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Individual differences |
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Alternative approaches to schizophreniaEdit
An approach broadly known as the anti-psychiatry movement, notably most active in the 1960s, has opposed the orthodox medical view of schizophrenia as an illness.
Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz has argued that psychiatric patients are not ill but are just individuals with unconventional thoughts and behavior that make society uncomfortable. He argues that society unjustly seeks to control such individuals by classifying their behavior as an illness and forcibly treating them as a method of social control. It is worth noting that Szasz has never considered himself to be "anti-psychiatry" in the sense of being against psychiatric treatment, but simply believes that it should be conducted between consenting adults, rather than imposed upon anyone against their will.
Similarly, psychiatrist R. D. Laing has argued that the symptoms of what is normally called mental illness are comprehensible reactions to impossible demands that society and particularly family life places on some sensitive individuals. Laing was revolutionary in valuing the content of psychotic experience as worthy of interpretation, rather than considering it simply as a secondary but essentially meaningless marker of underlying psychological or neurological distress. His groundbreaking work, co-authored with Aaron Esterson, Sanity, Madness and the Family (1964) described eleven case studies of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and argued that the content of their actions and statements was meaningful and logical in the context of their family and life situations.
In the 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, psychologist Julian Jaynes proposed that until the beginning of historic times, schizophrenia or a similar condition was the normal state of human consciousness. This would take the form of a "bicameral mind" where a normal state of low affect, suitable for routine activities, would be interrupted in moments of crisis by "mysterious voices" giving instructions, which early people characterized as interventions from the gods. This theory was briefly controversial. Continuing research has failed to either further confirm or refute the thesis.
Psychiatrist Tim Crow has argued that schizophrenia may be the evolutionary price we pay for a left brain hemisphere specialization for language.56 Since psychosis is associated with greater levels of right brain hemisphere activation and a reduction in the usual left brain hemisphere dominance, our language abilities may have evolved at the cost of causing schizophrenia when this system breaks down.
Researchers into shamanism have speculated that in some cultures schizophrenia or related conditions may predispose an individual to becoming a shaman57. Certainly, the experience of having access to multiple realities is not uncommon in schizophrenia, and is a core experience in many shamanic traditions. Equally, the shaman may have the skill to bring on and direct some of the altered states of consciousness psychiatrists label as illness. (See anti-psychiatry.) Speculations regarding primary and important religious figures as having schizophrenia abound. Some commentators have endorsed the idea that major religious figures experienced psychosis, heard voices and displayed delusions of grandeur.
Alternative medicine tends to hold the view that schizophrenia is primarily caused by imbalances in the body's reserves and absorption of dietary minerals, vitamins, fats, and/or the presence of excessive levels of toxic heavy metals. The body's adverse reactions to gluten are also strongly implicated in some alternative theories (see gluten-free, casein-free diet).
An additional approach is suggested by the work of Richard Bandler who argues that "The usual difference between someone who hallucinates and someone who visualizes normally, is that the person who hallucinates doesn't know he's doing it or doesn't have any choice about it." (Time for a Change, p107). He suggests that because visualization is a sophisticated mental capability, schizophrenia is a skill, albeit an involuntary and dysfunctional one that is being used but not controlled. He therefore suggests that a significant route to treating schizophrenia might be to teach the missing skill - how to distinguish created reality from consensus external reality, to reduce its maladaptive impact, and ultimately how to exercise appropriate control over the vizualization or auditory process. Hypnotic approaches have been explored by the physician Milton H. Erickson as a means of facilitating this.
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