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3. Schizophrenia

This is a serious condition that is usually diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood. Schizophrenia affects how people think – meaning they have a different perception of reality. It’s complex and hard to treat, and because schizophrenic behaviour can be so outrageous is often mistaken for a curse or an effect of some evil force. Schizophrenia only affects about 1% of the population, but is nevertheless a very serious mental illness that requires constant specialised care.

Patients with schizophrenia lose touch with reality. They can hear voices or see things that those around them can’t. They are sometimes driven to act by voices in their heads or the perception that someone, possibly God, is telling them what to do. They often accuse those closest to them of collaborating with evil forces.

People with paranoid schizophrenia live in a state of fear that they are being followed, watched and targeted by outside forces. It is a misconception that people with schizophrenia have just a rich, imaginative life. They are distressed by their feelings and thoughts, and not knowing what is real and what not is extremely distressing.

So, remember, don’t start diagnosing your friends and family because you think they are outrageous or paranoid.

Schizophrenia must be diagnosed by a clinical psychologist, and a psychiatrist. It can be managed with medication, with different degrees of success. People often don’t want to stay on their medication because of the side effects, but with an illness this severe, treatment won’t be successful without medication.

As with all mental illnesses, the type and amount of medication that works is a process. Often a patient will have to try many different medications at doses before finding a treatment regime that works.

3. Schizophrenia

Chronic-Mental-Illness-Schizophrenia

This is a serious condition that is usually diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood. Schizophrenia affects how people think – meaning they have a different perception of reality. It’s complex and hard to treat, and because schizophrenic behaviour can be so outrageous is often mistaken for a curse or an effect of some evil force. Schizophrenia only affects about 1% of the population, but is nevertheless a very serious mental illness that requires constant specialised care.

Patients with schizophrenia lose touch with reality. They can hear voices or see things that those around them can’t. They are sometimes driven to act by voices in their heads or the perception that someone, possibly God, is telling them what to do. They often accuse those closest to them of collaborating with evil forces.

People with paranoid schizophrenia live in a state of fear that they are being followed, watched and targeted by outside forces. It is a misconception that people with schizophrenia have just a rich, imaginative life. They are distressed by their feelings and thoughts, and not knowing what is real and what not is extremely distressing.

So, remember, don’t start diagnosing your friends and family because you think they are outrageous or paranoid.

Schizophrenia must be diagnosed by a clinical psychologist, and a psychiatrist. It can be managed with medication, with different degrees of success. People often don’t want to stay on their medication because of the side effects, but with an illness this severe, treatment won’t be successful without medication.

As with all mental illnesses, the type and amount of medication that works is a process. Often a patient will have to try many different medications at doses before finding a treatment regime that works.

TREATMENT

  • Anti-psychotics
  • Psychotherapy
  • Self-awareness and self-regulation techniques
  • Education for self and others
  • Social support in the form of informed family, friends and support groups

Patients can better manage schizophrenia if they:

  • Accept the diagnosis – often patients think the doctors are part of a plot against them;
  • Don’t rush the medication process – it takes time to find a balance that works;
  • Adhere to their medication – it can’t be stopped and started;
  • Learn to identify and monitor their thoughts and feelings – often through writing a journal;
  • Communicate with family members and friends about the condition to alleviate fear and address stigma.

TREATMENT

chronic-mental-illness
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Psychotherapy
  • Self-awareness and self-regulation techniques
  • Education for self and others
  • Social support in the form of informed family, friends and support groups

Patients can better manage schizophrenia if they:

  • Accept the diagnosis – often patients think the doctors are part of a plot against them;
  • Don’t rush the medication process – it takes time to find a balance that works;
  • Adhere to their medication – it can’t be stopped and started;
  • Learn to identify and monitor their thoughts and feelings – often through writing a journal;
  • Communicate with family members and friends about the condition to alleviate fear and address stigma.

4. Eating Disorders

Eating disorders do not discriminate. Unfortunately eating disorders and a distorted relationship with food is all too common in our diet culture. Eating disorders are normally thought to be a problem under white adolescent girls only, but in recent years it’s been proven that eating disorders are becoming more common under black African and Asian adolescent girls, and also generally in boys. Although it is not necessarily a chronic mental illness, sadly many people who suffer from eating disorders, struggle with it all their life.

The two most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Both these disorders involve the person starving themselves, but there is also a category of binge eating disorders, where people eat too much. In both Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa the person thinks that he/she is much larger than they actually are. They actually see themselves as being ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’ when they look at themselves in the mirror. Even when they are very underweight. Both of these conditions are extremely serious and can lead to death if they are not treated.

4. Eating Disorders

Chronic-Mental-Illness-eating-disorder

Eating disorders do not discriminate. Unfortunately eating disorders and a distorted relationship with food is all too common in our diet culture. Eating disorders are normally thought to be a problem under white adolescent girls only, but in recent years it’s been proven that eating disorders are becoming more common under black African and Asian adolescent girls, and also generally in boys. Although it is not necessarily a chronic mental illness, sadly many people who suffer from eating disorders, struggle with it all their life.

The two most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Both these disorders involve the person starving themselves, but there is also a category of binge eating disorders, where people eat too much. In both Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa the person thinks that he/she is much larger than they actually are. They actually see themselves as being ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’ when they look at themselves in the mirror. Even when they are very underweight. Both of these conditions are extremely serious and can lead to death if they are not treated.

Anorexia Nervosa

With Anorexia Nervosa, the person with the disorder cuts down on the amount of calories that they take in every day to extremes. E.g., for them a meal will be five peas, two baby carrots and a glass of water. They keep very close food diaries, weigh themselves all the time and count every single calorie that goes into their bodies. They will also exercise very hard and sometimes take laxatives. They don’t have insight into themselves and their behaviour, and don’t realise that what they are doing is not only making them unhealthily skinny, but it is also causing damage to their organs, bones, hormones, growth, and everything else. Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa differs in the sense that a person with this disorder doesn’t necessarily limit their calories, but follow a binge-purge cycle. They would completely overeat, until they feel sick, and then immediately throw up everything that they have eaten so that they don’t pick up weight. People with this disorder often feel an intense amount of shame for how ‘disgusting’ they are. Until the next time that they are hungry or have strong cravings, and the cycle repeats itself. Those who suffer from Bulimia Nervosa are not necessarily abnormally skinny, but their condition can still cause severe problems to their physical health. They become dehydrated, can suffer from low blood pressure and heart problems, can severely damage the esophagus, develop teeth and gum problems and can develop ‘bulimia face’ (the swollen salivary glands can make the face and neck look puffy from too much throwing up).

Anorexia Nervosa

chronic-mental-illness

With Anorexia Nervosa, the person with the disorder cuts down on the amount of calories that they take in every day to extremes. E.g., for them a meal will be five peas, two baby carrots and a glass of water. They keep very close food diaries, weigh themselves all the time and count every single calorie that goes into their bodies. They will also exercise very hard and sometimes take laxatives. They don’t have insight into themselves and their behaviour, and don’t realise that what they are doing is not only making them unhealthily skinny, but it is also causing damage to their organs, bones, hormones, growth, and everything else. Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa differs in the sense that a person with this disorder doesn’t necessarily limit their calories, but follow a binge-purge cycle. They would completely overeat, until they feel sick, and then immediately throw up everything that they have eaten so that they don’t pick up weight. People with this disorder often feel an intense amount of shame for how ‘disgusting’ they are. Until the next time that they are hungry or have strong cravings, and the cycle repeats itself. Those who suffer from Bulimia Nervosa are not necessarily abnormally skinny, but their condition can still cause severe problems to their physical health. They become dehydrated, can suffer from low blood pressure and heart problems, can severely damage the esophagus, develop teeth and gum problems and can develop ‘bulimia face’ (the swollen salivary glands can make the face and neck look puffy from too much throwing up).

TREATMENT

Eating disorders can be extremely difficult to treat. Treatment would typically be on an in-patient or out-patient basis that uses a holistic approach. The treatment team would usually include a:

  • Psychologist/counsellor
  • Psychiatrist
  • Dietitian
  • Doctor and/or dentist depending on the person’s physical condition.

Loved ones need to provide support and be actively involved in the treatment process (especially parents/primary caretakers), and treatment might involve medication, depending on the person. For more information on how eating disorders can be treated, see this article.

Other websites that provide information and resources on eating disorders:
Eating Disorder Treatment
Eating Disorder Hope