How Schizophrenia can destroy your life

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Mary’s story

In 1990 Mary was beginning to hear voices for the first time. Mary was living in the United States and life was great. She had just been promoted to a professional grade at a large investment company. Mary was married for nearly six years and owned her own apartment, she was 25. Within the course of a few weeks, Mary started having false memories about social occasions with other people, believing things had happened, when in fact they had not. Denying her husband’s advice that nothing was wrong with her, Mary went to the psychiatry department of her local health centre. Mary was taken to hospital and told that she was having a psychosis.

Once a patient in the hospital, Mary was put on medication and soon began to understand that the voices she was hearing were her own thoughts. To get out of the hospital Mary told the doctors she no longer heard the voices.

Schizophrenia has always been a mystery. Ever since Emil Kreaplin claimed he had discovered an incurable, degenerated illness at the turn of the 19th century, no has been found. Schizophrenia is the collective name of negative, cognitive and positive symptoms, like depression, delusions, hallucinations and paranoid thoughts. The two most common models which explain the the cause of Schizophrenia are currently the Medical or Disease Model and the Social Model.

 We all know of a person who is or has been suffering from depression. In most cases depression can be conquered with the help of medication or therapy. However when life seems to be going well one doesn’t expect to become depressed or get panic attacks; especially when the person is young and life is only just beginning. Nevertheless there are many young people between 14 and 26 who experience these and other symptoms. Some have experienced trauma but others haven’t.

 Adolescence is a period wherein a person develops the last parts of the body and brain. These are enormous changes and may cause much psychological pain and confusion. Many discoveries like sexuality are made in this period. To contribute to the chaos major factors like exams, finding a job and relationships are thrown in. It is also in this period that many young people experiment with drugs and alcohol.

 Alcohol is affecting the neurotransmitter in the cortex, the cerebellum, the hippocampus, the amygdala, the superior and the inferior colliculi. And for example Cannabis is mainly affecting the nuclues accumbens, the caudate but also the cerebullum and the hippocampus. These are all located in the mid brain which contains dopaminegic neurons.

 When using excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs, or when experiencing extreme stress, the stress hormones suppress the activity of the hippocampus. As a result the hippocampus loses its ability to function normal. In normal circumstances the amygdala sends alarm messengers to the cortex when needed. The hippocampus assists in the transfer of this information. When the cortex realises that the danger is over it instructs the amygdala to stand down. This is what’s suppose to happen. However when this process is distorted the person might develop an anxiety disorder, which may include paranoid thoughts and delusions. The person may also have difficulties with concentrating and have low motivation. Anxiety is a very complex phenomenon and a panic attack can be extremely frightening. Some people even see shadows moving or see human or animal figures that aren’t real. This is the brain’s way of dealing with the situation at that moment. A similar thing is happening when we dream; we digest the things we’d done and work though material we’ve yet to understand.

 Psychologist see Schizophrenia as a defence against overwhelming abolition and tormenting anxieties. They interpret unconscious matter at the level of greatest anxiety, to develop awareness of the links between reality and fantasy. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is believed to be the most use full in coping with the illness.

 The dopamine hypothesis is currently the most widely accepted biochemical theory. According to this hypothesis, Schizophrenia is caused by hyperactive transmissions in neurons in the mid brain which use dopamine as a messenger. By administer patients with anti psychotic drugs these neuron transmitters are blocked. Some psychiatrists have come to the conclusion that drugs are not the answer to curing Schizophrenia and other mental illness. Post Morton’s on people who suffered from Schizophrenia stated signs of increased dopamine levels. However it has also been discovered that anti psychotic drugs not only causes a blockage of dopamine but also kicks off an attempt of the brain to compensate for the blockage. In other words, over activity in the dopamine system is caused by the anti psychotic drugs that are suppose to treat the illness.

 Throughout the centuries the Medical Model and the Social Model have divided the mental health world, the biggest losers are the sufferers of Schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. The Medical model claims that a biological defect in a person’s brain is responsible for the illness and treats patients with medication; While the Social Model claims that when a person is confronted with an extremely stressful events, the brain puts a defence mechanism in place. CBT is currently believed to be the best psychological treatment to cope with the illness.


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