Schizophrenia is a serious and persistent form of mental illness. It inflicts about one percent of the world's population and costs tens of billions of dollars each year in scarce health care resources. However, the statistical profile of this disorder does not convey the personal devastation which schizophrenia wreaks upon the suffering individuals, families, and friends who must endure years of insanity. To lose one's mind is the ultimate dehumanizing experience.
SYMPTOMS OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
Schizophrenia is a form of psychosis. As such, certain psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations are inherent in the illness. Delusions are false personal beliefs about external reality. Hallucinations are false sensory perceptions. Thus, during the acute phases of the disorder, the afflicted person may be said to be "out of touch with reality." At least out of touch with reality as we know it. This qualifier is important, as we shall see in a later section. Perhaps in certain cases of schizophrenia, the individual is out of touch with this reality and in touch with transcendent realms.
At any rate, the person will often hear voices perceived as coming from outside of themselves. The voices may be singular or multiple. They will sometimes provide commentary or commands. Less frequently, hallucinations involve the other sensory modalities, such as vision and touch.
Delusions are abnormalities of thought. For example, someone may believe that they are being controlled by a dead person or that their thoughts are being broadcast to the external world. Delusions of persecution (paranoia) are also common. The classic paranoid delusion is that of being pursued by the FBI or some other powerful organization.
Being convinced that you are Jesus Christ or some other famous historical personage is a typical delusion of grandiosity. Unless you can walk on water or raise the dead, you will probably have a difficult time convincing a psychiatrist that you really don't need one of the powerful antipsychotic medications used to treat delusional thinking.
Emotional responses are often inappropriate or totally lacking in persons suffering from schizophrenia. Not surprisingly, interpersonal functioning is often disturbed; sometimes by social withdrawal, occasionally by excessive closeness.
THE MEDICAL MODEL OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
Generally speaking, medical science views schizophrenia as a problem of neurotransmission in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers which allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. In other words, the biochemistry of the brain is abnormal. Specifically, the neurotransmitter dopamine is the most likely candidate among the twenty-eight or so recognized neurotransmitters.
Contemporary research tends to focus on pathology in specific areas of the brain. The limbic system (in the middle of the brain) and the prefrontal cortex (the front of the brain) are likely areas of pathology.
However, this simplistic view of brain dysfunction is problematic. Research has implicated numerous other major neurotransmitters and areas of the brain in schizophrenia. Furthermore, research has clearly demonstrated that other parts of the nervous system are involved (as well as other systems within the body).
Notwithstanding all the research and clinical progress that has been made in this century, schizophrenia is still regarded by modern medicine as an incurable brain disease of unknown causation. The drugs which are used to treat it only suppress symptoms; they do not cure. Some patients respond poorly or not at all to these powerful drugs. In addition, unpleasant and dangerous side effects can complicate drug treatment. Relapse is common.
EDGAR CAYCE'S PERSPECTIVE ON SCHIZOPHRENIA
Edgar Cayce gave many psychic readings for persons suffering from schizophrenia. Actually, he never used the term "schizophrenia." During his era, the accepted medical diagnosis for the illness was "dementia praecox." Dementia refers to organic brain degeneration, resulting in cognitive deficits and psychosis. Praecox refers to the precocious or early onset of the illness (usually in the late teens or early twenties).
Cayce provided graphic descriptions of the brain deterioration in persons suffering from schizophrenia and recommended treatments for regenerating the nervous system. He also acknowledged the mental and spiritual aspects of the disorder.
Cayce's psychic readings cite numerous causal factors. In some cases, hereditary factors are noted. Physical trauma (such as injury to the nervous system during birth or later in life) was a major causal factor. Glandular disturbances were often linked to the nervous system pathology. Toxicity in the body was sometimes described as contributing to the illness.
The treatments suggested by Cayce were typical for cases involving nervous system incoordination. Osteopathic treatment was one of the most frequent recommendations. Other common recommendations included: electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, suggestive therapeutics, companion therapy, and therapeutic milieu (environment).
The following points summarize Edgar Cayce's perspective on schizophrenia.
- The diagnostic label of "schizophrenia" refers to a group of related illnesses with varied etiologies and outcome.
- There is a strong somatic (biological) component to this disorder which must be addressed in treatment.
- The symptoms of schizophrenia result from dysfunction within the brain, but etiological patterns usually involve systemic dysfunction.
- Within the physical body, multiple systems are usually involved in the schizophrenic process, primarily the central (cerebrospinal) and autonomic (sympathetic) nervous systems, and the endocrine (glandular) system.
- In cases where the disorder progresses to a chronic condition, the prognosis is less favorable. This condition involves brain degeneration and is a difficult process to reverse. Early diagnosis and treatment greatly improve the prognosis.
- Genetic factors often play a significant role in the development of schizophrenia. Genetic factors are not simplistic entities, but vary in influence from being "innate" (very likely to manifest regardless of other factors) to being only "tendencies" (i.e., inherited vulnerability as proposed in the diathesis/stress model).
- Pregnancy and birth complications (PBCs) play a significant role in the etiology of schizophrenia.
- Spinal injury and other forms of somatic dysfunction are important etiological factors in the production of psychotic symptoms.
- Stress is often an important etiological factor in the production of schizophrenic symptoms.
- The human body contains interfaces with spiritual and mental dimensions of reality. These interfaces (centers) exist within the glandular and nervous systems. Chemical imbalances or injury to these systems can disrupt these centers, producing the psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
- The treatment of schizophrenia requires a holistic perspective which typically involves spiritual, mental, and physical interventions. These therapies include osteopathic or chiropractic treatments, massage, electrotherapy, diet, companionship, therapeutic milieu, hypnotic suggestion, exercise, and pharmacology.
- Cayce's holistic perspective involves spiritual and metaphysical constructs, such as karma and spirit possession. These transpersonal aspects are not cited in every case, and thus may be most appropriately viewed as complications of the pathological process rather than specific to schizophrenia.
THE TREATMENT OF SCHIZOPHPRENIA
In keeping with the holistic philosophy of the Edgar Cayce readings, the following is a therapeutic model which addresses the dimensions of body, mind and spirit. In the simplest possible conceptualization, this approach can be represented as:
- Establish a therapeutic milieu with an emphasis on "spiritual" qualities, such as patience, gentleness, altruistic service, etc., while simultaneously providing opportunities for growth and development. Outdoor activities in the sunshine and fresh air are also emphasized. Companion therapy is sometimes necessary to implement and maintain a therapeutic milieu.
- Provide somatic (physical) interventions which address the fundamental physical dimension of this disorder. Manual medicine (such as osteopathy, chiropractic and massage), electrotherapy (including vibratory metals), diet, exercise, and appropriate pharmacology play a crucial role in the physical treatment of schizophrenia.
- Utilize suggestive therapeutics to rebuild and redirect the mental processes of the client. Various cognitive and behavioral techniques are employed in conjunction with naturalistic hypnosis so as to apply the principle "mind is the builder."
MYSTICAL ASPECTS OF SCHIZOPHRENIA
Joseph Campbell observed that the schizophrenic is drowning in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight. Edgar Cayce made the same observation in his readings (e.g., 281-24).
Cayce himself was a mystic who swam in some rather deep waters. The philosophy presented in his psychic readings is consistent with a long tradition of thought called the "perennial philosophy." As with all versions of the perennial philosophy, Cayce's perspective is expansive and comprehensive.
The terms "dementia praecox" and "schizophrenia" are of relatively recent origin when one takes the larger view. Throughout the ages, peoples of all cultures have recognized insanity. It is the interpretation of the various forms of psychosis which sets the modern viewpoint apart as distinctive.
To appreciate this distinctiveness, we must take into consideration the world view (and even the cosmic view or cosmology) of other cultures, both ancient and modern. At the crux of this distinction lies our beliefs about the origin of our species, the nature of reality, and the meaning of life. In other words, what constitutes reality?
Modern medical science (including psychiatry) is derived from and based upon a materialistic view of reality. That which is real is physical, or at least can be measured in a physical manner. From a materialistic viewpoint, reality is substantial.
This is no small point when we are determining someone's sanity. In fact, the clinical assessment procedures used to determine sanity are heavily weighted toward a materialistic interpretation of reality. As has been noted, to be "out of touch" with material reality is by psychiatric definition, to be psychotic.
The Edgar Cayce readings on schizophrenia acknowledge that persons experiencing psychotic symptoms are out of touch with material reality and find it difficult to maintain the activities of daily living. Therefore, Cayce considered schizophrenia to be an illness. Yet, he also noted that such individuals are closer to the "universal" or divine consciousness than most sane individuals.
To explain the mystical aspects of schizophrenia, Cayce often relied on terminology from perennial philosophy of other cultures and times (such as Hinduism, yoga, etc.). Thus, his readings on schizophrenia sometimes make references to kundalini, karma, possession and so forth.
The various therapies recommended by Cayce for this illness were not only directed toward nervous system regeneration and coordination, but also tended to help the afflicted persons to be more focused in material reality. Much emphasis was placed on simple, physical activities to assist these individuals to be more incarnate in their bodies and to attend to the physical world.
Two books describing Edgar Cayce's perspective on schizophrenia have been published. The Treatment of Schizophrenia: A Holistic Approach is a scholarly work written in APA (American Psychological Association) style. Case Studies in Schizophrenia is a less technical work describing individuals who sought Cayce's help in cases of schizophrenia. Both books were written by David McMillin.