Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Stress During pregnacy and the Risk of Schizophrenia

Open the newspaper, turn on the TV or read the headlines on the computer and you are inundated with everything that will make you sick - what was once good enough for generations, is now considered almost life ending.

One of the most publicized of late pertains to infants, young children and pregnant women. Well, I read yesterday of one more - stress and mental illness in the unborn child. According to a recent study done in Toronto, Canada children born to mothers who experienced extreme stress, such as the death of a loved one within the first trimester, tend to have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia as they get older. (I scratch my head at this - realistically - can you imagine how many people would be schizophrenic at this point?) The study says that the stress in early pregnancy boosts the risk by 67%. Thankfully, a side note in the article did say stress I not the only thing to produce schizophrenia.

Previous studies suggested that brain injury, abnormal neuro chemical and hormonal levels, in addition to genetic disposition play a large factor in a diagnosis later in life. The complications in diagnosing and finding the causes of schizophrenia are that there is delayed onset, often not becoming evident until a person is in their 20's or 30's. While the numbers may show some possibility of the connection between early pregnancy stress and schizophrenia, doctors agree that this maybe just on piece in the attempt to solve the mystery of the disorder.

I struggle with this because we have become a society that is continually looking for a reason for what they are doing or experiencing and all too often those who are seeking are merely looking for a 'scapegoat,' so to speak. For my own reality - there may be something to it, when my mom was pregnant with me, she and my dad divorced after several hospitalizations due to schizophrenia. During my childhood, I lived through years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse from my step dad. Add to that to the genetic disposition, my father was paranoid schizophrenic and lost his life in his battle to survive. I have to wonder despite my hesitation to jump on the "blame bandwagon," would things have been different if the early days of my life had been different. I will never know - but as long as society looks only for an excuse those who truly live with any mental illness must continually struggle to beat the stigma.

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