Help for and Insight into Schizophrenia

16th October 2023

Definition: Schizophrenia is defined as a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that has been recognized throughout recorded history. One-percent of Americans are thought to be schizophrenic.

Notes from 24th Annual Schizophrenia Conference, Columbia University, NY, April 26th, 2009

People who are categorized or labeled with schizophrenia may hear voices other people don't hear or they may believe that others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. These experiences are terrifying and can cause fearfulness, withdrawal, or extreme agitation. People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk, may sit for hours without moving or talking much, or may seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking.

Because many people with schizophrenia have difficulty holding a job or caring for themselves, the burden on their families and society is significant as well. (What is Schizophrenia? National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH))

Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939)

What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Schizoaffective disorder is a condition in which a person meets the criteria for both schizophrenia and a mood disorder.

The term was first introduced in 1933. Some patients showed symptoms of both schizophrenia, with hallucinations and delusions, in addition to symptoms of elevated mood or depressed mood.

Some feel that schizoaffective disorder should not be treated as a distinct disorder from schizophrenia, but rather as schizophrenia with some mood symptoms. (Source: Mayo Clinic.Com, December 22, 2006. ).

Drug Treatment for Schizophrenia

The common treatments for schizophrenia involve use of drugs. In past, antipsychotics such as Haldol (haloperidol) a strong tranquilizing drug, Thorazine (cholopromazine) or Prolixin were used frequently. The side effects for these drugs are potent and debilitating. These drugs are known as "neuroleptics").

Schizophrenia - Genetics or Socio-Cultural and Environmental Factors

In the past decade, the study of genetics has reached new heights, the human genome has been mapped, and genetic markers for various illnesses, including mental health disorders, have been identified. What is the role of genetics in mental health disorders and in schizophrenia?

The consensus of the most reliable experts on this subject seems to be that mental health disorders, including such disorders as schizophrenia, are a combination of genetic factors, in terms of pre-disposition, as well as social, cultural and environmental factors. Environmental factors are used to indicate a wide diversity of physical and cultural stressors, including such the physical effects of environmental contaminants such as lead or mercury poisoning (Nigg, J. 2006), as well as the family structure and interactions between family members and media issues as well.

Dr. Dnaiel Weinberger, chief of the clinical brain disorder branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) since 1987, has researched the subject of genetics and mental health disorders. The conclusion reached by Daniel Weinberger, which seems to have general consensus in the climate of psychiatric thinkers, as quoted by the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI), is that "while genes related to mental illness do not determine your fate, they do tell about your risk status." NAMI elaborates, "in much the same way, high cholesterol does not guarantee that you will develop heart disease, but it does place you at an increased risk."

An "accumulation of risk factors such as environmental factors and social factors," combined with a genetic predisposition, can lead to a greater likelihood of mental illness. "There's simply no one recipe," states Weinberger. There is an array of combinations that may ultimately lead to the manifestation of schizophrenia." Similarly, Professor of Anthropology at Standford University, Tanya Marie Luhrmann,states in an article entitle, Beyond the Brain, published in Wilson Quarterly, and as the subject relates specifically to schizophrenia, that the causes of schizophrenia are as much social as they are genetic, that a combination of risk factors pre-dispose individuals towards schizophrenia, and that the medical model basis for treating schizophrenia has "failed". Several decades of psychiatric drug treatment for schizophrenia has not succeeded, in actually, the majority of cases. Rather something much more is needed, including a fresh look at the social reasons for the development of the disorder. While, on the one hand, Freudian psychoanalysis has not resulted in a cure for schizophrenia in most case neither has drug treatment based on the medical model.

On this topic Luhrmann concludes that, "The outcome of two decades of serious psychiatric science is that schizophrenia now appears to be a complex outcome of many unrelated causes—the genes you inherit, but also whether your mother fell ill during her pregnancy, whether you got beaten up as a child or were stressed as an adolescent, even how much sun your skin has seen. It’s not just about the brain. It’s not just about genes.

In fact, schizophrenia looks more and more like diabetes. A messy array of risk factors predisposes someone to develop diabetes: smoking, being overweight, collecting fat around the middle rather than on the hips, high blood pressure, and yes, family history. These risk factors are not intrinsically linked. Some of them have something to do with genes, but most do not. They hang together so loosely that physicians now speak of a metabolic “syndrome,” something far looser and vaguer than an "illness," let alone a "disease." Psychiatric researchers increasingly think about schizophrenia in similar terms."

Therefore, it would appear evident that there is a combination of "biological and socio-cultural factors" (NAMI) involved with schizophrenia and other forms of mental health disorders. Some of these include all aspects of the individuals physical and socio-cultural environment, and can also include a history of drug use or alcohol abuse. (NAMI Advocate, Winter 2011. p.7)

Lifestyles Changes Adjustments for Schizophrenia
Possible Media Connections and Adjustments

Attention to lifestyle issues and even more strictness and vigilance on the matter of mental and physical hygiene for adults, children and teenagers effected by schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorders-a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can be of utmost help. Work very hard at mental hygiene, make whatever changes might be necessary. It can make a difference.

Such adjustments as turning down the intensity and frequency of the music one listens to, especially a child or teenager. Avoiding anything that might have spiritistic or occult overtones.

Avoid any violence in the media. Some persons are very sensitive emotionally, even violent sports, action movies, any cartoons that have violence (Bugs Bunny, Disney, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), these fast-paced cartoons can effect the mind of certain children and young adults. Games such as YuGiOh for children have a certain darkness with spiritistic overtones which can contribute to a child or teenagers difficulties in coping with reality. For some children, fantasy cartoons where powers are invoked such as Avatar or even the Pokemon game cards, can cause a certain detachment from reality if it is overdone.

Of course, the movies today, R-rated and slasher, horror movies, are much more violent, and these can also effect the minds of some sensitive persons to the point of delusional thinking. (Even the Hitchcock variety of movies or old horror movies can be too intense for many persons.)

The same can be said for video games. Many, if not most, can be overwhelming for the minds of some children and young adults.

Some minds are very sensitive and in the case of schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder, strict mental hygiene can be helpful in improving symptoms. Medications do not always quiet the voices or delusions, perhaps in less than half of those who take medicine is there positive effect. Sometimes the positive effect with medication treatment for schizophrenia is temporary.

Any parent who tries to help a child with severe mental health disorders through attention to mental hygiene, needs to take care to:

Do not abruptly change an already existing medication regimen. Gradual reduction is preferable.

Replace activities such as TV or movies, with positive recreational activities such as art, music lessons, music CDs that are enjoyable but gentler in their intensity, may help for some with symptoms of schizophrenia.

Spirituality can also play a role in mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, both in a positive way, as well as in a way that increases risk factors. Attention to spiritual needs and balance in spirituality can also be of importance. Avoid going to extremes or being involved with extremes in pursuing spiritual needs or goals.

Music, Mental Health and Schizophrenia

For many children and teens, music is an almost religious passion. (Overcoming ADHD Without Medication: A parent and educator's guidebook, 2011. p.30). The intensity, as well as the imagery that accompanies much of today's intense music, in the form of music videos, and potent mental imagery, can be overwhelming for the minds of many teens and young adults.

The emotions of much of the popular music of today can be very intense. Youth often identify emotionally with this music. It can affect their mental health and be one contributing factor, when combined with other stressors, social factors including lack of strong emotional attachments, previous abuse, along with a genetic predisposition, can contribute to even serious mental health disorders such as schizophrenia.

Some music is intense, some is described as violent, some strongly emotional. Some music for teens dwells on negative emotions that all of us have from time to time, but that some teens in particular identify with. Linkin' Park music, as an example is described by a New York Times reviewer as, "Wounded, aggressive and overwhelmingly self-absorbed, the songs honored countless adolescent mood swings and sold millions of albums." Surely an overindulgence in this type of music can affect the mental health of some teens.

Counselors, professionals, teachers, parents, and caregivers, then, should be aware of how music can affect the mental health of teens and young adults, and help them to keep music under control, as well as to direct them towards music that is mentally soothing, rather than music which is intense and that can contribute to psychological difficulties.

While schizophrenia is not a "mood disorder," it can be accompanied by mood disorders, and the psychopathic nature of some of the music that is available for young people, and that is popular, can contribute to psychopathological thinking, which makes mental healing difficult.

By keeping the time spent listening to music in a proper balance, and by directing youth and clients with serious mental health disorders, including those accompanied by audio delusions, such as hearing voices, music is an audial medium of communication, this can help some to respond more consistently to various methods of therapy, in an effort to allow the mind to heal.

References for Help for Schizophrenia - (off-site links)

Cowen, M., August 31, 2012. Smoking rates increased in relatives of schizophrenia patients. Medical News.

Linkin' Park at Madison Square Garden. Unafraid of Altering a Winning Formula.

McLean, Brenda, (Winter 2011). Genes and Mental Illness: What's the Connection. National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI). p. 7.

Nigg, Joel, (2006). What Causes ADHD? Guilford

Overcoming ADHD Without Medication: A guidebook for parents and educator's. (2012). p.30.AYCNP.

Parles, John, (Feb 6, 2011). Smoking rates increased in relatives of schizophrenia patients. Psychiatry Res 2012.

What is Schizophrenia? National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH). Retrieved 2009.