22 Dec
2010

Schizophrenia is a distressing form of mental illness that affects all levels of higher function producing severe abnormalities of mood, thought processes, perception and behaviour. Early medical theories in relation to Schizophrenia held a particularly bleak outlook for its victims. The disease was thought to follow a chronic remitting, relapsing course until eventually the schizophrenic became a vegetative, volitionless cripple. Fortunately this point of view has not stood the test of time. Many people affected by schizophrenia experience only one attack or maintain a normal personality and adjustment between what constitute infrequent episodes of disturbance.
Over 100,000 Australians suffer from schizophrenia and the cause of the condition is still unknown. Risk factors include a family history of schizophrenia, childbirth and other illnesses such as Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Encephalitis and brain tumours.

The treatment of schizophrenia has been revolutionized by the discovery of the major tranquillizers. These antihistamines like drugs disperse the hallucinations and delusions of people with schizophrenia. They reduce the thought disorder and return the emotions to an even keel. Major changes are seen within the first six weeks of therapy on drugs such as Largactil, Melleril, Stelazine and Haloperidol. Side effects are very frequent when the major tranquillizers are used in high doses. To overcome the effects of secondary Parkinsonism, doctors often prescribe coexisting courses of Cogentin or Dissipal.
The experience of schizophrenia has a profound affect on the mental and social life of its victims. Families find problems arising out of schizophrenia particularly difficult to cope with. The disease can be all the more distressing in that it predominantly affects young adults between the ages of 15 and 25. It strikes at the most important phase of these young people’s education and early career development. Support groups such as the Schizophrenia Fellowship can be invaluable in terms of advice, assistance, insight and social networks.

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