I think Victoria has made an excellent suggestion. The Quiet Room is an amazing book of hope and recovery. She has one of the worst cases of it, and I won’t tell you what happens [smile]. I want to put in a plug for The Outsider by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer if you are interested in schizophrenia.
My father had schizoaffective disorder, which isn’t quite schizophrenia, but it has lots of shared features, so I have always been an advocate for people with schizophrenia. My mom was also in and out of inpatient for bipolar depressive episodes where she got suicidal, and she met a lot of people with mental illnesses while there. They became her friends, so I have a lot of people with schizophrenia in my life through that. Two of them completed suicide. It is a very hard disorder to live with, although one of the two felt compelled to suicide because they wouldn’t give her back her son from state custody, so it was indirectly related to the disorder. Then, my sister had a best friend in high school that developed schizophrenia as soon as he started college, but he has done remarkably well with early and immediate treatment.
I should tell you about pruning theory of schizophrenia. This theory has gained a great deal of evidence. We know that during adolescence, we all go through something we call pruning of the brain. This is a process where our brain sort of erases all of the unnecessary neural pathways that were developed during childhood. For example, there would be neural pathways made when we were learning to crawl or to walk or learn language. These are trimmed as unnecessary. There is evidence that something goes wrong in the brains of people with schizophrenia, so that they over-prune taking out necessary pathways. Here is just a summary of the theory:
You got it exactly right that with schizophrenia there is a genetic vulnerability and then the condition typically develops following a stressful experience. It is sort of like a bomb ready to go off if the right spark is there. A lot of people get schizophrenia while in the military or in college, or during each of the events you mentioned. We know from twin studies, that one twin can develop the condition, where the other does not, and the theory is that the fuse was never lit on one of them.