Schizophrenia is commonly mis-diagnosed as bi-polar disorder. The closest most accurate diagnosis is schizo-affective disorder, described as an irregular type of schizophrenia by psychiatrists. In this disorder, characteristics of schizophrenia are combined with the mood swings of bi-polar. Patients with this disease should be advised to watch for depressive episodes and the risk of suicide. We were not advised. The famous Amen Clinic prides itself on its accurate diagnoses, but fails to give any practical advice on how this diagnosis differs from regular schizophrenia. Antipsychotic drug treatment is the first line of treatment given for both diseases.
Like other psychotic disorders, schizoaffective disorder can be a difficult diagnosis to determine. The patient must meet all the criteria for schizophrenia and have significant mood symptoms. It must then be determined that the mood symptoms are not causing the psychotic symptoms. To do this the doctor takes a careful history to know whether there have been psychotic symptoms even when there have been no mood symptoms.
Bi-Polar Disorder Misunderstood as Schizophrenia
Bipolar disorder is often confused with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, but it is not the same illness. It is a mood disorder characterized by manic, depressed, or mixed mood states. Symptoms of mania include an elevated or irritable mood, grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, distractibility, agitation, poor impulse control, and pressured speech. Depressive symptoms include a sad mood, guilty feelings, poor appetite, and weight change. A mixed state has characteristics of both manic and depressed states at the same time.
The difference between bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder is that in bipolar disorder the mood is the predominant symptom, and it is cyclical in nature. When the mood symptoms remit, the patient returns to normal functioning. In schizoaffective disorder, the mood symptoms may clear, but other symptoms persist.
The symptoms used to diagnose schizophrenia were described to me by Dr. Jose Mackliff, an Ecuadorian psychiatrist and scientist who was the Director of the Schizophrenia Ward at Luis Vernaza Hospital for thirteen years and developed BEAM Procedure for schizophrenia. For thirteen years, he observed the suffering of his patients, knowing that the antipsychotics couldn’t help them and only kept them sedated. Instead of becoming depressed, he became excited about the metabolism behind schizophrenia.
At the beginning of the disease, there is isolation, loss of student activity, deterioration of personal hygiene, and strange ideas that manifest in the person. In the middle of the process, strange, delusional ideas; ideas of greatness; religious ideas without content of persecution; persecutory ideas; auditory hallucinations of more than two words not related to depression; loss of thought association and poverty of content; magic thoughts; clairvoyance; telepathy; inappropriate emotions; and disorganized behavior. If a patient has any of these symptoms during the stages of the disease, it is schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia as a Functional Disorder
This description came from interviews with Dr. Mackliff and is based on observations he made in his patients before and after they had the BEAM (bilateral electro-coagulation of adrenal medulla) surgery. He describes schizophrenia as beginning in the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis:
The axis is formed by three hormones: glucagon, cortisol and adrenaline, but in the schizophrenic patient adrenaline is failing to arrive in the axis, and this develops metabolic problems, energy problems inside the neuron. In other words, a series of factors causing intra-cerebral communication disorders between the thalamus and the cortex, and this is the schizophrenic process. Dr. Mackliff hypothesized that too much adrenaline is produced in schizophrenics. The brain therefore blocks the entry of blood adrenaline into the HPTA axis. Dr. Mackliff saw that by eliminating the hormone adrenaline from its source, the adrenal medulla glands, the brain would compensate by producing nor-adrenaline. This source of adrenaline goes directly into the HPTA axis, restoring the right amount of cerebral dopamine in the limbic region of the brain.
In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine systems, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain, and a variety of addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity. Other brain dopamine systems are involved in motor control and in controlling the release of several other important hormones. Schizophrenia is a result of an excessive amount of dopamine in the limbic region of the brain.