By Robin Brain
Mental health problems are severe when the person becomes out of touch with reality. They may develop false beliefs about who they are or what is happening, feel persecuted by external forces, or believe they have been given special powers. They may hear voices, discussing their thoughts or behavior, or telling them what to do, or they may see things that are not there (hallucinations).
When someone is out of touch with reality in this way, they are called psychotic. Some people have only one episode of psychotic illness in their life, others have several with remission in between, and others have them most of the time. Alternative therapies can be useful for all these people but may not be appropriate in a crisis. Conventional drug medication can usually prevent psychotic episodes, but people who are very distressed or dangerous to themselves or others may need the shelter and protection of a hospital or specialized care unit.
Each sufferer’s experience of schizophrenia is unique. Thoughts and feelings are dramatically disturbed and the world is experienced very differently. The person’s behavior may appear bizarre to others. Schizophrenia does not mean “split personality”as is widely believed, but is a word used to describe a wide range of symptoms and conditions.
It is not known what causes schizophrenia: one theory is that a person’s genetic makeup makes him or her vulnerable, and that it is triggered off by stressful events. People diagnosed as schizophrenic are rarely violent, but they are often very frightened and isolated because of their distressing symptoms.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include jumbled, disordered thinking, paranoia, false beliefs, hearing voices, apathy, lack of concentration, and depression.
Conventional drug treatment can help control some of the symptoms of schizophrenia (such as hallucinations) but may also create many new symptoms. Alternative therapies can be used alongside conventional treatment for these problems.
Manic depression involves mood swings: periods of deep depression and over-excited or manic behavior. There may be periods of varying stability in between these extreme highs and lows.
During mania, sufferers are euphoric, feel selfimportant, excited, and extremely talkative. They may go on spending sprees, be unable to sleep, be irritable, or angry. They have no awareness of changed behavior. During the depressive periods (usually longer) they feel despair, guilt, and worthlessness.
Music, which can access mood states without recourse to language, may be a helpful therapeutic tool in the treatment of psychotic illness.
It is important to avoid stressful situations, and finding the right therapy and therapist is vital.
Meditation, visualization and relaxation exercises can all help.
Consult a qualified practitioner/therapist for:
Talking Treatments – Taking part in supportive psychotherapy and counseling can help reduce the risk of a relapse by helping sufferers to understand the condition and cope better with problems and stresses. Group or family therapy can help with the communication process. It is thought, however, that psychotherapy, which probes into the past, can be too stressful for people with manic depression or schizophrenia, but some sufferers do find it helpful. Some sufferers may prefer cocounseling.
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