Mental Illness In General

I felt it was important to touch base on the general statistics about mental illness. Schizophrenia is not the only difficult mental disease that is affecting millions of families. The statistics are alarming.
  • According to the World Health Organization one in every four people, or 25 percent of individuals, develops one or more mental disorders at some stage in their life.
  • Today, 450-million people globally suffer from mental disorders in both developed and developing countries.
  • Of these, 154 million suffer from depression, 25 million from schizophrenia, 91 million from alcohol-use disorder and 15-million from drug-use disorder.
  • Mental illnesses are more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
  • As many as two-thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental disorder do not seek treatment, whether for fear of being stigmatized, fear that the treatment may be worse than the illness itself, or lack of awareness, access and affordability of care.
  • Mental health problems represent five out of 10 leading causes of disability worldwide; amounting to nearly one-third of the disability in the world. Leading contributors include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and dementia.
  • Mental illness rank first among the illnesses that cause disability in the United States, Canada and Western Europe.
  • It is predicted by 2010, depression will be the leading cause of disability worldwide, not cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or AIDS.
  • Mental illness is a serious public health challenger that is under-recognized as a public burden. It is the most ignored disease.
  • Suicide claims a life every 30 seconds almost 3,000 people commit suicide every day in this world.
  • In 90 percent of suicides, mental illness is the attributing cause.
  • Approximately 20.9 million American adults ages 18 and older have a mood disorder (Depression, Dysthymic, and Bipolar) that is 9.5 percent of the U.S. population.
  • Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older have an anxiety disorder (Panic, Obsessive-Compulsive, Post-Traumatic Stress, Anxiety and Social Phobia) that is 18.1% of the U.S. population.
  • Nearly 500,000 mentally ill men and women are serving time in U.S. jails and prisons.
  • An alarming 65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in juvenile detention have at least one psychiatric diagnosis.
  • Approximately 40 percent of people who are homeless in America suffer from serious and persistent mental illness.

    What is Schizophrenia?

    Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disease that interferes with normal brain and mental function. It can trigger hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and significant lack of motivation. Without treatment, schizophrenia affects the ability to think clearly, manage emotions, and interact appropriately with other people. Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating of all mental illnesses and can profoundly affect all areas of your life.

    Basic Facts

  • Schizophrenia is found all over the world in all races, all cultures and all social classes
  • Approximately 1.1 percent of the world's populations develops schizophrenia
  • 51 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia
  • More than 2.7 million Americans now suffer from schizophrenia (1 in 100)
  • There are more Americans with schizophrenia than there are residents of North Dakota and Wyoming combined
  • For men, the age of onset for schizophrenia is often ages 16 to 20
  • For women, the age of onset is sometimes later ages 25 to 30
  • Schizophrenia is rare under the age of 10
  • The disease affects men and women equally
  • One out of 10 schizophrenics eventually commits suicide
  • Studies indicated that 25 percent of those who have schizophrenia recover completely (lifetime of medication); 50 percent improve over a 10-year period; and 25 percent do not improve or recover
  • Less than half receive adequate treatment, including appropriate medication dosage and use of various therapies
  • There is no cure for schizophrenia
  • It's a brain disease with concrete and specific symptoms due to physical and biochemical changes in the brain
  • In America: Schizophrenia relative to other diseases: Schizophrenia, 2.7 million; Alzheimer's Disease, 1.3 million people; Multiple Sclerosis, 400,000 people; Insulin-Dependent Diabetes, 350,000 people; and Muscular Dystrophy, 35,000 people
  • Schizophrenia receives less money from the government and charities for studies of a cure than any other disease, but yet, it has one of the highest disease rates

    What Causes Schizophrenia?

    Scientists do not know for sure what causes schizophrenia. It is believed there is no single cause of this illness. Some researchers believe that schizophrenia can be a result of many factors such as genetic predisposition, biochemistry (neuro-chemical imbalance in the brain), environmental exposures and/or stresses during pregnancy or childhood, cerebral blood flow (activity between different areas of the brain), molecular biology (irregular pattern of certain brain cells), drug abuse and nutritional theories can all be possible contributing factors.

    What are the Symptoms?

    Symptoms of schizophrenia usually emerge in adolescence or early adulthood. Symptoms can appear suddenly or may develop gradually, often causing the illness to go unrecognized and untreated until it is in an advanced stage when it is more difficult to treat.
    Symptoms are not identical for everyone. Some people may have only one episode of schizophrenia in their lifetime. Others may have recurring episodes, but lead relatively normal lives in between. Others may have severe symptoms for a lifetime.
    Symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into five basic categories: Psychotic, Negative, Cognitive Impairment, Mood Problems and Behavioral Disturbances. No two people are alike. Every schizophrenic is unique and will display signs of these symptoms to different degrees in most of these categories, but no one has all of the symptoms in each category. Please see my book for more details.

    Quick Reference Warning Signs (these differ from person to person):

  • Social withdrawal, isolation, and reclusiveness
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Depression
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Irrational statements
  • Sleeping excessively or inability to sleep
  • Shift in basic personality
  • Unexpected hostility
  • Deterioration of social relationships
  • Hyperactivity or inactivity or alternating between the two
  • Inability to concentrate or to cope with minor problems
  • Extreme preoccupation with religion or with the occult
  • Excessive writing without meaning
  • Indifference
  • Dropping out of activities or out of life in general
  • Decline in academic or athletic interests
  • Forgetting things
  • Losing possessions
  • Extreme reactions to criticism
  • Inability to express joy
  • Inability to cry or excessive crying
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Unusual sensitivity to stimuli (noise, light, colors, textures)
  • Attempts to escape through frequent moves or hitchhiking trips
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Fainting
  • Strange posturing
  • Refusal to touch persons or objects; wearing gloves, etc.
  • Shaving head or body hair
  • Cutting oneself; threats or self-mutilation
  • Staring without blinking or blinking incessantly
  • Flat, reptile-like gaze
  • Rigid stubbornness
  • Peculiar use of words or odd language structures
  • Sensitivity and irritability when touched by others

    How is a Schizophrenia Diagnosed?

    There is no laboratory test that has been found to be diagnostic of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia has been primarily diagnosed with family and personal medical history, physical examination, and a mental health assessment. Other tests, such as blood tests or imaging tests, may be done to rule out other illnesses (such as, major depressive episode or manic episode with psychotic features, delusional disorder, autistic disorder, personality disorders) that can mimic symptoms of schizophrenia. It is important to analyze the symptoms for consecutive months prior to determining if someone has schizophrenia. There are also other medical tests or options that can be taken, for instance, Brain-Imaging (brain scans). There have been many studies done that show individuals with schizophrenia often have a number of (non-diagnostic) neurological abnormalities. They have enlargement of lateral ventricles, decreased brain tissue, decreased volume of the temporal lobe and thalamus, a large cavum septum pellucidi and hypofrontality (decreased blood flow and metabolic functioning of the frontal lobes).
    Personally, I cannot tell you who is schizophrenic and who is not. I have no medical degree. I can state that my brother exhibited most of the warning signs, and his brain scan did show some abnormalities. I just wish that all this information existed when my parents were educating themselves on this illness and searching for help. Overall, it is best to speak with your doctor on all the symptoms you have observed, review family medical history, and also ask about other options for testing prior to determining if your loved one has schizophrenia.

    What are the Treatments for Schizophrenia?

    There is no cure for schizophrenia; however, it is a treatable disease. The last few years have seen dramatic steps forward in the treatment of schizophrenia. Between new medications, enhanced prescribing knowledge, and new knowledge demonstrating effective psychosocial treatments, we now have a greatly improved understanding of how to treat the biological, psychological and social aspects of a person's illness. These available options are making recovery a very real possibility for all individuals who have schizophrenia.
    It is important to diagnose and treat schizophrenia as early as possible to have success in the treatment plan. Schizophrenia is a difficult disease to handle for both the individual who is sick and for their families. It is critical to have consistency, long-term treatment of medications, and emotional support to have any type of success in the management of this disease.
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