Saturday, December 8, 2007

Is It still called "Schizophrenia" After the Medical Cause is Found?

In research literature, when scientists find a specific cause for a person's or family's "schizophrenia," the illness is still referred to as "schizophrenia" rather than by a new diagnosis. But here is a better question--Should it still be called "Schizophrenia"? (See:  No Longer Bipolar / No longer Schizophrenic - Recovered, In Remission, or Misdiagnosed ???)

Why do they still call it Schizophrenia?

People get a lot more attention when they are involved with the label “schizophrenia”. That label has generated an enormous amount of revenue both for pharmaceutical companies as well as for research. A researcher studying some obscure illness might not get funds, but if that obscure illness is part of “schizophrenia”, they have a much better chance.

One chromosomal deletion, 22q11 (velocardiofacial syndrome), is considered to be a “leading cause” of childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS), and is implicated in causing some cases of adult-onset schizophrenia as well.[1]

Sadly, even though studies show that cases of childhood-onset schizophrenia can cause brain matter deterioration seen MEDICALLY – i.e. by brain scans[2], it is still left in the “mental” illness garbage bucket instead of being treated with the same respect as a child with a brain tumor.

To continue, here is an interesting hereditary cause for a specific type of illness still classified as “schizophrenia”. It is called an X-chromosome gene polymorphism--HOPA12pb.[3]

This particular “schizophrenia” is very different from the collective group of illnesses called “schizophrenia”. The complex genetic set causes only positive symptoms of schizophrenia (such as hallucinations) without the negative symptoms (no catatonia or lack of affect, motivation). Interestingly it also tends to cause obesity, and tends to only affect males because it is on the X chromosome so would need the same constellation of genetic changes from both parents to manifest in females. Because it only causes the hallucinatory symptoms of “schizophrenia”, the people with it are not as impaired and therefore have a better “prognosis” (outcome).

Next, there seems to be a host of mitochondrial DNA defects that can cause “schizophrenia”. Why it is still called “schizophrenia”, rather than coining new medical names for the illnesses, I can only guess at. My guess is that few people in the world would have that illness and the researchers would get no funding due to its obscurity. But as long as it is “schizophrenia” they have made a discovery garnering more attention. Searches for “schizophrenia” can bring up their important research.

There are so many more known medical problems that still get called “schizophrenia, such as problems with mitochondrial DNA, and even hypothalamic and enzyme dysfunctions. I’ll just have to continue in another post…  If We Know the Medical Cause, Then is it Still “Mental Illness”?

Surprised?     Or Outraged?
I was surprised at first, then, I felt the outrage as all this really sank in (See: It's Not Mental - The Book)


[1] Velocardiofacial Syndrome in Childhood-Onset Schizophrenia, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Schizophrenic-like neurocognitive deficits in children and adolescents with 22q11 deletion syndrome Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2007 Jan 5; 144(1): 27-36
[2] Progressive loss of cerebellar volume in childhood-onset schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Jan ;160 (1):128-33 and Childhood-onset schizophrenia: progressive brain changes during adolescence. Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Oct 1;46 (7):892-8
[3] Association of the HOPA12bp allele with a large X-chromosome haplotype and positive symptom schizophrenia American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics Volume 127B, Issue 1 , Pages 20 - 27

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