An open discussion of Schizophrenia being a phenomena, not a cause and effect...

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I see lots of posts on this site from people who claim there is no such thing as "mental illness," but that depends on how one defines that term. As a person who suffers from Schizophrenia, I think that I would like to have a discussion about it here. Whether or not "mental illness" is called an illness is just a word game to me. However, it is very real. For example, my schizophrenia causes within me the hearing of voices saying things from people who are not there. I sometimes can have problems with hearing people say things to me that they didn't even say while they are right in front of me obviously not saying things at all. I have other problems as well. When I read posts from people who say that there is no such thing as mental illness, it is like reading a post saying that there is no such thing as the moon or the sun. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry when reading them.

However, I am willing to propose that "mental illness" can possibly be caused by things other than brain chemistry imbalance concerning dophamine. I propose that Schizophrenia can be considered a mysterious phenomena that does not have a fixed cause and effect. Who says that just because one person's mental problems are caused by one set of mechanisms, that it is necessarily so for someone else? I am willing to discuss these matters with anyone who would like to learn what life is like for a person with Schizophrenia, even if they have criticisms for how it is dealt with by other people and society at large.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

Comments

I am very sympathetic and more than a little touched by your bravery in discussing this. My grandmother suffered with schizophrenia and my older brother from bi-polar disorder which was exemplified by periods of extreme mania. I sincerely hope that in this space, with this community, you feel secure having allowed us such intimacy and that we show ourselves worthy of that trust.

I have dealt with my own mental health struggles more than once but they were only fleeting instances of what used to be called a "nervous breakdown." They were triggered by the anguish of losing loved ones. In those instances I soon recovered but I do recall the experience of living in what I would describe as an alternate reality or understanding of existence and agonizing over completely irrational fears regarding the effect that the state of my own mind was having on everyone else. Specifically I was convinced that my own dark state of mind had dragged the entire world into a dark sphere of being in a sort of undead realm from which there was no return to life but no release by death either. I know from having suffered with thoughts and imaginings that I ordinarily would never give credence to that mental illness is not just some made up "psycho babble."

For my part I think I would prefer hearing about your experience and responding rather than just putting meaningless or thoughtless opinions down for the sake of putting something down. You have posed an interesting thesis that I am not yet prepared to respond to but I will give it some thought in terms of my own experiences and check back to see what you and others have to say.

mdhess's picture
mdhess
Joined:
Apr. 9, 2010 11:43 pm

Thank you, Mdhess!

You are right in that when people have to deal with these problems, it is not "psycho babble." It can be very scary for those experiencing it. Regardless of people having different political and economic beliefs, I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

While I personally believe that my own problems are caused by an imbalance of some kind, I am not angry at the notion that Mental Illness could have other "causes and effects" as well. I must also say that there are people whose problems are of such a mild nature that no medication and hospitalization is necessary. Also, even when a person's problems are severe enough to warrant hospitalization (namely making violent threats or even being violent toward others), I am open to the idea that people should not have medication forced on them.

Having a mental illness is scary. While so, I am sure that with the support of others people with these problems can still live a life of dignity.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

Some powerful books have been written about accomplished people who had schizophrenia, and in at least two instances, both books were also made into movies. I am thinking of A Beautiful Mind about mathematican John Nash, and The Soloist, about Julliard-trained musician Bill Ayres, and his friendship with L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez.

Almost all the people on this site who have mentioned the topic of mental illness have been supportive of the idea of these conditions having some degree of a biological basis. There are problems such as marital disagreement or job loss or financial problems that are not originally caused by mental illness, but could develop into emotional problems because a person does not always have a solution, ours being a highly individualistic culture.

If a person is hospitalized, a distinction should be made between those who are there voluntarily, and those who have been legally committed to be there. If you are there on your own volition, you might have some latitute in turning down medication, but even then, when a person is in the hospital, if they don't comply with what the doctors and nurses ask of them, they could find themselves discharged.

There are many issues that are seldom discussed, such as those who are low-income but who don't have Medicaid and thus would have to pay co-payments and/or deductibles for care, or for drugs, which they may not be able to afford. There is one organization on the West Coast that is against the use of any psychotropic drugs, especially if imposed upon patients, and then there was an East Coast organization headed by a psychiatrist who had mental illness which advocates getting off medication, which many psychiatrists would not advise for someone with a chronic condition.

Progress has been made in understanding the workings of the brain, but many experts would say that more is not known than is known. There is plenty about heart disease, degenerative neurological disorders, and cancers that is also not understood very well by the medical field. That does not justify saying that these other various diseases do not exist. I have heard that there are people, moreso women than men, with chronic fatigue syndrome, which I think is starting to be recognized, slowly, as a real condition by doctors, who can hardly get out of bed and function most of the time, because of tiredness and weakness.

Mental illness seems like it effects different people in many different ways.

There is a Democratic Senator from Conntecticut who is not only interested in improving access and quality of mental health services, but who seems to be involved with sponsoring a bill in this area to accomplish some improvements. I don't live in Connecticut, but sometimes receive emails from him all the same. Not enough politicians care about this area, to try and make sure that people are not abandoned.

Dr. Robert Okin of San Francisco wrote the book, Silent Voices in which he interviewed and took photos of homeless mentally ill people in his city.

Robindell's picture
Robindell
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Regarding the treatment of the mentally ill this may interest you; it is only one of many articles you can find dealing with this same subject:

from The New York Times: Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail by Nicholas Kristof

CHICAGO — THE largest mental health center in America is a huge compound here in Chicago, with thousands of people suffering from manias, psychoses and other disorders, all surrounded by high fences and barbed wire.

Just one thing: It’s a jail. The only way to get treatment is to be arrested.

Psychiatric disorders are the only kind of sickness that we as a society regularly respond to not with sympathy but with handcuffs and incarceration. And as more humane and cost-effective ways of treating mental illness have been cut back, we increasingly resort to the law-enforcement toolbox: jails and prisons.

More than half of prisoners in the United States have a mental health problem, according to a 2006 Justice Department study. Among female inmates, almost three-quarters have a mental disorder...

mdhess's picture
mdhess
Joined:
Apr. 9, 2010 11:43 pm

Thank you both for your response. As noted above, there is the issue of being forced to take medication for mental illness. I strongly am opposed to this for two reasons.

#1-If a person can be forced to take medication for mental illness, who knows what other conditions people can have that others might want to force treatment on them. Cancer? Diabetes?, etc., etc. That would create a major blow to medical privacy.

#2-If a person has medication forced on them, they might further resist treatment by hiding their unused meds or even regurgitating them after taking them. Not a pretty situation.

I also concede to the point that no person should forcibly be commited into an institution unless their condition makes them a danger to others through violence or threats of violence, as defined by a court of law. If a person has a nonviolent condition, their behavior won't hurt anyone, and I don't think they should be locked up anywhere, especially a prison where all sorts of bad things can happen to them.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

However, if a person does want to be treated for their condition by means of being in a hospital, I am all for it. Mental illness can be hard to deal with. I know almost for a fact that if it were not for the love and support of my family I would be homeless or dead. When I first got sick I recognized this and willingly accepted the help I got.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

I must note that I am not a medical doctor, so don't anyone take what I say as having the weight as something a doctor might say. I have experienced hardship which I would like to share, but I am no doctor.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

I have found that listening to good music helps when I am feeling bad. My favorite song is "Smile," written by Charlie Chaplin. Do any of you have good music that you listen to when stuff is going on in your mind?

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

The Sheriff of County County has recently announced that he has appointed a clinical psychologist as the new director of the Cook County Jail. The jail is the largest mental health treatment provider in Illinois. The Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, has proposed further cuts in the state's mental health funding. Several years ago, under Governor Pat Quinn, the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, which was a state-owned facility, and was fairly modern, was closed. Sheriff Dart has set up, using money from his own budget as sheriff, a mental health clinic outside of the jail, in Markham, IL, a south Chicago suburb. Once released from jail, former inmates with mental illnesses can access the clinic and receive treatment at no cost to them, which might prevent them from getting arrested again and ending up back in jail.

I do not completely agree that mentally ill people should not be required to take medication. It would depend on the situation. If someone has a history of both depression and suicide, receiving treatment might be what prevents them from attempting suicide again. If someone admits to having violent thoughts and wanting to kill others, or if they are just extremely irrational in their behavior, it is likely that they might be in need of temporary hospitalization. Inpatient units usually require that patients undergo treatment. From what I have read, some people with severe mental illness may not understand that they have a medical impairment, and believe that they are normal and that those who are against them are the ones who are abnormal. It sort of sounds like the Republicans, doesn't It? But this is non-political. If someone is living in the community through a community-based mental health program, they are probably receiving assistance with housing as well as with health coverage. If a person is not required to receive psychiatric treatment, that would be perfectly acceptable from a human rights perspective. From a perspective, however, of being able to function from day-to-day, a person may not be able to fit into society even to a limited extent if they have a severe condition, and the person could run into trouble with neighbors or with the law. The mental health workers would have to convince them that it would be in the best interest of their own safety to receive professional help from a doctor. It would be interesting to read what researchers or experienced psychiatrists would have to say about this.

There is one doctor who is experienced and who has written several books about schizophrenia, but his insistence that a small number of patience need to be required to undergo treatment because of the severity of their condition and because of safety concerns has caused him to be criticized and rejected by many mental health advocates. His name which may be familiar is Dr. E. Fuller Torrey. I don't agree with his antagnostic attitude toward the federal government, other than the lack of adequate federal as well as state funding to help prevent problems that could be addressed. Others such as parents with mentally ill children or other relatives believe that there are some people who will end up on the streets, in jail, or dead unless they are hospitalized for a time and then given assertive case management in which someone makes sure that they stay on their meds. The complexity, difficulty, and mystery of mental illness makes it difficult for me to see any one answer that covers all the problems and concerns in all cases.

Robindell's picture
Robindell
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Yes, the legal issues around how to treat people with these problems is a difficult one for me. On one side there is the issue of medical privacy, on the other there is the fact that with out treatment some people may hurt themselves and others. I must also acknowledge that the majority of mental illness issues I know about are nonviolent. For example, the vast majority of problems I have experienced do not involve violence. This is truly complex for me, and I do not know all the answers.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

One of the biggest problems I have with my problems is reading for pleasure. I am not talking posts like the ones on this site. I am talking about "big" books. Before I took medications I could read up a storm. Now I can still read for pleasure, but it is less enjoyable and much more difficult.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

To all reading this,

It must be noted that even though this is an open discussion concerning schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, there is such a thing in this world as privacy invasion. There are actually people who go on the 'net to get information about others. Therefore, don't post anything you don't want others to know about.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

It is important for people to recognize that there real and distinctive differences between a person who has a neurosis and the people who have conditions that are biological in nature, ie. hard wired that way or whose hard wiring has been short circuited by traumatic events.

Neurosis can and sometimes does turn to more serious problems if un-addressed and allowed to become an obsession, but as a general rule (I believe) that is more of an issue of the individual needing just someone to talk it through with. A heart to heart, if I may use that over worked term. On the other hand, people that have conditions like schizophrenia, manic depression or PTSD need to (and can) learn how to recognize and manage their condition usually through medication and/or trusted confidants, but in the most severe cases will not ever be able to function at all without direct intervention daily if not hourly whether they like it or not.

rs allen
Joined:
Mar. 15, 2012 5:55 pm

Yes, we need to differentiate between psychological problems caused by environmental stresses and biological problems within the brain itself.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

Micahjr34,

I suggest you read Insanity: The Idea and its Consequences and Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry, both by the late Thomas Szasz.

Contrary to the opinion of his detractors, Szasz never states that human suffering, what he calls "problems in living", don't exist. He ONLY says that it is not a disease.

LysanderSpooner's picture
LysanderSpooner
Joined:
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

LysanderSpooner,

In a technical sense schizophrenia is not a disease because it can't be spread by factors like bacteria, viruses, amoeba, etc., etc.

Also, is there anything morally wrong with being schizophrenic? In that sense also, being schizophrenic is not a disease because being schizophrenic does not make a person "bad" or "less than human." That sort of thinking is what inspired the NAZI party under Hitler to persecute people. Not only did Hitler persecute Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, those with developmental conditions, etc., they also persecuted schizophrenics. Why? Because the NAZIs believed that such state of beings made people less human. I don't buy that.

In short, do I need to take treatments and struggle to live with my Schizophrenia? No, I don't, because being Schizophrenic does not make me less than human. However, this condition extremely, severely interferes with my life. I allow myself to be treated for ME, not for anyone else by necessity or by definition.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

LysanderSpooner,

I do not view you as a Libertarian, but rather as a Human Being who just happens to be Libertarian. If I let your Libertarianism make you seem any less human from my perspective, then I would be making the same mistake that the Nazis did. Their mistake was that they judged people as less than human because they didn't like their politics, religion, conditions, etc., including schizophrenia.

That is why I believe that within the USA the states should be given more leeway to have different policies so that people like you and me can find a way to coexist with strangling each other to death. Instead of trying to change you, LysanderSpooner, I am trying to coexist with you.

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

To everyone here,

Whenever I have problems with being "tardive" I like to put on some loud music and dance to it. That negates the feeling of being "shaky." What other coping mechanisms do you all out there have?

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

To everyone here,

Whenever I feel bad or have had felt bad in the past, I like to forgive my brain for its troubles. I imagine taking my brain out of my head, and while holding it in my hands, I say to it that I forgive it. I tell it that I know this situation is not its fault. I tell it that I know it can't leave its present situation even though it wants to. I tell it that regardless of whatever mechanism is causing my problems, they are not the fault of it, of me, or anybody else. Then I gently take my brain and put it back in my head. Then I feel better because I don't feel like blaming others or myself for this "stuff."

micahjr34
Joined:
Feb. 7, 2011 4:57 pm

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