Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia: Overview

Those suffering from schizophrenia find it difficult to distinguish between what is real and unreal, think clearly, manage emotions, relate to others, or function normally.

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The term "schizophrenia" is an inadequate and misleading diagnosis.  "Disperceptions of unknown cause" is a better term.  If one includes fevers, environmental aggravations and drug reactions, there are innumerable ways to "go crazy" and be diagnosed as "schizophrenic".

It is not true that schizophrenia refers to a "split personality" or multiple personalities.  Multiple Personality Disorder is a different and much rarer condition.  Schizophrenics are simply "split off" from reality.

Incidence; Causes and Development

Most cases of schizophrenia first appear in the late teens or early adulthood, but it can develop at any age.  Schizophrenia tends to be more severe in men than in women.

The lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia is widely accepted to be around 1 in 100, so it is not a rare condition.  Genetics play a strong role; schizophrenia occurs in 10% of people who have a first degree relative (parent or sibling) with the disorder.  Rates are also higher for those with second-degree relatives (aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins) with the disease.  Someone with an identical twin with the disorder stands a 45-60% chance of developing it.

While schizophrenia runs in families, about 60% of schizophrenics have no family members with the disorder.

Research is increasingly pointing to high levels of stress as being a trigger of schizophrenia by increasing the body's production of the hormone cortisol.  For example:

  • Prenatal exposure to a viral infection
  • Low oxygen levels during birth (prolonged labor or premature birth)
  • Exposure to a virus during infancy
  • Childhood parental loss or separation
  • Physical or sexual abuse in childhood

A comprehensive list of possible causes for disperceptions that cause schizophrenia is shown below.

Well-known causes

  1. Dementia paralytica
  2. Pellagra
  3. Porphyria
  4. Hypothyroidism
  5. Drug intoxications
  6. Homocystinuria
  7. Folic acid/B12 deficiency
  8. Sleep deprivation
  9. Heavy metal toxicity

Less Well-known causes

  1. Hypoglycemia
  2. Psychomotor epilepsy
  3. Cerebral allergy
  4. Wheat-gluten sensitivity
  5. Histapenia – copper excess
  6. Histadelia
  7. Pyroluria
  8. Wilson's disease
  9. Chronic Candida infection
  10. Huntington's chorea

Almost Unknown causes

  1. Prostaglandins
    Prostaglandins ("prosta": standing before; "glandin": gland) are substances that act like hormones in the body.  They effect blood pressure, metabolism, body temperature, and other important functions.  Prostaglandin levels that are too high or too low can create symptoms.  There are different kinds of prostaglandins with specific functions, thus different physical and mental reactions occur with imbalances in each one.  Elevated prostaglandin levels have been observed in, for example, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).  Research has shown that high levels of a prostaglandin called E2 coupled with low levels of one called E1 have been seen as a major cause of certain forms of depression.  E2 is a central nervous system depressant.

    It's been observed that geographical regions with low selenium levels in the soil and less sunshine have higher rates of "schizophrenia." Since some prostaglandins require selenium for their synthesis, it's believed prostaglandin deficiency may be a source of "schizophrenia."

  2. Dopamine excess
    Dopamine is a substance involved with emotional and hormonal response and the integration of experience, emotion, and thought.  Additionally, it stimulates the brain's pleasure center and is involved in sexual arousal.  Dopamine appears to be a factor in producing hallucinations, voices and other symptoms associated with "schizophrenia." Those with histapenia (see above) often have elevated dopamine levels.
  3. Endorphins
    Endorphins, discovered in 1975, are substances secreted in the brain.  They have a pain-relieving and stress-relieving effect similar to morphine.  Endorphin molecules lock onto receptors in the brain to remove the perception of pain.

    It has been shown that drugs which artificially stimulate and suppress the endorphin receptors can produce symptoms bordering on psychosis.  Gluten molecules (see "Wheat-gluten Sensitivity" above) are molecularly similar in shape to endorphins and thus can create the same stimulatory/suppression activity.  Certain dairy proteins have been shown to have similar qualities.

  4. Serine excess
    Serine is an amino acid that is part of many proteins.  It plays a critical role in maintaining blood sugar levels.  It has a vital part in the production of the myelin sheath – the coating that protects certain nerve fibers.

    In numerous studies the plasma levels of serine have been found to be significantly higher in "schizophrenics" than in control groups.  There is also evidence that serine metabolism is abnormal in psychotics.  In one study a limited sector of psychiatric patients who responded to a carbohydrate-rich, low-protein diet became psychotic again after oral intake of serine.

  5. Prolactin excess
    Prolactin is a hormone also known as luteotropic hormone.  It comes from the pituitary gland and induces lactation.  Non-pregnant women have low levels of it and it increases about ten times in pregnant women.  When prolactin levels are excessive in non-pregnant women, the condition is known as hyperprolactinemia.  This condition can produce a number of symptoms including lactation by a non-nursing woman and irregular or absent menstrual periods.  Excess prolactin has been connected with pre-menstrual syndrome and a host of extreme mental states that can occur with it.  In some people tranquilizers can increase prolactin levels.
  6. Dialysis therapy
    Patients who undergo dialysis regularly may be exposed to high levels of aluminum in dialysis fluids and medicines.  A reaction called dialysis encephalopathy can occur.  (Encephalopathy is a general term for "brain disease.") What follows is a progressive mental degeneration manifested by tremors, convulsions, psychosis and other changes in speech and behavior.  Reduction of aluminum levels significantly reduces the incidence of this problem.
  7. Serotonin imbalance
    Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that transmits messages from one nerve to another.  Too much or too little serotonin has been associated with depression, psychosis, and other problems.  While drugs can be used to mask the symptoms of this problem, they do not solve the problem of the imbalance.  Further medical inquiry in indicated in these situations to find the cause or to find nutritional supplementation that will permit the body to produce correct serotonin levels.
  8. Leucine, histidine imbalance
    Leucine and histidine are essential amino acids (the body doesn't make them).  The leucine, histidine imbalance – high leucine and low histidine – was a condition Pfeiffer theorized as being a cause of "schizophrenia." Modern research has shown, however, that leucine-histidine imbalance does not play a significant role.
  9. Interferon, amantadine, anti-viral drugs
    A number of non-psychotropic drugs can create psychosis.  It must be remembered that the nervous system is intimately connected with other bodily systems.  Medical drugs can effect blood chemistry, hormonal balances, and a host of other areas that directly impact the brain and nervous system.  Interferon is a treatment for hepatitis.  An estimated 1-2% of interferon users manifest psychosis or suicidal behavior.  Amantadine, a drug for Parkinson's Disease, can cause hallucinations, depression, jitteriness, and confusion.  Caution is recommended in it's use in people with a history of psychosis.  In anyone experiencing a psychotic episode, recent drug ingestion must be considered as a cause.
  10. Platelets deficient in MAO (monoamine oxidase)

Signs and Symptoms

Schizophrenia can appear suddenly and without warning.  But usually it develops slowly, with subtle warning signs and a gradual decline in functioning long before the first severe episode.  In this early stage, schizophrenics can appear eccentric, unmotivated, emotionless, indifferent, and reclusive.  They may withdraw from society and isolate themselves, appear hostile and suspicious, start neglecting their health, personal hygiene and appearance, and say peculiar things or speak in strange ways.  They may abandon hobbies and other activities, and their performance at work or school often deteriorates.  They may 'stare blankly', lack the ability to cry or be happy, or laugh or cry without reason.  Depression, insomnia, oversleeping, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, and extreme reaction to criticism are also common first signs.

People with schizophrenia have an altered perception of — and often lose contact with — reality.  They may see or hear things that don't really exist, speak in strange or confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like they're being constantly watched.  Instead of dealing with everyday life, which is hard and often frightening for schizophrenics, they often withdraw from the outside world or are driven by confusion and fear.

Although delusional thoughts and hallucinations sometimes lead to violent behavior, most people with schizophrenia are not dangerous.

Treatment and Prevention

With support, medication, and therapy, many with schizophrenia are able to function independently and live satisfying lives.

Prognosis; Complications

In general, the earlier schizophrenia develops, the more severe it is.  The outlook is best when schizophrenia is diagnosed and treated right away.

While long-term treatment may be required, the outlook for schizophrenia is not hopeless.  Those receiving proper treatment can often enjoy life and function well with others.

Some of the possible consequences of schizophrenia are:

  • Relationship problems: Schizophrenics often withdraw and isolate themselves, and paranoia can cause suspicion of friends and family.
  • Disrupted day-to-day functioning: Social interaction and everyday tasks become hard or impossible due to delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts.  This often prevents the schizophrenic from doing normal things like bathing, eating, or shopping.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse: Alcohol, drugs and tobacco are often used in an attempt to self-medicate, or relieve symptoms.  Cigarette smoke can interfere with the medications prescribed for schizophrenia.
  • Increased suicide risk: People with schizophrenia often attempt suicide.  Any suicidal talk or other indications should be taken very seriously.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Schizophrenia:

Symptoms - Head - Nose

(Much) reduced sense of smell

[Rupp, Claudia I.; Fleischhacker, W.  Wolfgang; Kemmler, Georg; Kremser, Christian; Bilder, Robert M.; Mechtcheriakov, Sergei; Szeszko, Philip R.; Walch, Thomas et al (2005).  "Olfactory functions and volumetric measures of orbitofrontal and limbic regions in schizophrenia".  Schizophrenia Research 74 (2-3): pp149-61]

Symptoms - Sleep

Low frequency of yawning

It has been observed that schizophrenic patients tend not to yawn often and, conversely, that persons who yawn a lot tend not to have schizophrenia.

Conditions that suggest Schizophrenia:

Habits

Counter-indicators
Excessive Yawning

It has been observed that schizophrenic patients tend not to yawn often and, conversely, that persons who yawn a lot tend not to have schizophrenia.

Nervous System

Symptoms - Mind - General

Risk factors for Schizophrenia:

Family History

Symptoms - Mind - General

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Schizophrenia can lead to:

Nervous System

Schizophrenia could instead be:

Nutrients

Vitamin B3 Requirement

The mental disturbances brought about by pellagra, a vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency may be mistaken for schizophrenia, or vice versa.  The symptoms of schizophrenia and pellagra so closely resemble each other that is it extremely difficult to tell them apart.

Recommendations for Schizophrenia:

Diet

Not recommended
Caffeine/Coffee Avoidance

According to some, no caffeinated beverages – or even decaffeinated ones – should ever be taken, as these deteriorate into homogentisic acid which is known to be excreted in larger quantities in schizophrenics than in others.  Some include colas, tea, coffee, chocolate, and caffeine-containing medications in the list of things to avoid.

Drug

GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate)

GHB has been reported to reduce schizophrenia symptoms, but must not be used with some psychotropic drugs, such as Valium, Thorazine, Dilantin or Phenobarbital.

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

Vitamins

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Since pellagra can mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia, the use of niacin to treat schizophrenia and depression is controversial.  Some report improvements using mega vitamin therapy, while others obtain little or no results.  The American Psychological Association disapproved the use of niacin to treat mental disorders in 1979, and has not changed its mind since.

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Weak or unproven link:
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