Lauren is a woman, around 32 years old, of an undefined race, in a relationship, employed, earning a middle-class wage, and having schizoaffective illness as a disability. Since her late teens, Lauren has struggled with schizoaffective disorder. She suffered from profound grief and hopelessness, and she soon started to show signs of psychosis-like olfactory hallucinations, hearing voices, and eventually a manic episode. Since receiving a diagnosis in 2016, her symptoms have worsened, leading to two hospital stays. She has tried different medications, electroconvulsive therapy, and self-care practices to control her symptoms and advance her wellness. Hallucinations and delusions are still a part of her psychotic symptoms, but she can better manage them thanks to her medication and self-care routines.
To meet the DSM-5 criteria for schizoaffective disorder, a person must also exhibit two or more delusions, hallucinations, incoherent speech, disorganized or catatonic conduct, and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, in addition to a significant mood illness, such as bipolar disorder. As Lauren has bipolar disorder and has displayed psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, she satisfies the criteria for schizoaffective disorder. Her trouble making friends, her severe sadness, and her hypomania amplified her psychotic symptoms. Because of her ECT therapy, she has also had memory problems. Lauren’s experience provides evidence that meets the Diagnostic criteria for schizoaffective disorder. Unfortunately, the description is missing crucial details that can be important for a precise diagnosis. For instance, Lauren does not mention Lauren’s fragmented speech or disorganized or catatonic demeanor, two characteristics of the schizoaffective illness. Lauren also doesn’t note any ominous signs like anhedonia, social retreat, a lack of motivation, or diminished effect. To accurately diagnose schizoaffective conditions, these symptoms would be required.
Schizoaffective disorder has been challenging for Lauren. Living with schizophrenia and a severe mood disorder can be difficult because the symptoms of the two conditions often exacerbate one another. Due to her illness, Lauren has dealt with many challenges regarding finances, relationships, education, job attainment, fulfillment of personal goals, and access to care.
Lauren has experienced financial hardship due to the price of her medical care, including prescription drugs and therapy. Due to her mental health, she has also had to take lengthy vacations from work and school, putting her in financial hardship. Relationships have been a problem. Lauren has struggled to make friends, and her awkwardness and reticence have seeped into her therapy sessions. She also feared disclosing her illness and difficulties to prospective partners.
Lauren has had issues with her education as well. Due to the strain of returning to school on her mental health, she was forced to drop out of her Masters of Science and Health Policy Research program. Also, she has experienced repeated hospital stays, which has hampered her academic goals. Due to Lauren’s mental health, finding a job has proven challenging. She has struggled to find a job she can commit to after being forced to quit her dream position in Toronto owing to her mental health.
Setting and achieving personal goals has also been difficult. Lauren has had to modify her ambitions because she cannot live the life she envisioned due to her mental health. For Lauren, getting access to care has been a challenge. She had severe trauma while in the hospital, and as a result, she has a strong mistrust of the healthcare system. She has become reluctant to get the care she requires due to this.
About her own experience, Lauren goes through a variety of feelings. She is happy to obtain a diagnosis but also confused and afraid because there aren’t many inspiring tales of people overcoming schizophrenia. Lauren fears being a mom to her child and feels terrible about her hospitalizations and disappointing her family. She is, however, also looking forward to starting a family and feels more at peace with her condition now that she is aware of how to treat it.
Lauren has had significant and negative encounters with therapy and treatment throughout her life. She sought counseling via the university throughout her time in college, when she had her first therapy encounter. Her counselor advised her to seek additional assistance from a Doctor and psychiatrist when this therapy didn’t provide the intended effects. She acted on this suggestion and thought having the extra help from these experts was beneficial.
Her positive experience with counseling and treatment, however, was followed by a time of hopelessness and despair, which resulted in her making two suicide attempts. After her second try, she was admitted to the hospital and started researching therapies like ECT, which did not improve her condition. She also started to have new symptoms, like hallucinations, which she initially neglected to mention to her medical staff.
The second time Lauren had therapy, things went considerably better. She started to feel better after receiving a schizoaffective disorder diagnosis, and she discovered a drug schedule that worked for her. Lauren also started to share more of her experiences and difficulties with her therapist. She developed a deeper rapport with her therapist because of her sincerity, and she got the help she needed to deal with her disease. Lauren has found stability and acceptance of her illness due to her most recent treatment session. She has been able to cut down on her medicine and has a supportive spouse in her husband, Rob, who is sympathetic to her situation.
I anticipated that Lauren would go through a challenging diagnosing process and several unsuccessful attempts to treat her disease. I was taken aback to learn of her pleasant interactions with her care team and her gratitude for their assistance and support. I was also impressed to understand how well she has gotten along with her husband and his two children and how she has succeeded in establishing stability in her life. By giving me insight into the real lives of those who live with it and their potential to lead entire lives with the proper care and treatment, this experience has challenged my prejudgments of persons with this disease.
Living Well with Schizophrenia. (2022). My Story | Living with Schizophrenia [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43BpioYNmY0