Sunday, May 26, 2013

New Test to Diagnose Schizophrenia?

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation's theme for Mental Health Awareness Month 2013 is Know Science. No Stigma. 

They've been posting great, shareable factoids all month on brain and mental health research. The image below struck of chord with me.

I can't imagine what it might have been like if Pat was tested for schizophrenia early on, before his decline into psychosis. Diagnosis was a bumpy road. I felt as if my brother had to spin completely out of control and scare the hell out of all of us before doctors would be convinced something was not quite right.

I imagine some people who received a diagnosis relative early would have concerns about taking serious medication with many side effects.
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness when changing positions
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Skin rashes
  • Menstrual problems for women
  • Weight gain/metabolism changes
  • Rigidity
  • Tremors
I mean, the word antipsychotic itself sounds terrifying, conjuring up images of sanitized hospital rooms, people in nightgowns doing the thorazine shuffle. Then there's the stigma that follows schizophrenia.

With other illness out there that have similar features as SZ -- bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, paranoid personality disorder -- if there was a statistically reliable method for diagnosis SZ it would be, ultimately, comforting. NARSAD Grantee Akira Sawa, MD, PhD, and his colleagues published research that showed microRNA in olfactory neurons.

Every time Pat tries a new medication and is unresponsive, a part of me hopes that somehow he's just been misdiagnosed all these years. But 30% of people diagnosed with SZ have refractory SZ, meaning given adequate treatment their positive symptoms never subside.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Never left a comment before, but have read every entry. My baby brother (20 years old), was just diagnosed with schizophrenia 6 months ago. I'm sure you know the few preceding years were fraught with difficulties, and even with the revelation of the diagnosis, the heartbreak doesn't seem to ever lessen. Your blog was very helpful through this process, I hope you don't stop writing about your brother. Many thanks.

Sarah Rae said...

Thank you for commenting. It's good to know I'm not blogging in a vacuum. In the 6 years since Pat was diagnosed it often feels like no family is like ours, like no one gets diagnosed with SZ. It's a bittersweet comfort to have you here. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I reread this post, and I often beat myself up as someone with a masters, and who worked in the mental health field, helping young people just like my brother, how on earth I didn't realize this was happening??? AND, we lived with 2 family members that suffered from the illness, uncle and grandmother. How on earth did this happen under my own roof? But you know, anti-psychotic is a very scary word. And a very smart psychiatrist wanted to prescribe ME antipsychotics because he didn't believe that an illness like this could actually happen to my brother! He thought I was making it all up! AND the adolescent psychiatrist I brought my brother to didn't even realize he was psychotic, and prescribed him ADD drugs!
When at last I suspected schizophrenia (a little too late), I tried to get my brother into an early schizophrenia treatment/study and it was obvious to them in about 10 minutes that he was clearly psychotic. I'm telling you, I was paying attention all these years, and I worked in the field for so long with kids just like him, I have other family members afflicted with sz, and still I couldn't see it, couldn't believe it. It got me to thinking who on earth would qualify for this early psychosis program? Who could spot the illness so early if I couldn't?
I think we really need to get the word out to educators, ministers, whoever is reachable to youngsters, or sees youngsters on the daily, to spot prodromal symptoms.