To be told that you or someone you love has a serious illness like schizophrenia must be one of the most frightening experiences in life. No one would wish to hear this sentence. This series of articles is devoted to discussing the implications of schizophrenia. We know from clinical experience that being told that you or a loved one has schizophrenia is a very frightening and confusing experience. Why should this be? First of all, most people know very little about this serious mental illness. Perhaps one per cent of the population is diagnosed as having schizophrenia, but the general public knows very little about it. Even in professional circles, the diagnosis of schizophrenia is surrounded with controversy. In addition, some sufferers reject the diagnosis and do not accept that it applies to them. This rejection can occur because of misconceptions. This can result in a great deal of confusion that these articles will help to dispel.
Professor Dr. Abdul Malik Achakzai is one of the few qualified and practicing psychiatrists of the country. He has been an avid contributor to the field since over three decades. He embarked upon his journey as a pioneer and faced widespread criticism and apprehension from a conservative society. He holds the highest qualification in psychiatry – MRCPsych – awarded by Royal College of Psychiatry, UK. Currently, he is the member Federal Mental Health Authority. He also served as member of Executive Committee, Pakistan Medical & Dental Council.
Editor: Samreen Masud
We wrote these articles in the first instance for sufferers. If you are a sufferer, you have probably had a variety of odd and distressing experiences, for example hearing voices that others can’t hear, believing things that other people don’t accept or feeling that strangers are intruding into your life in odd and uncanny ways. In addition to this, you may find that other people are frightened of you or don’t understand you, and that you have been diagnosed with what sounds like a frightening illness. We hope that these articles would help you to understand more about what is happening to you, and, more importantly, to show you what you can do about it.
We have also written these articles for family members and caregivers. If you live with or are taking care of someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, this can be a very difficult and burdening experience. Our aim is to give hope and show that there are many things that can make your loved one’s life better.
But there’s nothing wrong with me!’ There is another group of people who we think might find these articles helpful: those who for whatever reason have received a diagnosis of schizophrenia but don’t accept it. As we hope to show, there are a fair number of people in this category. Some people may have strange and troubling experiences but feel that they cannot accept being labelled with an illness; some may find the label troubling or unhelpful; and some may in fact, for a variety of reasons, have been wrongly diagnosed. In any case, to have received a frightening diagnosis is an unpleasant experience, and we hope to help you understand what that diagnosis means and doesn’t mean. We also feel that, whether or not you accept that you have an illness, many kinds of help and support might be available, and you might choose to take advantage of some of them.
As we have already indicated, most people diagnosed with schizophrenia have a variety of strange experiences, such as hearing or feeling things that other people don’t hear or feel. The general term used to describe such experiences is psychosis, or psychotic experiences. Some sufferers find this term insulting; they feel that doctors and professionals are suggesting that their experiences aren’t ‘really real’. This is an important subject, and we would like to make our views on it clear in coming articles. Please keep reading.