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.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Finding the Genetic Link to Schizophrenia


Schizophrenia, one of the most discussed and a misunderstood mental illness has been found to be caused by many different mutations in many genes – in turn normal brain development is disrupted.

Schizophrenia is marked by delusions, hallucinations and disordered thinking, it is an illness doctors and researchers have been trying to understand, both its causes as well as how genetics and environment contribute to its progression. While genetics play a large part in the illness, environment may also be a contributor. Those who suffer extreme abuse or traumatic experience in childhood, are often more susceptible to this and other mental illnesses.

In a recently published article researchers noted that the different glitches in the many genes play a major part and are more often found in a person with schizophrenia. In addition, when a schizophrenic diagnosis is given in childhood there is found to be a stronger genetic version of the disease.

Even with these discoveries, schizophrenia is still a very difficult illness to treat. Thought there are numerous medications available to alleviate symptoms, they often only work for a short time, treating only the symptoms or actions – not the illness. This unfortunately is common for many mental illnesses. Medications are given to help bring peace to a person, but until the illness itself is the focus of treatment, the symptoms and actions will often return, each time more severe.

These recent findings are a step in the right direction, thought it may bring more questions at first – it is a start in the attempt to understand the illness so many live with and work toward a hope for their future.

On a personal side to this story, my father was paranoid schizophrenic and lost his life to the disease, treatment at the time, was not where we are today and he became lost to the disease the doctors could not understand. Where does that leave as far as genetics go? I am right where the doctors say I should be – genetics and environment have marked me. As Schizo-affective, I face many obstacles of schizophrenia as well as Bipolar Disorder. As I worked with doctors, taking years to find one that actually wanted to work with me and not only prescribe medication and get their insurance money, I came to understand my illness, how my dad played a part and a childhood of severe abuse transformed my life. Today, with medication (I only take two) and people who understand me I function in society, many people not knowing my “secret.” Only those closest to me know the truth and how mind works, always ready with a hug and shoulder when the days get bad.