Posts tagged psychotic
Posts tagged psychotic
World Mental Health Day drove a massive social media spike in people discussing schizophrenia - but what is it like living with the condition? Channel 4 News spoke to two musicians.
The global event saw tweets on “mental health” rise from less than 10,000 per day normally to nearly 50,000, and tweets on “schizophrenia” increasing from 1,000 per day to over 4,000 on Friday.
But there are still many misconceptions associated with schizophrenia - most specifically that those who suffer from the mental health condition are dangerous.
Channel 4 News went to meet two mental health service users, both who have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, to ask about how the condition affects their daily lives (see video, above).
Devon Marsten (drums) and Roger Brooks (vocals) were both diagnosed with schizophrenia in their early 20s. The condition is most commonly diagnosed in late teens or early 20s.
The pair play music at Sound Minds, a south London arts charity founded by Mr Marsten, and are also involved in a charity that provides peer-to-peer care for people with mental health difficulties who are leaving hospital.
One in four people suffer from mental health difficulties, and schizophrenia affects almost 300,000 people in the UK.
But media representations and a lack of knowledge about the condition, have created a reputation that those with schizophrenia are unstable or dangerous.
The Liberal Democrats have said they are prioritising mental health - with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announcing that mental health will be brought in line with other NHS services with the introduction of waiting time standards.
Under an initiative being brought in from April 2015, backed by £40m funding this year and £80m next year, people with mental health conditions will be guaranteed treatment in between six weeks and 18 weeks.
Last month a Channel 4 News investigation found that two-thirds of mental health trusts who responded to a Freedom on Information request had had their funding cut, and that a shortage of beds was threatening patient care.
Schizophrenia affects around 26 million people across the world and is the focus of World Mental Health Day this year. The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
October 10th is World Mental Health Day
We’re helping to shine the spotlight on those affected by schizophrenia - from the 26 million people facing this affliction daily, to their family, friends and society as a whole.
What is Schizophrenia?
According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder, characterized by profound disruptions in thinking, affecting language, perception, and the sense of self. It oftentimes includes psychotic experiences, such as hearing voices or delusions. It can impair functioning through the loss of an acquired capability to earn a livelihood, or the disruption of studies. Schizophrenia typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. Most cases of schizophrenia can be treated, and people affected by it can lead a productive life and be integrated in society.
What is the aim of the 2014 World Mental Health Day?
"To ensure that people with schizophrenia get the best possible care and support to manage their illness and to help them recover." - Mental Health Foundation
To that end, Routledge has compiled a collection of resources in support of those affected by schizophrenia. Get 20% off your order by entering the code WMHD4 on checkout.
Do you believe schizophrenia is about people with multiple personalities?
If the answer is yes, you may be in a broad majority, but that doesn’t mean it’s true, which is why events such as World Mental Health Day are critical to assert the facts and dispel myths.
"Schizophrenia is not a ‘split personality’, says Dr Sheri Jacobson, clinical director atHarley Therapy.
"People with schizophrenia don’t act normal and then suddenly turn into someone else, like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act. A schizophrenic has one personality, it’s their perception of their world that splits."
Despite these high figures, many people living with the condition will not receive a formal diagnosis.
Misinformation in the media about the illness has led to a lack of understanding around it, meaning many suffering do not seek the support they need.
"It is perhaps more important to look at what schizophrenia isn’t, than what schizophrenia is, as films and media often portray it in ways that aren’t helpful views of the condition,"
Schizophrenia affects the way people think and perceive the world around them. Symptoms can include hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t real, depression or becoming withdrawn.
A schizophrenic may also experience delusions, which may start based in truth, but become more complex as the illness progresses.
Nigel Campbell, associate director of communications at Rethink Mental Illness, says: “As you can imagine, it can be very frightening for people when they first start to experience symptoms like hearing voices, or extreme paranoia.
"It can also be hard for people to differentiate between what they’re going through, and reality.
“This can also be very difficult and confusing for their families and friends, who might not understand what is happening to their loved one, or where to turn for support.”
Campbell says one of the biggest problems that people with schizophrenia face is the stigma around the illness - some sufferers still lose relationships with family and friends after opening up to them about what they’re experiencing, while others will struggle to find employment.
"Many employers assume that if you have a mental health problem, you won’t be able to hold down a job. It is a disgrace that only around 8% of people with schizophrenia in this country are in employment," Campbell adds.
Shockingly, people with schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses die on average 20 years earlier than the general population, mostly from preventable illnesses.
According to Rethink’s 20+ campaign, this is because people with serious mental illness do not get regular physical health checks, and signs of physical health problems are often missed when they seek help.
Clearly we still have a long way to go before schizophrenia is universally understood, but attitudes towards mental health do at least seem to be slowly changing.
A recent survey from Time to Change (a mental health anti-stigma programme), found 79% of people now acknowledge that those with a mental illness have for too long been the subject of ridicule.
Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, says: “In recent years we’ve seen thousands of people starting to speak out, challenging big high street brands that have fuelled stigma and sharing their own experiences to help shift perceptions, including MPs, high profile sportspeople and people in business.
"However, we shouldn’t underestimate the task ahead of securing long lasting, irreversible and far-reaching changes in attitudes, behaviour, policies and systems.
"We will have reached our goal when someone can openly share their diagnosis of depression, schizophrenia or bipolar on a first date or at a job interview without fear of a negative reaction.”
There isn’t one specific cure for schizophrenia, a combination of medication and talking therapy are often prescribed. If you believe you, or a loved one, may be experiencing symptoms, the first step should be to visit a GP.
Dr Fiona Morrison, consultant psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital Glasgow, says well-controlled symptoms can allow a person to function fully in the community, and work.
"Psychiatry and psychology assessments can help with diagnosis and early management. The Hearing Voices Network can be very good for those who wish to use other ways [than medication] to take back control of voices,” she adds.
As well as being frightening for the person experiencing symptoms, schizophrenia can also be challenging for that individual’s friends and family.
Dr Jacobson warns that if you’re helping someone with schizophrenia, it’s advisable to get some help for yourself as well.
"Don’t blame yourself if things become more challenging than you can handle if a loved one suffers from schizophrenia, and don’t blame yourself that your loved one has the condition – it is nobody’s fault.
"Schizophrenia is a challenge for all those involved, and the feelings of fear, frustration and helplessness it can cause can lead to stress and anxiety that can take over your life is you let it,” she says.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about schizophrenia is that is is not a life sentence.
“With the right support people can recover, ” Campbell says. “About half of all people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia recover after one or two episodes. The key is to get treatment as quickly as possible.”
World Mental Health Day is on 10th October 2014. Rethink’s Schizophrenia Awareness Week runs from the 6th – 10th October. Visit www.rethink.org orwww.mentalhealth.org.uk for more information and advice.
I can remember the early days of having schizophrenia. I was so afraid of the implications of subtle body language, like a lingering millisecond of eye contact, the way my feet hit the ground when I walked or the way I held my hands to my side. It was a struggle to go into a store or, really, anywhere I was bound to see another living member of the human species.
With a simple scratch of the head, someone could be telling me to go forward, or that what I was doing was right or wrong, or that they were acknowledging the symbolic crown on my head that made me a king or a prophet. It’s not hard to imagine that I was having a tough time in the midst of all the anxiety and delusions.
Several months after my diagnosis, I took a job at a small town newspaper as a reporter. I sat in on City Council meetings, covering issues related to the lowering water table and interviewing local business owners for small blurbs in the local section, all the while wondering if I was uncovering some vague connections to an international conspiracy.
The nights were altogether different. Every day, I would come home to my apartment and smoke pot, then lay on my couch watching television or head out to the bar and get so hammered that I couldn’t walk. It’s hard to admit, but the only time I felt relaxed was when I was drunk.
I eventually lost my newspaper job, but that wasn’t the catalyst for change.
It all came to a head one night in July. I had been out drinking all night and, in a haze, I decided it would be a good idea to drive the two miles back to my apartment. This is something I had done several times before, but it had never dawned on me that it was a serious deal. I thought I was doing well, not swerving and being only several blocks from my house, when I saw flashing lights behind me.
What started as a trip to the bar to unwind ended with me calling my parents to bail me out of jail at 3 a.m.
The next year of my life would mean change. I’m not entirely clear on the exact point at which my routine drinking and drug use turned into healthier pursuits. Maybe it was the shock of meeting with a D.U.I. lawyer, or the point after sentencing when I realized I’d be forced to make a daily call, first thing in the morning, to find out if I would have to pee in a cup that day. Maybe it was the fact that I’d need someone else, mainly my mom, to drive me anywhere for the next year. Or perhaps it was the consistent Saturday morning drug and alcohol therapy group or Wednesday and Thursday afternoons of community service that kicked me into a groove.
The groove of it eventually turned into a routine, one that wasn’t marked by indulgence but instead by forced commitment that eventually I would grow to respect.
During that time, I quit smoking pot, I quit drinking and I got some of the best sleep I’d gotten since my diagnosis. Trips to the bar on Monday afternoons turned into extended hours at coffee shops where I finished my first novel.
For some reason, it gave me joy to recite my routine to whoever asked. I would wake up at 7, get coffee and a bagel with plain cream cheese, check Facebook, write until I had 1,000 words, get lunch, do errands in the afternoon, return home, get dinner, take my pills (with food), watch TV and get to bed around 9.
It might all sound tremendously boring. But this regimented series of events was always there; they’d always carry over. And with time, it gave me great comfort to not have to deal with the unexpected. I had a set plan for most days, and there was already too much chaos in my head.
I found that I never forgot to take my medicine. I always had at least eight hours of sleep. And I felt much more relaxed and was able to finally wrap my head around my diagnosis. I began to see the world as a mostly random series of events, rather than an overarching conspiracy plot. The healthy routine was integral.
My story, as with so many stories of recovery, isn’t over. The biggest things in my life are now my friends and family, my work and my daily routine. I take my meds faithfully, and although I no longer attend regular therapy sessions, I find eight years of living with schizophrenia has made me well equipped to deal with future problems. I still get up early, do my work for the day, hang out with my mom or my friends in the afternoon and then ease into the evening. Most important, I still get to bed by 9 every night. I’m more stable, much healthier, and I’m happy.
The routine of things set a stable foundation for recovery by providing me with familiarity. That familiarity was more than welcome when my mind was unrecognizable.
Loser! You messed this up again! You should have known better!
It’s that know-it-all, bullying, mean-spirited committee in your head. Don’t you wish they would just shut up already?
We all have voices inside our heads commenting on our moment-to-moment experiences, the quality of our past decisions, mistakes we could have avoided, and what we should have done differently. For some people, these voices are really mean and make a bad situation infinitely worse. Rather than empathize with our suffering, they criticize, disparage and beat us down even more. The voices are often very salient, have a familiar ring to them and convey an emotional urgency that demands our attention. These voices are automatic, fear-based “rules for living” that act like inner bullies, keeping us stuck in the same old cycles and hampering our spontaneous enjoyment of life and our ability to live and love freely.
Some psychologists believe these are residues of childhood experiences—automatic patterns of neural firing stored in our brains that are dissociated from the memory of the events they are trying to protect us from. While having fear-based self-protective and self-disciplining rules probably made sense and helped us to survive when we were helpless kids at the mercy of our parents’ moods, whims and psychological conflicts, they may no longer be appropriate to our lives as adults. As adults, we have more ability to walk away from unhealthy situations and make conscious choices about our lives and relationships based on our own feelings, needs and interests. Yet, in many cases, we’re so used to living by these rules we don’t even notice or question them. We unconsciously distort our view of things so they seem to be necessary and true. Like prisoners with Stockholm Syndrome, we have bonded with our captors.
If left unchecked, the committees in our heads will take charge of our lives and keep us stuck in mental and behavioral prisons of our own making. Like typical abusers, they scare us into believing that the outside world is dangerous and that we need to obey their rules for living in order to survive and avoid pain. By following (or rigidly disobeying) these rules, we don’t allow ourselves to adapt our responses to experiences as they unfold. Our behavior and emotional responses become more a reflection of yesterday’s reality than what is happening today. And we never seem to escape our dysfunctional childhoods.
The Schema Therapy Approach
Psychologist Jeffrey Young and his colleagues call these rigid rules of living and views of the world made by the committee in our heads “schemas.” Based on our earliest experiences with caregivers, schemas contain information about our own abilities to survive independently, how others will treat us, what outcomes we deserve in life, and how safe or dangerous the world is. They are also responsible for derailing intimate relationships.
Young suggests that schemas limit our lives and relationships in several ways:
A woman we will call Diana has a schema of “Abandonment.” When she was five years old, her father ran off with his secretary and disappeared from her life, not returning until she was a teenager. The pain of being abandoned was so devastating for young Diana that some part of her brain determined she would live her life in such a way as to never again feel this amount of pain. Also, as many children do, she felt deep down that she was to blame: she wasn’t lovable enough, or else her father would have stuck around; a type of “Defectiveness” schema.
Once Diana developed this schema, she became very sensitive to rejection, seeing the normal ups and downs of children’s friendships and teenage dating as further proof that she was unlovable and her destiny was to be abandoned. She also tried desperately to cover up for her perceived inadequacies by focusing on pleasing her romantic partners and making them need her so much that they would never leave her. She felt a special chemistry for distant, commitment-phobic men. When she attracted a partner who was open and authentic, she became so controlling, insecure and needy that, tired of not being believed or trusted, he eventually gave up on the relationship.
Diana’s unspoken rule was that it was not safe to trust intimate partners and let relationships naturally unfold; she believed that if she relaxed her vigilance for a moment, her partner would leave. In an effort to rebel against her schema, she also acted in ways that were opposite to how she felt; encouraging her partner to stay after work to hang out with his friends, in an attempt to convince herself (and him) that she was ultra-independent. This led to chronic anger and dissatisfaction with her partner.
Diana did not understand her own role in this cycle. Diana (and her partner) needed to understand how her schemas resulted in ways of relating to herself and others that are repetitive, automatic, rigid, and dysfunctional. By acknowledging and connecting with her unresolved fears and unmet needs, Diana could become more flexible and allow her partner more freedom without feeling so threatened.
The schema concept helps us understand how early childhood events continue to influence adult relationships and mental health issues, that we need to recognize their influence and (with professional help, if necessary), begin to free ourselves.
Six Things You Can Do Right Now
The tools and tips below will help you begin to identify your core schemas and take some corrective actions.
2. In close relationships, think about your partner’s background, beliefs and behaviors to see whether they fit into one of the schema patterns identified here. Think about the times when your communication gets derailed and you both get angry or defensive. What schemas may each of you be bringing to the table and how may they be setting each other off. For example, a partner who has an Entitlement schema may act in needy and demanding ways that trigger the partner with an Emotional Deprivation schema to feel uncared for.
3. Pay attention to when you or your partner are getting triggered. You may notice feelings of anger or helplessness, thoughts that contain the words “always” or “never,” and feelings of tension or discomfort in your body. You may feel reactive and tempted to withdraw or say something impulsively.
4. Practice the STOP technique when you are triggered during a conversation with your partner. This is a practice from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course developed by John Kabat-Zinn. STOP what you are doing, TAKE a breath, OBSERVE what you are doing, thinking, feeling and what your partner is doing, thinking, feeling. Think about whether your schema is calling the shots and if you would like to change tracks. Then PROCEED with a more mindful response.
5. At a time when you are both calm, sit down with your partner and try to figure out the cycle that happens when both you and your partner get reactive to your schemas. Decide how to communicate that this is happening in the moment and call a break.
6. Train yourself in the skill of cognitive flexibility. Deliberately think about other ways to interpret your partner’s behavior that are not consistent with your schema? Perhaps he is withdrawn because he had a hard day at work. Are you personalizing things too much?
Schemas are more likely to be triggered when your emotional needs are not being met. Take some time alone to reflect on what these needs might be. Then practice some healthy ways of taking care of your own needs for love, security, comfort and so on. Harness your inner “Healthy Adult” to proactively take care of yourself so you’re less likely to feel deprived and reactive.