Colours of Schizophrenia

Colours of Schizophrenia
By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/27/2018 5:02:47 AM IST

 “There is no difference between schizophrenia and a world at war” (Gary Zukav)

He had a life that most people envied. A well paying job, adoring family members and now a fiancé. He liked reading and swimming and was physically very active. Apart from the usual cold, he was in near perfect physical health. 

And then it all came crashing down. One evening, he was alone at home and heard some people talking. Two males were plotting to kill him. Shaken and trembling, he started looking around the house for the source of the voice but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t find anyone. 

Finally he sat down and told himself that his mind was playing tricks and let it go. Within a span of a month, his mind started playing more tricks on him. He became suspicious of his colleagues and his fiancé and became distant from them. 

He would stay at home most days because he was too terrified of stepping out. In some moments of clarity, he knew the voices were coming from his head but over time, windows of clarity got smaller. 

His parents were convinced that some entity had possessed him and took him to multiple faith healers but there was no relief. One day he became violent. He was convinced that his fiancé had hired people to kill him and he hit her. 

There was no lasting physical damage but the engagement was broken off and he was retrained, and then taken to the hospital (psychiatric department). 

A diagnosis of Schizophrenia was made, medicines prescribed and over the next few months, his condition gradually improved. He started taking care of himself, eating his meals, going for a run. Job would have to wait. The priorities had to be shifted. 

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that impairs the individual’s perception of reality. 

Breakdown occurs in thinking, emotional processes and behaviour. Speech may become incoherent, they may talk of things that don’t exist, harbour bizarre ideas, and hear voices/see things that others can’t hear/see, withdraw from those around them or stop taking care of themselves. Difficulty in attention and other cognitive processes such as decision making/planning may also be present. 

In spite of this illness being studied extensively, researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint a single causal factor. Multiple factors such as genetics, neurochemistry and environment may be responsible. 

The case of the Genain quadruplets (identical), all of whom suffered from schizophrenia is a definitive evidence for the importance of genetic in schizophrenia. 

However, each of the sisters had very different clinical manifestations of the symptoms including age of onset, course of illness and prognosis. 

This implies that other factors such as neurochemistry and environmental factors may also play a role in the illness. 

Imagine having a lens put on, that entirely changes the way you see the world and you are not aware of the lens. Your world appears to be a scary place. 

You constantly hear voices that irritate you and gradually start to exhausts you but the voices don’t stop. 

You have no interest in self care or grooming and people often look at you with fear or disgust. You didn’t choose this lens and yet, you have to live with it. This is Schizophrenia. 

As elucidated in the aforementioned case, one cannot blame the person for having schizophrenia. If they had a choice, schizophrenia wouldn’t be an option. 

It can happen to a male or a female, no gender discrimination there. Usually men are diagnosed in their late teens/early twenties while women are diagnosed in their late twenties/early thirties. Medications are almost always necessary but people often stop taking medicines when they start recovering which then subsequently leads to relapse. 

Schizophrenia has the tag of a ‘debilitating illness.” It can wreak havoc on an individual’s life as also that of their family members but this is often restricted to the acute part of the illness. 

Many individuals go in to live fully functional lives after being diagnosed with the illness. What is required for this is early intervention, regular follow ups with mental health professionals, adherence to medication, supportive family environment and efforts at rehabilitation. 

Taking a family member who appears to be ill to the right place is of utmost importance. 

Going beyond conventional explanations of supernatural influence and understanding the illness as part of a mental illness spectrum could greatly benefit the person. 

Schizophrenia, like most mental illness, can happen to anyone, irrespective of their social status or economic background. 

The community needs to focus on cultivating an attitude of warmth and acceptance such that family members don’t feel the need to hide the illness.  

Individuals may have to be rehabilitated, starting with simple tasks such as taking care of self and self grooming and gradually moving towards re-establishing social contact. 

Schizophrenia is a mental illness, not a supernatural phenomenon. Treating it requires a combination of medicines, family support and community resources. 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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