Teen pregnancy is an increased risk for teenage girls with severe mental illness. A new study from Canada suggests that girls should become a special target for anti-pregnancy efforts. Researchers also note that the pregnancy rate in girls with psychological problems has not dipped as fast as those without, indicating they are not as effected […]
New research suggests that cognitive therapy could be an effective treatment option for patients with schizophrenia who cannot or will not take antipsychotic medication. Led by Professor Anthony Morrison of the University of Manchester and Prof. Douglas Turkington of Newcastle University, the research team say that cognitive therapy could improve personal and social functioning for […]
A new study, the first of its kind, published in British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that women with schizophrenia are twice as likely to experience preeclampsia, pre-term birth and other serious pregnancy and delivery complications, as compared to women without the condition. Researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Women’s […]
New research published in the journal Neuron found that certain genes called retrotransposons — also known as jumping genes — are more common in the brains of patients with schizophrenia. Study co-author Dr. Tadafumi Kato, a neurobiologist at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan, said that jumping genes are mobile elements that copy and paste themselves at various places throughout the genome. They make up about half of the human genome, as compared to the 1 percent of genes that code for making proteins.
Kato says the research suggests that jumping genes may alter how neurons, nerve cells in the brain, form during development and in turn increase the risk of schizophrenia. Prior research has shown that a specific type of jumping gene, known as long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1), was active in brain cells. Researchers then wondered if this gene played a part in mental illness.
To find out, scientists conducted a post-mortem analysis of 120 human brains, 13 of them having been diagnosed with schizophrenia. They found that the LINE-1 copy was higher in volume in the brains that had schizophrenia. Additionally, stem cells that came from the brains with schizophrenia yielded a higher number of LINE-1 genes.
It was also found that LINE-1 genes were found in close proximity to genes associated with mental disorders which shows how neurons in the brain communicate with one another. Kato says that perhaps LINE-1 genes are inserting themselves into genes critical for brain development and when triggered by genetic or environmental factors, it may alter brain development, causing schizophrenia.
Alysson Muotri, a neurobiologist at the University of California at San Diego, says these findings are very convincing because the team used so many different methods to tie jumping genes to schizophrenia. However, not all LINE-1 genes are found to be bad.
“LINE-1 retrotransposition may be a mechanism to generate cognitive diversity in the human population,” Muotri said. “This mechanism may have evolved to create outliers in the population, people with extraordinary abilities. On the other hand, the other end of the spectrum may be patients with schizophrenia or autism.”
Recent studies have found that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia are less likely to report drug use, which could hinder the patient’s treatment. In one study, doctors suspected that patients with severe mental disorders were not reporting drug use accurately and this was leading to barriers in treatment. When patients underwent drug testing for cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine, 38% tested positive for drug use. However, 58% did not report using these drugs. It was found that those most likely to conceal their drug use were older and had greater neurological deficiency.
Since this poses a problem to doctors trying to treat patients, there is one thing that can be done to alleviate this and increase the amount of reporting. It is thought that the fear of disclosure and judgment is causing individuals to hide this information. The study authors state that establishing a positive alliance between physicians and patients could improve the individual’s willingness to disclose drug use information.
Self-care can be as basic as eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and generally managing your health. Healthy lifestyle changes can also improve your self-esteem and overall wellbeing, which is especially important for people managing a mental health condition like schizophrenia.
However, people with schizophrenia can often neglect healthy behaviors. A lack of motivation, one of the many symptoms can be the cause. Check out the following strategies for schizophrenics to improve their quality of life:
- Be an advocate for your own healthcare. You need to make sure you tell your doctor how serious you feel about your symptoms. Talk to your doctor and find out what you should be doing to keep healthy. Ask questions and write down instructions when taking medication and set reminders for prescription refills.
- Quit smoking. People with mental illnesses are twice as likely to smoke compared with others. Smoking increases your risk for many illnesses, and it can interfere with the absorption of your medications. Studies show that quitting smoking does not make your mental illness worse. In fact, if you stop smoking, you may be able to lower your dose and have fewer side effects such as weight gain or trouble sleeping.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain is a common side effect of drugs used to treat schizophrenia. “The medications that schizophrenics often are prescribed are notorious for stimulating appetite,” says Thomas Smith, MD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and medical director of the New York City Mental Health Care Monitoring Initiative.
- Be active. An active lifestyle can help prevent diabetes, heart conditions, and weight gain. If illness-related factors such as depression or negative symptoms limit your motivation, try to address the symptoms with psychological treatment.
- Get enough sleep. People with mental illness often have sleep problems. To improve sleep quality, don’t drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages or smoke before bed, these are all stimulants. Have a bedtime snack like milk or turkey, which are natural sleep inducers. Go to bed at the same time each night. However, don’t try to fall asleep if you’re wide awake. Relax before bed with a book or soothing music.
People with schizophrenia must take care of body and mind. The healthier your body, the better you will feel physically and mentally.
It’s Rethink Schizophrenia Awareness Week and in these days, everyone hears about “schizophrenic murderers” and the media continues to perpetuating the stereotypes about schizophrenia. With the disease affecting an estimated one in every 100 people, there could be a schizophrenic person in your vicinity. What does this actually mean?
As with most awareness projects, Schizophrenia Awareness Week has several key goals: raising funds, promoting support networks and making others aware of symptoms and treatments. Another goal is to promote that the average sufferer has no interest in harming them. For schizophrenic caregivers, this misconception is usually brought up.
Author VJD Smith of the Guardian believes that this never happens with people who have anorexia or heart disease. She writes, “The trouble is, there’s rarely a straightforward or positive image to counter the drip-drip effect of effect of negative headlines.”
For VJD, schizophrenia has had an enormous impact on her family. It’s still difficult for her to explain, because the mix of symptoms and side effects she’s witnessed refuse to lend any clear narrative. Perhaps for some of us there’s even a lingering worry that this isn’t schizophrenia. What if it was just a phase? What if the drugs made it worse? If there is no single test for schizophrenia, how can you know your response is the right one?
She writes, “If I could suggest ways to support people with schizophrenia, they would be simple ones. Set aside your preconceptions of madness and health. Don’t use the adjective ‘schizophrenic’ as a metaphor to mean ‘in two minds’ (if only it were that simple!). Know that with each individual embarks on his or her own journey of symptom management and that what constitutes a ‘well’ phase can vary enormously. Accept that you won’t always be able to distinguish the ill person from what you consider to be ‘the person beneath’ and that one day, you might even stop trying. Remember that, however woefully inadequate state support may be, you can’t let it become an excuse for wishing schizophrenia away from your community. Approaching this illness on its own terms doesn’t mean pretending it’s not ugly and often terrifying for sufferers and careers alike. It does, however, offer some way of finding peace.”
Individual experiences of schizophrenia are harder to articulate because of the newspapers and media. That does not mean we shouldn’t try. A schizophrenia diagnosis is not a full stop; life goes on. It has to be possible to show understanding even when dealing with suffering that we cannot understand.
This week, November 11-17, is the first ever Schizophrenia Awareness Week. Rethink, the charity launching the event, is working to dispel the misinformation surrounding the illness.
Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink, notes, “Too often it feels like people only talk about schizophrenia for the wrong reasons, like when a terrible crime takes place. Recent stories in the media fuel stigma and create a totally distorted view of what it’s like to really live with this illness. Here at Rethink Mental Illness, we want to change that. By dedicating a time each year to sharing understanding about the illness, we hope to change the public conversation about schizophrenia.”
Schizophrenia is a psychotic illness, meaning that a schizophrenic person sometimes may not be able to distinguish his or her own thoughts and ideas from reality. The illness is marked by symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, muddle thoughts based on hallucinations or delusions, and changes in behavior.
Rethink Mental Health is seeking to change peoples’ attitudes and perceptions about schizophrenia through this event; additionally, the organization is also encouraging fundraising events to be held in local communities. For more information on Rethink Schizophrenia Awareness Week and to learn how you can get involved, visit: http://www.rethink.org/get-involved/fundraising-events/national-schizophrenia-awareness-week
While you may know how to thwart some illnesses, schizophrenia, a mental disorder that makes separating fantasy from reality difficult, it is a tougher condition to prevent.
Schizophrenia affects roughly 1% of the global population. The early stages of schizophrenia are called prodrome and usually begin in a person’s late teens and twenties. This phase involves a person hearing imaginary things or having strange thoughts.
Even though scientists are not certain why some people develop schizophrenia, research suggests that at least three areas are involved: genetics, the environment, and early drug use.
Schizophrenia: Reducing Genetic Risk
For those who do not have family members with schizophrenia, the risk of developing it is relatively slim. The odds are higher among people with a sibling (5%) or parent (10%) with the disease, and highest for a person with an identical twin (about 50%).
Some diseases have clear genetic markers, but schizophrenia has several genes that may be involved in determining its risk.
Schizophrenia: Reducing the Environmental Risk
Environmental factors are hard to control, especially since they seem to affect people differently. Facing a stressful event is typically when the onset of schizophrenia occurs. People who have experienced traumatic childhood experiences are more likely to develop schizophrenia than people who have not.
“Mental illness is higher in families with abuse and neglect,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Schizophrenia: Early Drug Use
There is strong evidence to suggest that illicit drug use, particularly marijuana, may worsen the course of schizophrenia, but the role drugs play in the onset of schizophrenia is harder to determine. Duckworth says it is possible that marijuana may trigger schizophrenia in people who have a genetic risk for the disorder. But not all people with schizophrenia have used drugs, and not all drug users develop mental illness.
A genetic counselor might be able to help assess your risk more accurately by taking a complete family medical history. Even so, more research is necessary to find how genetics and environment work together to cause schizophrenia.
For many people living with schizophrenia, the most frustrating aspect is the inability to tell whether or not the things you are thinking are actually taking place in reality. Simply put, when someone has schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, interacting with the world in a meaningful and socially cognitive way is more than difficult.
Michael Hendrick has lived with schizophrenia for about eight years and has been symptomatically stable for years; however, during this time he has experienced a few periods of uncertainty. Shortly after being diagnosed, he felt socially “dead”. He didn’t even complete everyday tasks such as entering a grocery store.
For Michael, part of his experience socializing with others has been the analysis that happens both during and after any interaction. After every interaction, even those as minor as greeting the pizza delivery guy or the gas station attendant, could go on for hours or even days.
After struggling with his schizophrenia, Michael learned about a formal technique of therapy called Cognitive Enhancement Therapy (CET) to help his behaviors. CET is a recovery phase intervention for symptomatically stable persons with severe mental illness who remain socially and vocationally disabled. The Center for Cognition and Recovery says CET works by helping individuals develop and enhance the mental capacities for social interactions by using a combination of training in attention, memory and problem solving.