Serious Psychiatric Disorders

(Schizophrenia and Manic-Depressive Disorder)

by Dr Bob Rich

This page is under continuous development.

Please email me with any response, especially links or new information.

Contents

        Manic-depressive Disorder

        Schizophrenia

        Borderline Personality Disorder

        General sites

   My summary for the causation of any psychological problem is:

    The human body can stuff up, and often does.

    Something goes wrong, for example the pancreas suddely stops making insulin. The person has become a diabetic, and this is a life sentence.

    Or joints suddenly feel like they're filled with broken glass. That's rheumatoid arthritis.

    Some people's nervous system starts to fall to pieces. Multiple Sclerosis, Peripheral Neural Degeneration, oh, there are lots of these nasty conditions that slowly and gradually take away control over your body. High blood pressure, digestive disorders, various forms of cancer... I'm sure you can think of many other examples.

    Some people can live on sugar and white flour and junk food, and never develop diabetes. They're lucky, their genes are robust in this way. Others get hit by this condition despite a reasonably good diet. Just the same, a really sensible diet will protect even the most vulnerable pancreas.

    So, what's this got to do with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder?
    In my opinion, they work the same way. A person has a genetic predisposition toward a chemical imbalance, in this case involving neural transmitters in the brain. This doesn't mean inevitable doom, just danger. If you have certain experiences, your brain responds by getting out of balance, and you get sick.

   At the same time, if a person with this genetic pattern has an early childhood that fosters resilience and inner strength, the tendency may never become actual. And also, if you have a genetic weakness for a set of psychological problems, chances are high that your carers during infancy will have it too, and you will model on them.

   Almost any person can be made to lose touch with reality, to 'go over the edge'. That's what torture, third degree questioning, brainwashing are about. Some rare souls can resist even such treatment. Other, genetically more vulnerable people respond to less terrible conditions with the symptoms of a psychiatric disorder.

    It's an interaction. So, how to respond to the misfortune of suffering in this way? By learning from other conditions that are interactions between heredity and circumstances.

   Some people will become alcoholics after just one episode of drunkenness. Even they will avoid this fate by never drinking to excess. But once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. The AA's most curative aspect is the simple statement at meetings: "I am Joe and I am an alcoholic." If you can continue saying, "I am Sally and I am a schizophrenic," you have a better chance of conquering this wretched disorder.

   Since I've written the above, I have reviewed Alcohemy by David Norman. This is a manual for eliminating alcoholic urges, not only to become a dry alkie.

   Actually, as a colleague has pointed out, it's far more powerful to say,"I am Sally and I am burdened with schizophrenia." The condition is not a part of you, but something you need to live with, at least for now.

    Because psychiatric disorders involve an imbalance of brain transmitters, they are almost always treated with drugs. I used to accept the general beliefs of the helping professions, that while these drugs have dangers and side effects, they are pretty well necessary to get the condition under control, and then the person can work on the relevant issues. However, this PDF document by Robert Whitaker has changed my mind. In his very thorough review of the evidence, he has shown that these drugs may relieve symptoms in the short term, but then actually make matters worse. They change the brain in ways that increase the problem.

   But even if you use the drugs, they are just the start. The environment needs attention too. You must change the circumstances that caused the problem, and are maintaining it. This is not a question of blame, but of engineering your life.

    Also, the wonderful and mysterious healing mechanisms of the body can correct the imbalance without drugs, in response to psychotherapy, and a change in the life events that led to the problem in the first place.

     One major problem is social stigma. You can suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure and be generally respected. However, there is discrimination, fear and even loathing toward people with psychiatric disorders, a leftover medieval attitude. And, usually, the sufferer internalises these attitudes. I believe that at least half the problems of 'mental illness' derive from feelings of self-hate, low self-esteem, and in turn rebellion against an unkind fate.

    My recommendation to sufferers from these problems is:

*    Read Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning. He could make a meaningful life in a concentration camp, while his young wife had been sent to the gas chambers. His inspiration will make you reduce the chip on your shoulder.

*    The worst thing you can do is to 'self-medicate' with alcohol, uppers and downers, the cocktail of mind-blowing substances people use to get away from their problems.

    You need to make up your own mind about medication. People vary. For some, the drugs will be needed for a lifetime. Others can get off them, but only after a major change in lifestyle, and conscientious therapy, whether with a professional or not. I have met ex-schizophrenia sufferers who got rid of the problem with their own unaided efforts.

*    Find supportive company. The internet is a wonderful resource for this. The links below lead to help.

*    Change the life circumstances that maintain the problem. If necessary, move somewhere else. What to change? Read my page on 'How to solve a problem' for the general approach.

*    You need to grow within, to change your view of yourself and your life, of the role of others in it. You need to get rid of hate, resentment, envy.

*    Above all, you need to be able to accept yourself, the way you are, psychiatric condition and all. Bugger the world, they can think what they want, I'm the way I am, and I'm OK.

Bipolar (Manic-Depressive) Disorder

   Read the letter a young woman sent me about her way of coping with Bipolar.

    If you are a sufferer, you need visit only one site:Winds of Change for inspiration, information support, mailing list, links, chat room. This is the place where you will be comfortable and accepted.

   Do you have a child afflicted by manic-depressive disorder? Read the very helpful and informative article by George Lynn at http://www.bpkids.org/printing/012.htm. George is a mental health counselor in Bellevue, Washington who has pioneered the use of psychotherapeutic techniques to help people with ADD, Tourette Syndrome, and Bipolar Disorder. He is author of Survival Strategies for Parenting Your ADD Child (Underwood Books, 1996) and Survival Strategies for Parenting Children With Bipolar Disorder (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2000). His web site is www.childspirit.com.

    For inspiration, healing and contacts (many contacts), visit Juliet's page at Surf's Edge.

    Another source of help is the Depressive Manic-Depressive Association of Virginia with mental health consumer information: self-help, support, education & advocacy.

    Joy Ikelman's Cybersite: Bipolar Disorder This site gives basic info on this mental illness and also some great links to other sites.

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Schizophrenia

    

    I'm Still Here: The Truth About Schizophrenia Real people (not actors) describe how schizophrenia affects them and their families in a non-fiction film. Symptoms are vividly described, and the truth clears up myths.

    The Schizophrenia Homepage This site provides patients, family members, and caregivers with information on a variety of important mental health topics including schizophrenia and other common mental illnesses.

      The Schizophrenia Society of Canada has a mandate to 'alleviate the suffering caused by schizophrenia'. SSC supports people with schizophrenia, their families and loved ones.

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Borderline Personality Disorder

       I have had several clients who were struggling with BPD. Most of them benefited, two discontinued our contact.

   'Borderline Personality Disorder' is a horrible name for a distressing behavior pattern. The name actually has nothing to do with the problem, but is based on a misunderstanding. I am one of many helpers who look on BPD as an instance of faulty childhood learning. During infancy, the person modelled on people who had problems with expressing emotions. There may have been significant abuse to the child. And there were problems with learning how to form strong, positive attachments to others.

   This is not to say that the parents were at fault, but simply that the child was forced to cope in a difficult situation by learning to relate to people in a particular way. In adulthood, this coping mechanism proves to be highly distressing to the sufferer, and to people s/he associates with.

   Habits can be changed. However, the more 'overlearned' a habit is, the harder it is to change. Emotional reactions are our most overlearned habits, so modifying them is a difficult road. It takes over a year of hard work.

Useful web sites:

The Borderline Personality Disorder Email List site. It has a long list of helpful articles, and offers contacts.

www.mjtacc.com is an Australian site. The owner's girlfriend suffered with BPD, so he researched the topic and ended up with a wonderfully helpful resource.

General sites

    RECOVERY Inc. offers a particular self-help method for serious psychiatric problems, including Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Eating Disorders, Schizophrenia and Anxiety Disroders. Their statement is: 'There are no hopeless cases'.

    National Alliance for the Mentally Ill is a grassroots, self-help organization of people with serious mental illness and their families and friends. NAMI's mission is to eradicate mental illness and to improve the quality of life for sufferers.

 

    I have only just started this page. If you can suggest other links, or other psychiatric disorders you'd like to see listed here, please email me.

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