Understanding Schizophrenia and Treatments Used in Asylums

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Personally, I feel after taking this class, I can better understand people with mental disabilities and I feel people even nowadays could become a bit more understanding about what goes on inside the mind of someone mentally ill instead of labeling them as “crazy”. Historically, people weren’t sure what to think of the mentally ill, so they were treated terribly because they were misunderstood. Religious views saw that “madness” came from demons so people began to, torture, persecute and kill them because of fear. Medical bleeding started to occur because it was thought “madness” was blood or fluid borne so they would purge the mentally ill, some ended up bleeding to death. The asylum became a place for all mentally ill to be locked away and put in grim conditions, even became a form of entertainment for the Europeans. Finally people like Philippe Pinel and Dorthea Dix made changes the asylum, causing reform for all asylums making them better for the mentally ill and they became more like hospitals.

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In today’s society, people with mental illnesses are still seen as “different” or “crazy” and sometimes don’t always get the help they need. Sadly stereotypes and prejudice still exist in our society so people often have thoughts that may not be true and may not be able to handle someone with a specific mental illness, making it harder for the mentally ill to have a healthy social relationship with others. Especially when people and media fall for the negative stereotypes like “That’s right; all persons with mental illness are violent!” or “They all scare me!” (Corrigan). It can also effect how the mentally ill live their “normal” life not having things like a good job, safe housing, good health care, and affiliation with diverse groups of people because of how debilitating having a mental illness can be not only from the mental illness but how others treat them as well (Corrigan). Sadly research has shown that the mentally ill are less likely to be pitied by others, instead reacting to psychiatric disability with anger and believing that help is not deserved (Corrigan), rather than if seen by the naked eye like for instance, having a broken leg, people may pity you because they can see what is causing your suffering. It’s a sad fact but often times they are socially isolated because of misunderstanding those with mental illnesses as well as the stigmatization of it in our society.

Both nature and nurture interact and can effect how someone becomes mentally ill as well as epigenetics. Nature is what has been given to us, like our sex or our original genetic code, where nurture is more about getting our needs met though adolescence. They interact because nature may give you your genes, but genes can also go thorough changes due to nurture, altering the phenotypic expression of genes (Durand&Barlow, p.37). Things like stress, nutrition, environment and other factors can affect the epigenome. Epigenetics is “the study of factors that inherited DNA sequence, such as new learning or stress that can alter to phenotypic expression of genes” (Durand&Barlow, p.37). So as you can tell, epigenetics is the link between nature and nurture, and changes may occur in our genetics that is cause not only from birth but it could also be something in the outside world that can cause a problem in brain development or mental illness to occur.

The medical model states mental illness as a disease, but there are some people, like Thomas Szasz, that contradict this statement saying it’s a myth. In the example of schizophrenia, it’s such a complex mental illness that the diagnosis itself can be controversial, so much so that some, like Szasz, considered it a label for people that behave outside the cultural norm (Durand&Barlow, p.459). Yet the medical model still states that it is considered a disease because of the symptoms and medical evidence shown. Signs like mild psychological abnormalities, poor motor condition as well as mild cognitive and social problems are seen in someone who is first showing signs of developing schizophrenia (Durand&Barlow, p.458). Since Szasz’s belief is that mental illness is a myth, all mental illnesses that occur are seen as people that are just “different” and the belief that they aren’t actually mentally ill, is just put in our heads to believe that is true. Medically it is shown that people with mental illnesses show signs of it, but is it because they are ill or because they are just different? This debate still seems to be unresolved, but you can decide for yourself.

My understanding of mental illness is better now than before I took the class, and I still remember the first day of class that the simplest definition of abnormal psychology is human behavior and mental processes that are unusual or atypical. We never consider someone to be “crazy” because there is an explanation as to why that person may be acting or feeling the way they do. Another definition that can be taken away from our textbook for a psychological disorder is a “psychological dysfunction associated with distress or impairment in functioning that is not typical or culturally expected response” (Durand&Barlow, p.1). I agree with both definitions because there is always an explanation as to why someone is acting the way they do, its just getting down to the big question, why? We don’t have a right to judge someone who is “different” because we don’t understand what they are going through.

Many mental health challenges can relate with a few things including brain chemistry, environmental stress and social interactions. Brain chemistry can have many problems that happen most of the time with neurotransmitters including GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. If the balance is thrown off, too much or too little of any neurotransmitters, that’s when it can cause problems of how the brain functions and its development with circuits in the brain. Environmental stress or can also create problems such as living in poverty, or a poor education system making it harder to get out of the environment you’re already in. This stress can lead to medical problems such as a lower immune system, creates stress related diseases, can damage brain, as well as the possibility of creating other mental problems like depression and anxiety (Durand&Barlow). Finally, social interactions, such as parenting and domestic violence, can also lead to mental illness or worsens it if they are in a bad social relationship with others. Social problems can cause many things like insecurities, trust issues, self-image issues and more. It can also add onto other mental problems like dependent disorder or borderline disorder, those who have these disorders already have these types of social issues so isolating them from society can become dangerous for their health and they can become susceptible to suicide. It’s also shown that child abuse and sexual abuse can cause a lot of mental problems but also shows that they would have a hard time finding healthy social relationships.

The diathesis stress model, as stated in our textbook, is a “hypothesis that both inherited tendency and specific stressful conditions are required to produce a disorder” (Durand&Barlow, p.35). In other words, it basically means that individuals end up inheriting tendencies to express certain traits or behaviors that can become triggered from stress (Durand&Barlow, p.34). For example, Jake inherited a tendency to have a panic attack when put in a large social situation; the tendency would be the vulnerability. The stress or trigger would happen when he was around a large group of people, which would cause a panic attack to occur. This would become expected if he knew this happened every time he was in a similar situation. Since we live in such a stressful society, it has been found that there are two types of people in particular that handle things like stress differently, there is a type A and type B. Type A can function under deadlines and plays to win, where type B is more relaxed and plays for fun. People can fluctuate between the two types, sometimes type A people get knocked down from stress or an accident that puts them out of work but when they recover, they could become either type, whether its coming back a type B and slowly going back to a type A, coming back and staying a type B, or just going back to type A as they were before (Durand&Barlow).

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy is probably the best treatment for most mental illnesses so it’s important to be aware of this treatment. It is when you talk with a medical health provider about your condition, issues related to it and more depending on each individual (Mental...). There are many types of psychotherapy to suit what best fits the persons needs. It can often be complete within months but sometimes long term treatment is needed. It is also important that you feel comfortable with who your therapist is as well as both of you having an understanding of your life and how you function in it. This type of therapy can help the person focus on problems that come to light and make goals to help better themselves. This leads me into the medication side, but it is best to get the help you need though therapy.

Psychotropic medications work to alter neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which control emotions, thoughts and behaviors (TheEffectsof…). These medications don’t treat the mental illness, rather it can help them function till they can get the help they need, such as psychotherapy. Some of the most common classes of prescriptions used include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications (Mental…). For example, it can be helpful to get medication to help improve concentration, decrease sadness or regulate anxiety for those whom have these problems, (TheEffectsof…) but they aren’t something you should be taking for the rest of your life. Medications are never considered a permanent fix and if you are on them for a long time it can actually start doing more harm than good to your brain as well as the side effects that may be present due to the medication. It is shown that psychotherapy is the preferred therapy in most cases and will make a more permanent difference than medication by getting to the source of the problem and dealing with it. The medications, which are a temporary fix can suppress the problem but not necessarily solve the issue. Sometimes both psychotherapy and medication can work together, but it is important to be able to talk with a trusted therapist to help you though the problems you are facing.

Ways that I feel I could make a difference to help society better understand mental health issues would be to help spread awareness though social media. It is important though to make sure the articles come from a valid source. Other things to do could be to talk with various universities about hosting a one-day class in exchange for a credit, the students will learn about the basics of mental health, different types of mental illnesses and what to be aware of if someone is in need of help, such as talk of suicide. Mental health talks could also become helpful through shows like TED Talks and have them talk about the facts on mental illness and teach us, as a society, how we can change our stigmatized way of thinking. Even if someone was willing to visit high schools and colleges to talk with them during an assembly or event about mental illness so people can understand what is going on inside the mind of others and that there isn’t a reason to fear people who have mental illnesses. For this knowledge to be available, people could become more confident in approaching someone who is mentally ill without judgment, because after just taking the time to learn more about them, our society can slowly make the change to become less stereotypical. Since people aren’t really aware of how to treat someone that is mentally ill, like I stated previously, it is important for us to try to understand what goes on in their minds and not call them “crazy”.

One suggestion as to how we can try to reduce the number of people who experience mental health issues would be to change the way we treat them. For instance, instead of arresting someone with a mental illness for a crime and spending the money to put and keep them in jail, we should be putting the money towards therapy help for them. Another thing we should also be doing is re-introducing them into society and teaching them rather than punishing them. If they go to jail to either be within the jail population or sit in isolation, they will probably end up right back in jail as soon as they get out because they most likely didn’t learn anything and for some it’s the only “home” they have. By socially depriving them in jail, it could actually make them worse, but teaching them at least gives them a chance to live a better life. There are many other things that could be suggested but I feel this would be a good start.

To voice my thoughts, I do believe my knowledge of mental health issues has grown and that there is still so much more to learn. We may never understand how someone truly feels with a mental illness, but we can at least try to have the best understanding as possible from symptoms, to a look as to what’s going on inside the brain. I remember when I first started this class I was excited to better understand people with mental illnesses and I have learned a lot through the semester so now I can feel confident in understanding a mental illness when it is presented. I find the brain a very interesting subject in particular and to learn exactly what is happening in the brain is interesting, especially since its something that isn’t visible to the naked eye, like some symptoms are. Even looking at the brain scans from people who drink or do drugs and seeing the effects of it was fascinating, because again, its not something you can see with the naked eye.

Learning the different neurotransmitters and what brain scans look like was one of my favorite things to learn about. My thinking has changes about people who have mental illness because before, I wasn’t sure how to communicate and make friends with someone with a mental illness. I had a hard time understanding why they would do something in particular or act a certain way. Now I feel since I can better understand those with mental illnesses, I feel more confident in approaching them and talking to them because when you think about it, they aren’t really that different, they are just wired differently than others. Helping others to understand mental health issues could really help everyone involved and create a better social situation if you become more understanding of others.

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