There are many ways to view schizophrenia and each person has a highly individual way to perceive what it means for them. Here is one member’s views.
A personal perspective and story from a member
I was born into difficult circumstances in ways. My real father wasn’t around and I was raised with a step-family. My mother was loving and caring, and there were many things to be grateful for. I experienced a lot of nightmares and strange dreams as a kid, and suffered increasing anxiety and depression as I grew older. A very good friend of mine died at school and I got in with the ‘wrong crowd’ and started to experiment with drink and drugs. At seventeen I suffered a very severe psychotic break, where I was convinced that I’d lost my soul to the devil and uncovered a global conspiracy by aliens to enslave the world. I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, spent four months in a locked ward, and was very heavily medicated. Upon discharge I went into full-time work for four years, but suffered a major relapse into severe psychosis, this time believing that I was the devil. I made a serious suicide attempt before again being hospitalised under the mental health act.
Over the following years and during seven major psychotic episodes a complex delusional world was built up which involved a lot of themes of religious delusions, alien conspiracies and all manner of strange beliefs.
I alternated between trying to get my life together and suffering repeated major psychotic episodes, breakdowns and hospitalisations. Age twenty-five I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. At the age of twenty-eight I made a lot of changes to my life, and have maintained sobriety now for close to fifteen years. I have also continued to take a medication which does seem to help with things. It has been over twelve years since my last major psychotic episode. I have also explored a lot of reading and research into mental health areas.
There are many theories as to what causes psychosis and schizophrenia, but we do not yet fully know the reasons. The traditional biomedical psychiatric view is that these experiences and conditions are caused by various biological factors in genetics, brain function, and development. Others take the view that it is mainly sociological and environmental factors which cause the condition: accumulated losses; stress; trauma; familial factors or wider social influences. Some people take a more psychological view of the cause, suggesting that there are many differing psychological and emotional explanations that can explain psychosis. There are also those who take the view that these experiences cross over into areas of spiritual crisis and emergency, and that the reasons for these experiences can be found on a ‘soul’ and spiritual level.
Studying the research into experiences of psychosis we find that theories to understand and approach these conditions can be grouped into four main areas: biological; sociological; psychological, and spiritual. I feel that it makes sense to take a more holistic view of schizophrenia than just focussing on one of these areas. I believe that we exist as mind, body, soul and spirit within environment. That we are whole people and need a comprehensive understanding and approach to care and treatment. So artificially separating causes for schizophrenia and psychosis into categories is not helpful over all, but each area can inform the other and help us to a better understanding of people’s experiences. No one way of attempting to understand psychosis or schizophrenia is right or wrong.
There can be many ways of describing the meaning of a psychotic episode and some people’s experiences of psychosis are short lived and appear to be more easily resolved, while other people’s conditions can be lifelong. There does appear to be a something called schizophrenia or experiences on a Psychosis Spectrum within which there is a great variety, range and severity of people’s experiences.
There are a lot of writings and research into links between psychosis or schizophrenia and trauma, including in the areas of perinatal and early brain development and personality and emotional development, especially in the first three to five years of life. These may impact later experiences of psychosis or schizophrenia and/or may lead a person to have a predisposition to psychosis – a sensitivity, so to speak. If this sensitive person then experiences family trauma such as abuse or loss, or later relationship problems with care-givers, or environmental factors such as poverty, the likelihood of them developing psychosis or schizophrenia is much higher.
Psychology – the functioning of the mind and emotions – directly affects the physical brain and body, just as our biology affects the mind and emotions in turn. The traditional biomedical view is that we are just a physical body and brain. Other views put forward take a more expanded view that there is more to the human condition than the purely physical. Some people consider there to be a reality to the psyche (mind) and that reality is comprised of the physical as well as the spiritual and psychic realities.
Below are links to sites that offer a more holistic approach to caring for a person going through psychosis. Open Dialogue is one such movement which gaining ground in Britain and elsewhere. The Open Dialogue approach seeks to have professionals and clients together making all decisions concerning the client’s care together; seeking solutions daily, weekly and so forth. It takes on board all aspects of a person’s life – not just the psychiatric – so that their social circumstances, working life, family links, friendships and anything else, are all taken into account. The family and friends of the client can also join in the process with the person. Medication is used, but kept to a bare minimum and the client is taken off it as soon as possible.
Approaches such as Open Dialogue’s enhance the experience of the client, who will have life-long access to care should they need it, but in reality relatively few clients do require long-term care. This approach is more successful in preventing early onset progressing into long term psychosis and treating the majority of people with schizophrenia and psychosis, than the manner in which people are treated in countries that only use medication. Finland, where it originated, claims 85% success rate within these parameters. It is important to stress though that medication has its place and no-one should suddenly stop their medication.
Some useful links and books recommended by Cpuusage.
Recommended reading –
CG Jung – Symbols of Transformation (Collected works 5).
Anton T Boisen – The Exploration of the Inner World.
John Weir Perry – The far side of madness & trials of the visionary mind.
John Watkins – Unshrinking Psychosis.
Peter Chadwick – Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective: Explorations at the Outer Reaches of Human Experience
You can find out more and discuss the issues on the Mental Health Forum’s Schizophrenia forum.