One of the most devastating psychological disease is schizophrenia. I am quite familiar with this psychotic illness through friends who have schizophrenic off springs. I have also come in contact with teenagers at the UCLA psychiatric division whom I have worked with during my teaching job.
One of the first characteristics of schizophrenia is that it comes on when a child becomes a teenager. The onset is usually between the ages of 15 and 25. Generally, the onset for women is about five years later than it is for men.
You can imagine the distress a parent can have when the personality of their child has changed from a well-adjusted and seemingly ambitious individual, into a person that is quite reverse from the original personality.
Schizophrenia is sometimes referred to “split personality” because the sufferer’s thoughts and actions do not relate to each other. For example, one boy whom I am familiar with, was always so ambitious and had such great plans for his future. Slowly, his personality had changed. He became withdrawn and introverted, and lost his original drive. This became rather difficult for the parent to accept.
The changes in the personality of a schizophrenic may not be noticed for months or even years until it becomes apparent that the individual is suffering from delusions or hallucinations. Sometimes this illness comes on more suddenly, usually in response to some external stress.
Delusions can take on a variety of forms. For example, the person can believe that he/she is Jesus Christ or Napoleon. This Is known as delusions of grandeur.
The person affected with this illness can also have hallucinations. This individual hears voices. For example, this person hears a voice sending out a command. When I had a small group of students with psychological disorders, one girl called me over and asked me to sit with her. She told me she wanted me to read to her so she will be distracted from the voice that told her to kill someone.
At the UCLA hospital, the treatment for these students consists of antipsychotic drugs which reduces the symptoms and makes the person more amenable to psychotherapy. When the major symptoms are controlled, most of them can return to their homes. If the patient is to remain at home, the family needs support and guidance, since some schizophrenics may be difficult to live with. I knew of a family whose off spring refused to take his medication and was very difficult to live with. With much guidance, the parents were finally successful in getting him to take his medication. Because of this, there was a great deal of improvement in his behavior.
According to the book, “The American Medical Association, Encyclopedia of Medicine,” While 10 % of schizophrenics remain impaired for life, the majority can return to varying degrees of independence. About 30% return to normal lives and occupations.
Since there are various forms of this illness, the particular form of this illness is important to recognize in order to determine the outlook. I hope to write about the various forms in the near future.
Source: My personal experience and the book, “The American Medical Association”