Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Don’t Bottle it Up Schizophrenia: My advice on how to deal with it. Dev

According to some websites, ‘Schizophrenia’ is a mental illness with symptoms which include hallucinations (such as hearing voices), delusions (false ideas), disordered thoughts, and problems with feelings, behaviour and motivation. But this is just a broad summary; not many people have the same symptoms.  It is common to think that having this disorder means that a person is mad, which is not true. There are people with mild variations of it and some with severe versions of schizophrenia.

For a person with this disorder it is difficult to explain. Sometimes a person might hear something like there is going to be a crash near by. It just might be rumour or gossip. This where schizophrenia may come into effect. The person hearing this may decide to take this thing seriously and start to perceive it as reality. This is when they tend to start hallucinate and visualizing it happening repeatedly and hence losing track of what is real and what is false. Sometimes people will start to pace and start to do things with their hands, start talking to them selves (this is a manifestation of their delusional state) or they may start to swear. For that person it is very difficult to get control of their mind.

In this case, I suggest that the person must be with another person for the duration of this behaviour and these symptoms, and constantly told that it is not true over a long period of time. It would also be useful if the other person would repeatedly show other possible scenarios to what he is thinking of. It is important at this state that the person is not left alone where ever he/she is. Remember: they are vulnerable and may do something harmful. If this continues to happen on regular bases on any subject, then the person may need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist.    

It is also possible the person might even go the opposite direction and become more introvert and bottle things up, which many people do. This means they are thinking about the car crash happening, but not showing any reaction. Over time it may build up, like a bottle filling up with water, causing an out burst, similar to an over flowing water bottle. This is a useful metaphor. 

Schizophrenia can also cause a person to start to create his or her own utopian world in their head. In this they maybe the main character and play out anything happening in the real world the way they want it to be. Unlike the previous example where they have an outburst, this time they tend to become more delusional and get trapped in their own make believe world.

The person with Schizophrenia may also show no symptoms for a long period of time and may start to act normally. One thing you must remember is that symptoms can re-occur.  This maybe a double jeopardy, because the person may think that they have fully recovered. 

For a person who has a family member that has schizophrenia, they may have difficulty in accepting that a person in their family has this problem. As a consequence they may feel angry (Why did he have to get it?), fearful (How are we going to manage?), guilty (Is this my fault?), frustrated (There must be something I’m not doing?) and hopeless (Why can’t I help them? They need my help but I don’t know how to help?).  You might be tempted to hide your family member’s illness from the outside, i.e. protecting your family member from any abuse or getting hurt.  My advice to 
families if:

1. You need accept that your family member has schizophrenia. 
2. Accept, no matter how hard it is, that this is not your fault.  
3. Get some help for you and that family member. 
4. Be realistic 
5. Know what to expect from him or her, i.e. panic, becoming quiet or acting differently. 
6. Keep a sense of humour. 

The last one, no matter how crude it sounds, really does help on both sides. 

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