A physician-scientist from the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, recently received a $175,000 grant from the reputed Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation to develop the first diagnostic test for schizophrenia. The Sidney R. Baer Foundation was established in 1999 and is the brainchild of Sidney Baer, a wealthy businessperson, who had struggled with schizophrenia all through his life. Upon his death in 2002, he willed his estate to the schizophrenia foundation.
The prize money received by Dr. Amelia Gallitano will be utilized in developing a biological test for determining whether an individual has schizophrenia, or some equally complex mental disorder. Elaborating on the need for the development of a quick and easy test, Gallitano said, “No biological test exists to diagnose a mental illness such as schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder. We still don’t definitely know a cause for a single psychiatric illness.”
Gallitano is in charge of a laboratory that studies a specific family of genes, which are activated in response to an environmental stimulus. She believes that these genes are critical for understanding mental health. According to her, dysfunctional genes increase the risk of a person being afflicted with a mental disorder. Explaining the nature of her research, the doctor said that her aim currently is to understand the biological underpinnings of a mental illness. It would create more opportunities of recovery and possibly prevent the onset of the condition. She also hoped to come up with treatments or therapies that do not involve medication.
Causes and symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and acts. It is not as common as other mental illnesses like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the causes are still shrouded in mystery. Apart from genetics, other factors that increase the risk of schizophrenia include underage substance use, differences in brain structure and traumatic experience in childhood.
The signs of the mental disorder are apparent by the time one reaches adolescence. There are three categories of symptoms associated with schizophrenia — positive, negative and cognitive. Patients with positive symptoms lose touch with reality while those with negative symptoms experience emotions not commonly experienced by healthy people. Cognitive symptoms can be severe in terms of memory loss. Some of the common symptoms of the disease include:
For a person to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is essential that two of the five symptoms are prominent and at least one symptom should be visible for a minimum period of six months.
Getting help in time
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 21 million people could be living with schizophrenia all over the world. According to the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA), approximately, 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with schizophrenia, making it one of the leading causes of disability. About a quarter of people with schizophrenia develop the disease between the age of 16-25. Although the chances of full recovery are not very high, with timely diagnosis and right treatment, it is possible to manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life.
If you are suffering from mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, PTSD or bipolar disorder, seek professional help immediately. Contact Sovereign Health to avail the best treatment plans at its reputed residential mental health treatment centers. You may also call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our counselors for more information on our inpatient mental health treatment centers spread across the United States.