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Secrets of Schizophrenia and Depression "Unlocked" 334

Oracle Goddess writes "According to the US National Institute for Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, scientists have discovered a remarkable similarity between the genetic faults behind both schizophrenia and manic depression in a breakthrough that is expected to open the way to new treatments for two of the most common mental illnesses, affecting millions of people. Previously schizophrenia and depression were assumed to be two separate conditions, but the new research shows for the first time that both have a common genetic basis that leads people to develop one or the other of the two illnesses."
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Secrets of Schizophrenia and Depression "Unlocked"

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  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:37AM (#28558367) Homepage Journal

    When I on lithium (~15 years ago) I found my creative spark had gone. Sure, the window of emotion had narrowed considerably, but the super-fast mental edge was lost. That made me even more depressed when the time came. Spoke with my doc, dropped all the meds (but can get lithium if I become Superman again)

    If you can harness it, manic depression is wonderful thing.

    Posted non-anonymously because it's not embarrassing or a big stigma.
  • by Xaedalus ( 1192463 ) <> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:42AM (#28558433)
    Kudos to you for posting w/ your name. I agree, IF you can harness it then yes, it can be a wonderful thing. The sticky point is being able to harness it.
  • Important findings (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cluster2k1 ( 1334687 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:45AM (#28558475)
    Anything that sheds new light onto Schizophrenia and related disorders is very welcome. It's heart breaking to watch someone close to you go through Schizophrenia symptoms. It's not the funny Hollywood version of split personalities. People suffering the disorder believe they are incredibly important (on a world scale), that they're on a special mission, they're related to Jesus, that others are coming to commit harm. Most of all, they can't tell you who sent them on the 'mission' or why. They sometimes turn on friends and accuse them of literally giving the disease. The paranoia accompanying the illness can reach critical levels. Saddest of all, a person with Schizophrenia does not believe they have a problem. They believe everyone else is either wrong, out to get them, or 'just doesn't understand.' Getting a sufferer to realise anything is wrong, let alone getting them to accept medical treatment is a real trial.
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:52AM (#28558575) Homepage Journal

    The sticky point is being able to harness it.

    Yep, that's the kicker.

    When I spoke with the doc I told her my concerns. Things/answers/analysis/even jokes which would have come to me in a flash actually took mental work. Maybe it's parallel to how Alzheimer's patients start to feel, hope I never know.

    In any case, the high end isn't usually the problem, it's the bottoming out that comes. I take reasonable care of myself and overall it's worked out well. Hey, I've just had the past 15 years virtually med free. I shudder when the idea of Me taking all those meds during that time being just a functioning zombie.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:58AM (#28558673)

    I hope this brings things closer to a more reliable form of treatment. I grew up with three (yes, 3) women with schizophrenia, and the drugs only muted the symptoms. I (amazingly) don't have the disease myself. My mom and grandma, who I lived with the first ten years of my life, had noticeable symptoms...I'd get told to do things that didn't make sense to me. I'm a rather geeky and analytical girl, and it is very frustrating when the adults in your life tell you things that *make no sense*, and there's nobody around *without* the disease to talk to. They tried to "protect" me from the "ghosts" on one hand, so I'm sure they cared for me in their own way, but on the other hand my mom would attack my grandma because my grandma (who was a heavy smoker and had issues with her lungs) was "talking under her breath". (She wasn't.) Pretty terrifying to see when you're five years old. I wasn't allowed to go to friends' birthday parties if they were in a certain town that, some hundred years ago, had been the former county seat, because apparantly folks from that town were still pissed off at our town and would try to hurt me (this is the paranoia part of paranoid schizophrenia showing). I wasn't allowed to wear the color red, eat strawberries, or get ice cream from the ice cream man truck. My mom would randomly become enraged at my friends dads simply since they were male, so I'd be cut off from friends randomly. My aunt had less noticeable symptoms, but the disease made her a target for an abusive husband, and of course I was exposed to that when I went to live with them as an 8th grader (my mom went back into the mental hospital, and my grandma had died when I was 10). I finally ran away at 16 and went into the state ward system, which was much, much better since I could make decisions for myself, instead of having to obey people who made no sense.

    Schizophrenia sucks. It sucks for the person having it, since you can't hold down a job, and it sucks for the family that has to put up with it.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:02PM (#28558745)

    Not to be glib, but couldn't it just be part of the disease to feel that the medicated state is unnatural? Whereas you feel muted when on the medicine, it is actually the way most people feel all the time?

  • Interesting.

    Back before psychopharmaceuticals, schizophrenia and depression were thought to be very similar or even the same thing. It was only once we had Thorazine (first antipsychotic) and then later tricyclics (first antidepressents) that in the clinical settings schizophrenia and depression began to be sorted much more distinctly, essentially based on the kinds of patients that got better with antipsychotics versus those that got better with antidepressants.

    It's pretty common for diagnostic definitions to align with successful treatment methadologies, since "what will help" is the fundamental answer that diagnosis hopes to lead to.

    Sounds like we're now getting back to the perspective of a half-century ago.

  • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Thursday July 02, 2009 @12:44PM (#28559423) Journal

    I envy you then.

    While mania makes me a lot more productive, since I don't sleep but 2-3 hours a night for a few weeks, it's not really worth it. My mind starts going so fast, I get dysphasic and develop a stutter, become even more ornery than I normally am because they're interrupting my brilliant works (even something as trivial as tweaking my mythbox's remote settings), and spend way too much money.

    But nothing is as bad as the mixed episodes... Being depressed enough to off oneself at the same time as being hyper and judgement-impaired to actually start going through with it... that is some scary shit...

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Thursday July 02, 2009 @01:15PM (#28560081) Homepage Journal

    I've been saying for years that they are not separate disorders but rather a continuum, with OCD at one end, bipolar in the middle, and schizo at the other.

    I've also noted a cyclic pattern -- typically a crazed episode, followed by a brief apologetic period, then some unpredictable time of being apparently-normal. If the cycle is not interrupted, or if it is in any way enabled, it trends toward worse with each cycle.

    I also content this: ALL children are schizophrenic, and progress thru bipolar and OCD phases as they mature. NORMAL children eventually leave all of these behaviours behind. We notice people "going wrong" in their teens and twenties not because they are "getting sick" but because they are failing to outgrow these normal childhood behaviours, which don't work so well once you leave the nest.

  • Re:Clarification (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @02:49PM (#28561913) Homepage Journal

    That's entirely correct, at least in my case. I'd have been far better off riding out the pain than taking the Paxil. The worst part was, they took me off Paxil right as I and my then-teenaged daughter were moving out of my foreclosed home into a tiny apartment. "My ROOM was bigger than this apartment," she wailed.

    The thought of what it would do to my kids and especially my parents if I killed myself is the only thing that kept me alive. Suicidal thoughts are one of the withdrawal effects of Paxil.

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Thursday July 02, 2009 @04:02PM (#28563321) Homepage Journal

    I've known a number of schizophrenics who were sufficiently low-key that they would never be diagnosed -- but in some way they don't relate properly. The low-key ones don't necessarily hear voices, but they may have other issues, like "feeling like my skin is crawling" when stressed. Some fake normal so well that you have no idea there is a problem -- til you realise there's a coping mechanism at work, such as rehearsing every action til it's "perfect" to avoid embarrassment... and completely losing it (eg. panic attack) when 'caught' being imperfect.

    Two strong common factors are a black/white mentality (inability to deal with shades of grey) and a need to be the center of attention, while simultaneously never ever being *seen* to do anything 'wrong' or otherwise embarrassing. Being 'caught' at being wrong is the single most reliable trigger for a bad episode, for those that do have episodes (not all seem to).

    I started putting that together with kids when I realised that kids do so many of the same behaviours, but in kids we think it's just -- being kids. And it is NORMAL in kids -- until they outgrow it. You can probably predict which kids will NOT outgrow it by observing which are most intolerant of adults interfering with the way they order their small worlds, those that cannot cope with ordinary embarrassments, etc.

    Ever notice kids ordering all their books or toys just so, and getting terribly upset at someone who disorders them? Disorder something an adult OCD has fixated on and watch the same behaviour erupt. OCD in this form is a need to pigeonhole everything, because grey areas cannot be dealt with.

    Ever notice how almost all teenagers have manic and nadir periods, sometimes with only the most trivial trigger?

    Ever noticed little kids playing with imaginary friends?? How many actually think they hear those 'friends' talking??

    Failure to outgrow all this, lack of the chemical triggers that comprise adult behaviour, is what I'm talking about... and if it isn't outgrown, it gets worse, since it doesn't work in Adult Life, and the automatic defense mechanism is to BE EVEN MORE NUTSO.

    And then yes, there is that disconnect from reality -- in the clinical cases. But I've known enough socially-functional schizos that I now believe the clinical/obvious cases are a minority, and that it is actually about 10x more widespread than that -- but we chalk it up to someone being odd or childish rather than recognising that it is a failure to mature compounded by adult stresses. (The math and programming communities are rife with the behaviours... but note that both professions are fundamentally "pigeonholing the universe" ie. OCD.)

  • by curunir ( 98273 ) * on Thursday July 02, 2009 @04:45PM (#28564047) Homepage Journal

    But I cannot believe so many of us have brains that need chemical help to function adequately.

    I don't think it's that people need these drugs to function adequately, I think it's more of a coping mechanism for a lifestyle that we're just not well adapted to. Our society is so overstimulated that many people can't cope with it over long periods of time. For many people, this results in a constant level of stress. And not the touchy-feely stress that people talk about, stress that directly leads to the release of certain chemicals, like adrenaline, in our bodies that are intended for short-term use in survival situations.

    My personal belief is that the majority of the people on anti-depressants would get better if they could remove as many of the stress-causing elements of their lives. For example, ditch the cell phone, TV and limit yourself to only a couple of hours in front of a computer each day (including work), and I think a lot of people would find they don't need the drugs. Unfortunately, these kinds of lifestyle changes just aren't feasible for most people so the drugs end up being used as the coping mechanism.

    So I agree with you that most people do not need these drugs in an absolute sense, but I do believe that so many people need them in the context of the lives they're living.

  • by ElectricRook ( 264648 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:21PM (#28567535)

    That's an interesting correlation.

    I find it easier to measure the "tooth to tattoo" ratio. Having been an EMT in a past life, I've observed that those who have more tattoos than teeth have a much higher likelihood of dying in an emergency room. Granted this is just a loose hypothesis based on my random observations. YMMV

  • by electrons_are_brave ( 1344423 ) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:21PM (#28567893)
    how would they determine how they are related in the first place? Especially given the complexity of these issues in their relation to the central nervous system

    How "they" are related? By "they" you mean bipolar and schizophrenia? Apart from looking at the co-morbidity of the two conditions, they also use data from studies looking at rates in identical twins, non-identical twins, siblings who have various degrees of genetic overlap versus the overal prevelance. Plus, in a logical, theoretical sense there is diagnostic overlap -bipolar, in a severe from can include delusions, halluncinations, highly inappropriate behaviour, loss of inhibition, sleeplessness, irritability and paranioa, as can some forms of schizophrenia. Likewise, social withdrawal, lack of affect, hyposomnia ect which can occur in the depressed phase of bipolar can also occur in some sorts of schizophrenia. This is the same as any sort of medical diagnosis - both pneumonia, the flu and asthma involve breathing difficulties, so it's not too far fetched to think that there might be some common underlying mechanisms. So that points where to look.

    There's a lot more than this, of course. But epidemiology and reasoning are really the only is the only way you really can go, given that you can't ever get random assignment to conditions and can't "give" someone BP or schizo. So it's got to be correlation.

    If you meant something different by "they" then I'm not sure.

  • Re:In perspective (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @02:10AM (#28568793)

    I have a longstanding theory that I admittedly have not done enough research into trying to find it I am way off base or not...but I firmly believe that all too often the physicatric community is so focused on Serotonin being what causes feelings of depresssion when quite often it could very well be the delicate Dopamine/GABA balancing act.

    A long-standing puzzle is that SSRIs enhance serotonergic transmission pretty much immediately, yet it takes weeks for the effects on mood to emerge. Contrast that with stimulant drugs that enhance dopamine release or inhibit uptake, which enhance mood pretty much immediately (ask anybody who has tried cocaine). This has led to a widespread suspicion that it is not enhanced serotonin transmission per se that relieves depression, but rather some downstream regulatory change that occurs in response

  • story (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gar-fonz ( 1032790 ) on Friday July 03, 2009 @07:36AM (#28570161)
    I am not a student of the Psychiatric discipline. I have learned through my experiences and reflection to manage my thoughts. I was 'diagnosed' with Schizophrenia a few years ago, and took Risperdal for about 2 1/2 years. During the first six months of the 2.5 years, my dosage increased from 0.5 mg to 4 mg. I stopped taking the medicine in October, 2008. The voices returned in about 2-4 weeks. "People with schizophrenia have reduced brain receptors for the dopamine messenger. " from: [] I believe that this is inconsistent with 'facts' that my ex-psychiatrist told me ( although I could be remembering wrong, which just creates the need to investigate the facts that scientists have found by means that, well, I do not possess knowledge of). I thought that Schizophrenia is a result of an overproduction of dopamine, oh, oops, now I get it.\ I think the Risperdal is supposed to suppress the production of dopamine, perhaps the surplus of the messenger creates the hallucination. For me, the hallucinations are (attempting mental reconstruction to change the present state of is to past tense) my interpretation of the source of the voices. I used to think that other people's thoughts were being transmitted into my mind. I honestly believed it was, just because the 'hear-think' (that's my term for the voices) always had personal information about me, and well, I was around people that would have facts to produce the analysis (negative at first...). I used to conclude that the voices were not invoked by my volition. Well, yeah, OK, whatever, let's shoot that one down. How do I know that it isn't just my brain using the presence of the those around me, to help me realize new perceptions on past situations in order to affect my future choices in a way that I perceive will increase my self-image. Typing of self-image, maybe my mind/soul/etc is just creating a way to reflect so that my volition doesn't have to be the naysayer. With my mind operating this way, I can now respond to the critique of the voices, as if I am holding a conversation in my mind. Oh yeah, one interesting thing about hear-think is that is seems to be occurring outside of my body, in a variety of locations in space. I hear male and female voices, with classic gender roles intact, with a varying degree of acuity in expression, tone, knowledge, and insight. I think the longest phrase lasted between 1-2 minutes. Another unusual occurrence is how in sync the voices can be with my surroundings, meaning that the voices will match body language of other people, and the hear-think seems to be originating from their bodies. I think that I am just imagining an interpretation. the real struggle for me was learning not to trust the voices by using scientific method, by testing their validity against family and friends. have heart.

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming