The scary thing about schizophrenia is that sufferers may be so confused by the symptoms that they are unable to tell what is real and what is fantasy. For instance, when serial killer David Berkowitz saw black dogs barking out orders to kill, he believed they were actually there.
Many schizophrenics keep their voices and thoughts to themselves, for fear of being labeled “crazy.” Another schizophrenic, Janice Jordan, mentioned being unable to tell her counselors about a delusional figure known as “The Controller” who barked orders at her during psychotic episodes.
The more patients learn about the illness and its many effects, the better equipped they are to handle the symptoms. Unfortunately, taking life-long medication is also a realistic assumption on the road to recovery.
Schizophrenia research reports some interesting findings. For instance, the mental illness is largely caused by a neuro-chemical imbalance of Dopamine, Seratonin and Norepenephrine.
In a normal brain, the frontal lobe increases its blood flow and the “listening” part of the brain diminishes. PET scans reveal that in a schizophrenic brain, the frontal lobe is active but the “listening” part remains just as active.
The sensory overload usually causes a hallucination. People who are born with it generally have irregular brain cell patterns. Drugs and stress do not cause schizophrenia, but they can certainly exacerbate the symptoms. In some cases, family members who understand very little can agitate the symptoms by using an accusing tone of voice or reacting angrily to the sufferer.
Family members who know about schizophrenia can learn to recognize symptoms of an acute attack: a change in personality, social withdrawal, sleeplessness, agitation, using words that do not make sense and seeing things that aren’t there. It is important to create an environment that facilitates recovery. Keeping peace and serenity at home, helping the schizophrenic set realistic goals, sharing tasks, gradually increasing independence and encouraging new hobbies can all provide schizophrenia support.
There are many misperceptions about schizophrenia. One is that schizophrenia is the same as multiple personality disorder (MPD), which is simply not true. MPD is often characterized by two or more separate and distinct “personalities” which sometimes go by different names, display different mannerisms and have entire lists of unique likes and dislikes.
By contrast, schizophrenics exhibit different behavior, as well as suffer delusions and hallucinations. However, they maintain a basic sense of self, afflicted by mood swings and fragmented thinking. Another misperception is that sufferers are violent by nature.
Because of cases like David Berkowitz or Herb Mullin, the general public associate schizophrenia with murderers – but the only real danger for 99% of schizophrenics is self-harm. By educating the public, diagnosis and recovery can be more effective.