I was very excited when I started medical college. The excitement resonated in my daily life and all my activities. But, of course there were a million things to study and loads of books to gobble up.
I met Anita (name changed). She was a fellow first-year. She was a very vivacious girl and completely my type. We used to study together while pouring in several cups of coffee, laugh over silly jokes and dance together on Saturday nights. People, who knew us well, started calling us the ‘troublesome duo’ because we managed to conjure jokes on them out of thin air.
Anita was a day scholar. She lived in a girls’ lodge. When we entered second year, I observed a distinct change in her. She suddenly grew serious. At first, I ignored it thinking it was the outcome of the hectic life as a medical student since everybody used to get serious at some point or the other. But Anita suddenly stopped sharing things with me like she used to earlier and would also get annoyed at the slightest joke. She would sometimes stare at me incomprehensibly and used to remain completely wide-eyed. Then she started having frequent out-bursts and would get extremely rude to everyone around her. But soon she would come to me, hug me and cry profusely.
I could not understand the sudden change in her. I really wish I had. After a few months, Anita completely stopped coming to college. I even tried to coax her into coming but she wouldn’t budge. When I noticed her staring at the windows blank eyed with all the lights in the room turned off, as she mumbled to herself, I immediately informed her parents. But it was already too late. Before she let anyone help her, she killed herself.
That might seem like a long story but it’s something a person needs to know about. After Anita passed away,I went on reading and trying to figure out what had actually transpired in her head that made her take her own life. Anita had schizophrenia. She was probably even planning to get psychiatric help but we, her friends, who were with her most of the time, never bothered to understand what was troubling her. That is very very sad indeed.
Schizophrenia, a severe,disabling brain disease affects millions of people world-wide every year. One of the reasons for the growing number of cases is also the fact that most of these cases go unnoticed (people mistake it as mood swings pertaining to a certain age) and thereby do not receive proper, prompt treatment.
Terrifying symptoms like hearing internal voices, believing others are reading their thoughts, or are controlling them or may be plotting to harm them, all these accompany schizophrenia. I should have realized that Anita was at constant conflict with herself, always in two minds about things.
The first signs of the disease are shocking changes in behaviour, the patient lives in fear and withdraws. There may be a psychotic phase in which the patient becomes violent, loses emotional responsiveness, and keeps on feeling remorse for totally irrelevant things. his ability to think straight is impaired, thoughts come and go rapidly and he is not able to focus on one thing for long. The sufferer has an incomprehensible speech and behavior, which may be frightening to others. A schizophrenic lives in a world of delusions, hallucinations, and illusions.
Schizophrenia is NOT a split personality disorder. It is a mental disease characterized by breakdown of thought processes.
The etiological factors are many. There are genetic factors, environmental factors as well as neurological factors. Majority of cases though are attributed to excessive dopamine function (due to misfiring of dopaminergic neurons and excessive activation of D2 receptors in the brain). Drugs like amphetamine,cocaine can cause psychotic symptoms similar to schizophrenia hence they should be excluded through blood tests, urine analysis and other lab tests. Thyrotoxicosis can sometimes cause psychotic symptoms too hence excluded through analysis of TSH levels. This disorder should also not be confused with bipolar disorder (for the entire diagnostic criteria, please refer to Wikipedia and www.schizophrenia.com).
What I wrote above must have given a very dreary picture right? Well the truth is schizophrenia is very difficult to treat. There is a high frequency of relapse, high rates of suicides and people often resort to drug abuse. But, I have even come across patients who have an indomitable spirit to live, and live as life should be led; those, who refuse to bow down to voices, refuse to be bogged down by depression. Patients often have to take antipsychotic medications life long. Although these medications have a few side effects, like tardive dyskinesia(involuntary movements of the extremities),and cognitive impairment, proper follow-up must be carried out by consulting a well-qualified psychologist or a neurologist.
Schizophrenics can lead an absolutely normal life with the proper medications, lots of love and care and just a little patience.
John Nash, the Economics Nobel prize winner for the game theory was a confirmed schizophrenic. Not much different was Beethoven who was deaf.
The patients should be counselled, and motivated to continue treatment. The family should be educated about the condition and mental state of the patient.
So, y’all stay alert. If you notice any signs of depression, withdrawal, or any unusual behaviour in any of your people consult a doctor immediately. It might only be a mild mood swing but it will at least save people from a lifetime of distress. And most important, stay happy! Because the world was supposed to end in 2012 (nothing could be worse than that!)…and yuppie it didn’t!! A very happy new year, everybody!
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© The Idea Bucket, 2013. (Submitted By team-member, Pallavi)