A Mother Helps Son in His Struggle With Schizophrenia

The mother drives her son everywhere because he is not well enough to drive. He sits next to her, and at the red lights she looks over and studies him: how quiet he is, how stiffly he sits, hands in his lap, fingers fidgeting slightly, a tic that occasionally blooms into a full fluttering motion he makes with his hand, as if clearing invisible webs from his face. He is 19 years old, 6 feet tall, 250 pounds. His eyes are more steady than bright at this particular moment; his mouth is not set in a smile or a frown but some line in between.

“How’re you doing, sweetie?” Naomi Haskell asks.

“Fine,” Spencer says.

It has been 10 years since he began thinking his classmates were whispering about him, four years since he started feeling angry all the time, and two years since he first told a doctor he was hearing imaginary voices. It has been 20 months since he was told he had a form of schizophrenia, and 15 months since he swallowed three bottles of Benadryl and laid down to die, after which he had gotten better, and worse and, for a while, better again, or so Naomi had thought until an hour ago, when they were in the therapist’s office and Spencer said that his head was feeling “cloudy.”

“Wait —” she said, interrupting. “You described it as a cloudy feeling?”

Cloudy was the big, flying red flag that she had learned to dread. It might simply be a side effect of one of his five medications. But it could also be the quiet beginning of her firstborn son falling apart again, of hallucinations, or a dive into depression, or some other dimension of his illness that Naomi has yet to fathom.

“Yeah,” Spencer said. “Cloudy. It feels like these winds are blowing inside my head.”

by Stephanie McCrummen, The Washington Post

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People With Schizophrenia ‘Face More Health Risks’

A mental health support group says people with schizophrenia have the worst physical health profile in Australia.

Australians with schizophrenia are 50 per cent more likely to die from a heart attack, 20 per cent more likely to get cancer and have a lifespan of 25 years less than the average Australian.

There are an estimated 200,000 Australians with schizophrenia.

The Schizophrenia Fellowship of New South Wales says the physical health of those with schizophrenia has not improved in the last 100 years.

“If it was any other group there would be screams about it in the street,” chief executive Rob Ramjan said.

“It is the physical  issues that are killing them, not the mental health illness.”

by Nonee Walsh, ABC News

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FDA Warns Against Valproate to Prevent Migraine in Pregnancy

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strengthened warnings against the use of valproate products as a preventive measure against migraine in women who are pregnant.

The new contraindication is based on recently published data from the Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs (NEAD) study showing further evidence that exposure to valproate products during pregnancy can lead to reduced IQ scores in children.

“Valproate medications should never be used in pregnant women for the prevention of migraine headaches because we have even more data now that show the risks to the children outweigh any treatment benefits for this use.”

by Susan Jeffrey

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Literature Review Supports Dropping Schizophrenia Subtypes

The traditional “subtypes” of schizophrenia—catatonic, disorganized, paranoid, residual, and undifferentiated—have been eliminated from criteria for the new DSM-5 to be published this month, a decision that appears to be supported by diminished use of the subtypes in literature on schizophrenia research. A review of literature over the last 20 years appearing in the May Schizophrenia Bulletin found that use of those subtypes has fallen markedly.

….One of the investigators in the new study said the subtypes were no longer clinically useful. “The main reason is that they have not proven useful clinically and are not a good heuristic for understanding psychosis,” Carpenter said. “It’s a mistake to think of catatonia as a subtype of schizophrenia, and the subtypes have tended to reinforce that mistake.”

by Psychiatric News Alert

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My Strategy for Controlling Bizarre Delusions

I wish to discuss a strategy I have developed for controlling my risk of developing bizarre delusions by analysis of certain inferences that I am liable to make. I should say here to avoid confusion that by inference here I mean thoughts about what I think is happening or has happened, based on some kind of evidence or reasoning.

This strategy of analyzing inferences won’t at the same time be able to explain how the bizarre delusions developed exactly, ie, I cannot for instance account for why I make the inferences that I highlight, and I also don’t know how all the other symptoms that I may be exhibiting may also have contributed to making these inferences or developing the bizarre delusions, so this strategy is not intended to serve as a complete explanation of my behavior, let alone anyone else’s.

The aim instead has been for me to understand more about where my bizarre delusions come from in my immediate consciousness and interpretation of the world so that I can reliably identify when there is real danger that a bizarre delusion might develop. By identifying these inferences, this can serve as an early warning system, which can then prompt me to question the inference and be much more skeptical toward it allowing me to spend more time assessing its credibility and gathering evidence that will give me the opportunity to disconfirm it.

To be successful, this early warning strategy has to be quite specific. You can’t go around thinking every anxious or slightly paranoid thought means you are at risk for developing psychosis again. Such an overly cautious strategy will fail because it is exhausting.

by Adam Timlett, Medscape

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