Schizophrenia, anxiety and stress

Learn how I beat Depression

Schizophrenia, anxiety and stress

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder that is characterised by hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking. These can be terrifying both for person who suffers from them and for family members who have to witness their loved one’s distress.

It is now well established that stress can make the symptoms of schizophrenia much worse as many research studies have shown that people with Schizophrenia are far more susceptible to the negative effects of anxiety and stress than other people who don’t have schizophrenia.

We know that people respond to stress in different ways. For example someone might suffer from depression after losing their job, experiencing bereavement or going through divorce, whereas others may find they are still able to function and carry out their normal routines.  For people suffering from Schizophrenia, the stress associated with these kinds of life events and even much more minor events can trigger an episode of psychosis.

There is now a growing consensus amongst medical professionals that stress and schizophrenia are much more closely linked than what was previously thought.

A study by Rabkin et al in 1982 showed that people with schizophrenia are more likely to report a stressful event prior to an episode of illness than anyone in the general population.

The results of another study, this time by Beck and Worthen in 1972 found that stressful life events prior to an episode of schizophrenia are often quite mild and not as severe as stressful events experienced prior to other forms of mental health problems like depression.

Even maternal stress can act as a catalyst for developing schizophrenia later in life.
Take for example one study by researchers at New York University School of Medicine who found that children born to women who were in the first trimester of pregnancy during the six day war in 1967 were more likely to develop Schizophrenia later in life than children who were born later. According to the author of the research, Dolores Malaspina, “the placenta is very sensitive to stress hormones in the mother and these hormones were probably amplified during the time of the war”.

Although some level of stress is perfectly normal and can indeed be beneficial, it is part of the fight or flight response, prolonged or severe stress can be detrimental to health and may even bring about physical damage to the brain as a result of something known as the “stress cascade”. Basically stress releases certain hormones in the brain which causes a physiological reaction that leads to actual physical changes in the brain itself.

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