Enjoyment, people with the disease may find themselves unable to enjoy life.

Lack of Motivation, inability to complete or start objectives. This makes school, work, and life in general difficult for many people with the illness.

Alogia, or lack of speech, is when a person speaks less, speaks less fluently, and/or takes longer to speak.

Cognitive Symptoms

Schizophrenia often affects the way people think in a negative way, these are cognitive symptoms. Schizophrenia is a disease that slowly eats away at the grey matter of the brain. Because of this, it should be no surprise that cognitive symptoms occur.

Disorganized Thinking, inability to think in a logical manner.

Difficulty Understanding, this was my biggest problem before I got treatment. I could literally not read a word on a page due to not understanding the letters. It is truly a horrendous feeling.

Trouble Concentrating

Trouble with Memory

Lack of Awareness, many people with schizophrenia are unable to understand that they have the disorder. Oftentimes this makes treatment difficult.

Types of Schizophrenia

Although removed from the DSM V, the “Bible” of psychiatry, I will include the old subtypes of schizophrenia here, so that you may see just how different the disease can be from person to person.

Paranoid Schizophrenia, this subtype mostly presents with positive symptoms, including paranoid delusions that someone, or something, is out to get them. Although this may sound bad, those with this subtype actually have a comparably high recovery rate. This is also the most common form of schizophrenia.

Disorganized Schizophrenia presents mostly with negative symptoms, and is also grossly disorganized in everyday life. This makes mundane tasks such as showering and remembering to eat difficult. Many homeless people have disorganized schizophrenia.

Catatonic Schizophrenia, is a diagnosis given when catatonia is present in the person. Relative to the other forms of the disease, the recovery rate is fairly low for catatonic schizophrenia.

Treatment

In the modern day, schizophrenia is treatable, but not curable. The first anti-psychotics, called typical anti-psychotics, were laden with problems and horrible side effects which made them most unpleasant to take. Modern medications are called atypical anti-psychotics, and are often more tolerable than their predecessors. Although these medications manage symptoms, they will never cure the illness.

Many people stop taking their medication, whether it be due inability to pay for it, lack of awareness of their illness, or severe side effects, this puts them at a higher risk of relapse. Anti-psychotics also do not fully protect a person from relapsing into a psychotic episode (a period where symptoms are at their worst), and medications may not work for everyone.

A lot of choosing the right medication comes down to trial and error, and that is something that must be done with the help of an experienced psychiatrist. Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) in which the person learns to manage their symptoms, is also very helpful in schizophrenia.


In addition to blogging about mental health and mental illness, The Beast also blogs about biology and photography! Check out his blog at http://www.mouthofthebeast.com/


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11 thoughts on “Guest Post: Understanding Schizophrenia

  1. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.|

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Behrouz,

    Yes I’d say so.Treatment really is key, I actually rarely hear the voices anymore because of my medication. As for triggers, in general I’d say stress triggers it, although to some degree the severity seems random, and I can have a bad night even when other things are going well. It also seems linked to my other symptoms, if I have catatonic episodes or trouble understanding things chances are I will have a bad night.

    – The Beast

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you both for the post. You actually made me read the whole thing! #interesting.

    Question for the Beast: Can you give us some examples of the voices in your head – if you don’t mind of course – like what they do say? What kind of voice are they? How do you deal with it?

    And two suggestions for Daniel: One, if at the end, The Beast’s blog were an actual link, I think it was better; two, the links throughout the text, I wish they were more visible (maybe a change of colour?) #PersonalOpinion

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the comments, Behrouz! I didn’t see that I forgot to include the hyperlink at the end. I’ll make sure to send relay your question to the Beast in case he doesn’t see it here so he can reply to your question!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m glad you enjoyed the article Behrouz.

      The voices I hear mostly talk about random things, incomplete sentences or full sentences that just don’t make sense. I’m very lucky in this regard, and in that I only hear them at night. The voices are not familiar, and are mostly male. I’ve found that sometimes they respond to what’s going on in my life, for example, I started hearing birdsong after beginning bird photography, and train whistles after taking a (terrifying) train ride. When the voices were at their worst I was able to talk to them, which was, well, fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

      As for dealing with them, for me it’s easier than you’d imagine. I usually don’t pay much attention to them as they are rather benign. Occasionally though they can be terrifying, I have heard screams before, and the voices have said things before that scared me. Usually when this happens I get up and do something, watch TV, take a walk, do anything to get my mind off it, and try to sleep again later.

      Please let me know if I can help you with anything else!

      – The Beast

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the details. “Fascinating and horrifying” exactly sums it up for me.

        I think the fact that you know why they are there helps you deal with them easier than most people in the same situation, right?

        And also, is there any specific thing that you know will trigger them?

        Liked by 2 people

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