As we think of mental illness an immediate question arises: what is “serious” mental illness, and how is it different from the normal issues that are part of everyday life?
Wearing a tin-foil hat is the delusion that those who wear them are some how protected from space rays or conspiracy theories. Crazy, I know. But some believers approach mental illness in this way.
Brother and sister, we’re called to think biblically. Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the “helmet of salvation” is the only head gear we’re called to wear. It tells us that the ‘warriors’ protection is God’s salvation. We are protected by a helmet of truth.
We must educate ourselves, through our community, and knowledgeable Christian leadership, to serve the broken that are in our midst. This figure includes a wide variety of disorders, these stats are compelling:
- Severe mental illnesses affect 5.4 percent of adults,
- Some 22 to 23 percent of the U.S. adult population—or 44 million people-“have diagnosable mental disorders”
- Such statistics only begin to capture the level of pain many of our fellow believers endure daily.
One person wrote of the broad reach of mental illness:
“I have a thousand faces, and I am found in all races. Sometimes rich, sometimes poor, sometimes young, sometimes old. I am a person with the disabling pain of a broken brain.”
We must find an acceptable form of understanding about mental illness if we are going to find our way to those who are quite frankly, very definitely lost.
Both Scripture and eldership, (healthy counseling), should be an active component to recovery. The sacrifical sacrifice of Jesus, through His blood must be taught again to the afflicted. Mental disease needs to be as understood in the same context as a physical one (e.g. diabeties or cancer).
Discernment must be sought as the whole person often needs to be taught. Issues like guilt, unforgiveness and pride are a big part of seeing people set free. Issues of past trauma like sexual and phyical abuse are factors as well.
Your support of Brokenbelievers.com through your prayers and encouragement goes a long way. Linda and I need your help in this. We both need wisdom and a gentle hand on our lives. As we reach out, a ‘tinfoil hat’ is definitely not part of our acceptable head gear.
The Father’s love embraces the torn and wounded consistently. This is the key to the healing of a broken heart.
Do you know someone who seems like he or she has “lost touch” with reality? Does this person talk about “hearing voices” no one else can? Does he or she see or feel things that others can’t? Does this person believe things that aren’t true?
Sometimes people with these symptoms have schizophrenia, a serious illness.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a serious brain illness. Many people with schizophrenia are disabled by their symptoms.
People with schizophrenia may hear voices other people don’t hear. They may think other people are trying to hurt them–we call this paranoia. Sometimes they don’t make any sense when they talk. The disorder makes it hard for them to keep a job or take care of themselves.
Who gets schizophrenia?
Anyone can develop schizophrenia. It affects men and women equally in all ethnic groups. Teens can also develop schizophrenia. In rare cases, children have the illness too.
When does it start?
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men often develop symptoms at a younger age than women. People usually do not get schizophrenia after age 45.
What causes schizophrenia?
Several factors may contribute to schizophrenia, including:
- Genes, because the illness runs in families
- The environment, such as viruses and nutrition problems before birth
- Different brain structure and brain chemistry.
Scientists have learned a lot about schizophrenia. They are identifying genes and parts of the brain that may play a role in the illness. Some experts think the illness begins before birth but doesn’t show up until years later. With more study, researchers may be able to predict who will develop schizophrenia.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia symptoms range from mild to severe. There are three main types of symptoms.
Positive symptoms refer to a distortion of a person’s normal thinking and functioning.
They are “psychotic” behaviors. People with these symptoms are sometimes unable to tell what’s real from what is imagined. Positive symptoms include:
- Hallucinations: when a person sees, hears, smells, or feels things that no one else can. “Hearing voices” is common for people with schizophrenia. People who hear voices may hear them for a long time before family or friends notice a problem.
- Delusions: when a person believes things that are not true. For example, a person may believe that people on the radio and television are talking directly to him or her. Sometimes people believe that they are in danger-that other people are trying to hurt them.
- Thought disorders: ways of thinking that are not usual or helpful. People with thought disorders may have trouble organizing their thoughts. Sometimes a person will stop talking in the middle of a thought. And some people make up words that have no meaning.
- Movement disorders: may appear as agitated body movements. A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may stop moving or talking for a while, a rare condition called “catatonia.”
Negative symptoms refer to difficulty showing emotions or functioning normally.
When a person with schizophrenia has negative symptoms, it may look like depression. People with negative symptoms may:
- Talk in a dull voice
- Show no facial expression, like a smile or frown
- Have trouble having fun
- Have trouble planning and sticking with an activity, like grocery shopping
- Talk very little to other people, even when they need to.
Cognitive symptoms are not easy to see, but they can make it hard for people to have a job or take care of themselves.
Cognitive symptoms include:
- Trouble using information to make decisions
- Problems using information immediately after learning it
- Trouble paying attention.
Helpful Links for Further Thought
The Mayo Clinic:Good, solid and trustworthy, a great introduction.
WebMd: Early Signs to look for.
World Health Organization: More advanced, but still accessible and understandable.
“Cross Jesus one too many times, fail too often, sin too much, and God will decide to take his love back. It is so bizarre, because I know Christ loves me, but I’m not sure he likes me, and I continually worry that God’s love will simply wear out.
Periodically, I have to be slapped in the face with Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’“
Michael Yaconelli, “Messy Spirituality“
I admit I live with a continuous fear that God’s love has limits. That someday, I will sin myself beyond a Savior’s reach. It nags on me and betrays me. The fear that I will end up on some spiritual “junk heap” is real, and it is pervasive. I guess it has to do with the unbelievable richness of God’s fantastic grace.
This doubt accentuates my depression, aggravating it and poisons my whole being. I feel worthless and so alone. Since my particular struggle is with paranoia, I end up bringing that with me into the throne room. Kids who have been beaten by their fathers often visibly flinch when Dad raises his arm to scratch his head. They cower and duck out of habit, waiting for the blows.
Our heavenly Father has gone out of his way to make the gospel truly good news. We often have to be convinced of a love that cannot be diluted by the stuff of life. And we who are the wounded and paranoid need that assurance. We are loved with a love of such quality and quantity, and such magnificence that all we can scream is “GRACE!”
As broken people we must come and allow ourselves to be loved with this outrageous love. Our depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, BPD, OCD, and schizophrenia are not insurmountable issues. We are sick, we admit it. We are different than other people (“the norms”). But the Father delights in us.
He especially loves his lambs who are weak and frightened.
By Mayo Clinic staff,
There are several types of schizophrenia, so signs and symptoms vary. In general, schizophrenia symptoms include:
- Beliefs not based on reality (delusions), such as the belief that there’s a conspiracy against you
- Seeing or hearing things that don’t exist (hallucinations), especially voices
- Incoherent speech
- Neglect of personal hygiene
- Lack of emotions
- Emotions inappropriate to the situation
- Angry outbursts
- Catatonic behavior
- A persistent feeling of being watched
- Trouble functioning at school and work
- Social isolation
- Clumsy, uncoordinated movements
Schizophrenia ranges from mild to severe. Some people may be able to function well in daily life, while others need specialized, intensive care. In some cases, schizophrenia symptoms seem to appear suddenly. Other times, schizophrenia symptoms seem to develop gradually over months, and they may not be noticeable at first.
Over time, it becomes difficult to function in daily life. You may not be able to go to work or school. You may have troubled relationships, partly because of difficulty reading social cues or others’ emotions. You may lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. You may be distressed or agitated or fall into a trance-like state, becoming unresponsive to others.
In addition to the general schizophrenia symptoms, symptoms are often categorized in three ways to help with diagnosis and treatment:
Negative signs and symptoms
Negative signs and symptoms represent a loss or decrease in emotions or behavioral abilities. They may include:
- Loss of interest in everyday activities
- Appearing to lack emotion
- Reduced ability to plan or carry out activities
- Neglecting hygiene
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of motivation
Positive signs and symptoms
Positive signs and symptoms are unusual thoughts and perceptions that often involve a loss of contact with reality. These symptoms may come and go. They may include:
- Hallucinations, or sensing things that aren’t real. In schizophrenia, hearing voices is a common hallucination. These voices may seem to give you instructions on how to act, and they sometimes may include harming others.
- Delusions, or beliefs that have no basis in reality. For example, you may believe that the television is directing your behavior or that outside forces are controlling your thoughts.
- Thought disorders, or difficulty speaking and organizing thoughts, such as stopping in midsentence or jumbling together meaningless words, sometimes known as “word salad.”
- Movement disorders, such as repeating movements, clumsiness or involuntary movements.
Cognitive signs and symptoms
Cognitive symptoms involve problems with memory and attention. These symptoms may be the most disabling in schizophrenia because they interfere with the ability to perform routine daily tasks. They include:
- Problems making sense of information
- Difficulty paying attention
- Memory problems
When to see a doctor:
People with schizophrenia often lack awareness that their difficulties stem from a mental illness that requires medical attention. So it often falls to family or friends to get them help.
Suicidal thoughts and behavior
Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with schizophrenia. If you have a loved one who is in danger of committing suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
For more info, Mayo Clinic has much more on its website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/schizophrenia/DS00196/DSECTION=symptoms