Schizophrenia. We have all heard about it. It is another one of those mysterious psychological disorders crassly portrayed by movies and books alike. Truth be told, it is as mysterious as any physiological ailment. We feel that a proper understanding and empathy will surely eradicate doubts and misconceptions.
In the year 2016, WHO gave some facts related to the disease in an attempt to increase awareness of the disorder :
1. Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder affecting more than 21 million people worldwide.
2. Schizophrenia is characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behavior. Common experiences include hearing voices and delusions.
3. Worldwide, schizophrenia is associated with considerable disability and may affect educational and occupational performance.
4. People with schizophrenia are 2-2.5 times more likely to die early than the general population. This is often due to physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular, metabolic and infectious diseases.
5. Schizophrenia is treatable. Treatment with medicines and psycho-social support is effective.
Because of it’s unexplained nature and stigma, discrimination and violation of human rights of people with schizophrenia is common.
Gurcharan (name changed) is a 56 years old man residing in a bungalow at the esteemed Friend’s colony in New Delhi. He is a businessman, who owns 14 factories and a total of 40 cars. He is also suffering from schizophrenia. His lack of affect, concern for personal hygiene and marked deficits in behavior are some of the notable symptoms of his condition. He has been in treatment for more than 8 years now and his condition has definitely improved. He is now able to remain calm, docile and reply coherently in monosyllables to general questions. At the very commencement of the treatment he was an extremely hostile and aggressive individual, and was a danger to himself and others.
So, what caused a flourishing and happily married man to succumb to this disorder? The causes of schizophrenia have been a subject of much debate with various factors proposed and discounted or modified. However, several researches on schizophrenia suggest that it takes a combination of genetics and environment to trigger the disorder. It is possible to develop the disorder at any age but statistics suggest that majority of cases for onset are from 16-30 years of age. There is a likelihood of even children developing although it is highly rare before 12 years.
These are the technical aspects of it. As per statistics, at some time during their life about 1 in 100 people will suffer an episode of schizophrenia. It is a high probability that you might have come across knowingly or unknowingly some individual with a possibility of acquiring or have acquired this disorder. As opposed to common generalized concepts, not all individuals are of extreme danger. Some surpass the so-called “normal” people.
Elyn Saks is a law professor at the University of Southern California, a Marshall scholar, and a graduate of Yale Law School. She also suffers from schizophrenia — an illness that many would assume makes her impressive resume an impossibility. In 2007, she published an acclaimed memoir of her struggle with the disease, “The Center Cannot Hold.” Her book is a frank and moving portrait of the experience of schizophrenia, but also a call for higher expectations — a plea that we allow people with schizophrenia to find their own limits.
If anything, she says, her work as a scholar has helped her to cope with the disease. In one of her interviews, she said, “Subjectively, the best comparison I can make is to a waking nightmare. You have all the terror and confusion and the bizarre images and thoughts that you have in a nightmare. And then with the nightmare you sit bolt upright in bed in utter terror. Only with a nightmare you then wake up, while with psychosis you can’t just open your eyes and make it all go away.
Objectively, I have delusions (irrational beliefs like that I have killed hundreds of thousands of people with my thoughts); infrequent hallucinations (like watching a huge spider walk up my wall); and disorganized and confused thinking (e.g. what are called “loose associations,” like “my copies of the cases have been infiltrated. We have to case the joint. I don’t believe in joints but they do hold your body together”). These are called “positive symptoms” of schizophrenia.”
Schizophrenia is not only and all about disruption in thought, emotions and behavior. It is definitely much more than that. In the similar way a patient suffering from cancer hopes to be identified as someone beyond just their disease. There are some very famous who have suffered from it and made a mark in this world-
Mark Twain (American writer)
John Nash (Mathematician/Nobel Prize Winner)
Eduard Einstein (Albert Einstein’s son)
Dr. James Watson’s son (Dr. Watson is co-discover of DNA and Nobel Prize winner)
Tom Harrell (Jazz Musician)
Vincent Van Gogh (Dutch Post-Impressionist painter)
Hollywood has also tried touching the concept in their own way. one of the widely liked movie that portrays the disease is Leonardo Dicaprio starrer Shutter Island. Another gem on the subject is Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind. Bollywood tried tapping in on the subject with its Karthik Calling Karthik. But a lot still needs to be shown.
In conclusion, I would like to state that there are people suffering from disorders and diseases. This makes them more humans than some of us others. In no way should they be treated like animals or someone above being treated. Being petrified of them or thinking less of them is not going to work for the collective good of the society. These people are achievers too, they can contribute much better to the society too, if given the chance and needed support.