A Baffled Look

The straight dope on mental health

Month: December, 2012

Night of the Living Med


I looked at some studies about brain tissue loss in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a debilitating thought disorder. People who are diagnosed with it have delusions and hallucinations. I thought maybe the studies that conclude that this loss of tissue is caused by the illness itself are funded by the drug companies. I found one that was, but the ones that find tissue loss before onset of the illness are funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and academic institutions. A University of Edinburgh study examined people at high risk of schizophrenia who had close relatives with the disorder and who were between 16 and 25 at the beginning of the study. Researchers performed MRIs every eighteen months for ten years. They found shrinkage occurs before the onset of schizophrenia and before the subjects took medication. The studies that conclude antipsychotic drugs cause a loss in brain volume compare healthy controls with people who have already have the illness. A researcher named Nancy C.  Andreasen doesn’t give healthy controls antipsychotics (which would be unethical) so I still don’t know if antipsychotics shrink the brain or if the disease does. How can we know? The study that psychiatric survivor groups cite has been going on since 1989. Second generation antipsychotics came along in the 1990s. Which drugs are they talking about? They don’t say. Do Andreasen et al compare medicated schizophrenics with schizophrenics who never took medication? I found some studies that conclude that there is tissue loss with the first generation antipsychotics. Haldol is a big culprit in tissue loss in these studies, but I don’t think the studies that compare Haldol to second generation antipsychotics are funded by the drug companies because phase three FDA trials only require the drug companies to compare their drug to placebo. The drug companies don’t want to take the chance of having a generic drug work better than their own drug. And why do antipsychiatry groups focus on the work of one researcher and not others? They cherry pick which studies support their agenda. It was difficult for me to find another study corroborating Andreasen’s findings. Many news organizations ran articles on Andreasen’s research without considering other studies with different results.

Oh, and another thing. My verbal score on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale jumped 13 points after I started taking antipsychotics so I’m going to continue taking them.





A baffled look at mental health terms

I’ve posted this before, but I’ve made a few changes & it’s worth repeating.

First of all, I hate the terms “mental health consumer” and “psychiatric survivor.” The word “consumer” reminds me of some idiot who will buy anything and the word “survivor” makes me think of someone who is sanctimonious and self-righteous. “Consumer” is a word for those who are actively seeking treatment and “survivor” often means former patients who no longer wish to be treated. I’ll go into these movements in another post.

If you go to a psych unit for treatment – which may or may not be forced – and you’re resisting the staff’s efforts for treatment, they call it “negativism.” Group therapy is “psychosocial counseling.” At least one psychiatrist was straight with me. He called my depression “profound” instead of “clinical” or “treatment resistant.” I’m having an “episode” and I’m “decompensating” or “not responding to treatment” instead of getting worse. I’m not saying my condition is not a problem. I’m just saying that using euphemisms about my suffering isn’t working. The terms they use make you feel like a specimen, not a person.

How about some more? They call presenting emotions “affects.” Another phrase that they use all the time is “acting out.” It means you act impulsively instead of verbalizing your thoughts & emotions.  It usually means they disapprove your behavior. When you’re in the hospital it’s better to remain passive because if you “act out” they can keep you there longer.

“Thought Disorder” means psychosis or they say you have “poor reality testing.” “Mood disorder” means depression or bipolar disorder. “Bipolar Disorder” is another term I don’t like. They should’ve stuck with manic depression.

“Bipolar Disorder” & “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” are some of the terms used to describe my condition. These labels don’t really tell you anything – except to your “mental health providers” and insurance companies. I understand the need for standardization so doctors and insurance companies can understand each other, but they could use plainer language and still communicate with each other. Even the term “mental illness” is a politically correct euphemism. The term “mental illness” came about at the same time that “asylums” became “hospitals” and “inmates” became “patients.” Just call me crazy.

George Carlin was right. These terms obscure meaning instead enhancing it. It dehumanizes people with conditions like mine. Maybe if the staff used plainer language they would show more compassion.

You can’t make this shit up

This is appalling:


These two nail it:



Keep a journal

Keeping a journal has several advantages. It helps keep track of symptoms. Mood charts for bipolar disorder or depression pale in comparison. It’s easier for me to see how I’m doing by recording my thoughts than guessing where I am on a mood chart. Journaling provides more concrete examples of my symptoms. I can refer to these symptoms when I see my psychiatrist or therapist. Before my appointment, I read past entries before I go in and make a list of any concerns I have so I have something to refer to.

I also use my journal to vent and explore problems so I can brainstorm how to cope with what’s bothering me. It’s a place where I can plan how to handle certain situations. Sometimes seeing my thoughts in print helps me ferret out logical errors & unreasonable expectations.

A journal helps keep track of life events. Memory can distort your perceptions over time. That happens to everybody. I’ve looked back at old entries and can see that I was having an episode when, at that time, I didn’t see it. I can also see my progress much more clearly than relying on memory alone.

I don’t worry about mistakes with grammar until later. Editing as I write limits expression and distracts me. I try not to judge myself. I can always go back & correct grammar later. I don’t write in it every day, but I try to write a few short entries a few days a week.

Journaling can lead to catharsis – a way of transforming thoughts and feelings by expressing them. Sometimes just expressing myself changes how I feel about someone or a situation. I can unburden myself from thoughts that aren’t appropriate to tell anyone.

So keeping a journal has lots of practical uses. It helps me solve problems and cope better.