Psychosis ― Understanding it and Dealing with it effectively
What is psychosis? Psychosis is a term that, although it has become generic in common language, denotes a serious disorder characterized by significant detachment from reality. This detachment makes psychosis very different from neurosis, in which the perception of reality is generally preserved. Both the terms "psychosis" and "neurosis" are no longer used in contemporary scientific definitions, but they still remain very present concepts in colloquial everyday language.
Nowadays, scientific language prefers to speak of psychotic manifestations, referring to specific symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations:
DELUSIONS: Delusions are represented by erroneous and unrealistic ideas that cannot be corrected by logic or rationality.
HALLUCINATIONS: Hallucinations are sensory perceptions in the absence of a real object, such as hearing voices or seeing things that others do not perceive.
In the past, phenomena such as perplexity, which represents inconclusive and ruminative reasoning, were also included within psychotic manifestations.
Recent scientific research has led to a deeper understanding of psychotic manifestations, showing that delusions and hallucinations can occur in a variety of mental disorders and are not necessarily specific to Schizophrenia, traditionally considered the most severe psychotic disorder.
Nowadays, the concept of the Psychotic Disorders Spectrum encompasses a wider range of disorders, each with specific characteristics. In addition, the prognosis perspective on schizophrenia has improved significantly. According to data provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 80 percent of people diagnosed with schizophrenia can be successfully treated to complete remission of symptoms after the first psychotic episode. This means that many people suffering from these disorders can have the opportunity to resume their lives and studies, find jobs, and re-establish an adequate functioning in family and social life.
These advances demonstrate that reaching recovery is an achievable goal even in psychotic disorders and should be pursued by all those involved in the care of these conditions. The Istituto di Neuroscienze is dedicated to offering a recovery-oriented healthcare approach to help people overcome psychosis and return to a fulfilling and satisfying lifestyle.
Learn more about the philosophy of Dr. Stefano Pallanti and the Istituto di Neuroscienze based in Florence, Italy.
Psychosis ― The Brain and the Heart
The idea that the center of all mental activity lies in the brain is a relatively recent concept in the history of science. In the past, many people mistakenly believed that the heart was the center of emotions and thoughts, suggesting that it played an almost alternative role to the brain. This ancient perception is still reflected today in common expressions that allude to the heart as the site of emotions.
Even more recent is the claim that mental disorders are predominantly a consequence of brain dysfunction. This is probably also one of the many reasons why mental disorders even today are not considered "normal diseases."
However, when it comes to schizophrenia, the reality is much more complex, and the events concerning the relationship between schizophrenics and their family members and friends refer us to this deep and intense interplay between the brain and the heart. At the time of diagnosis of schizophrenia, the heart seems to stop, although nowadays thanks to available therapies one is not completely disarmed. In order to continue living, it is necessary to nurture an illusion in which the heart overcomes the brain.
Marcel Proust, in his "In Search of Lost Time," suggests that every alteration of the brain is equivalent to a fragment of death. Metaphorically, when someone develops schizophrenia, it seems that a piece of themselves dies, but it is also true that a person with his or her connections and personal world still survives that dying fragment. This dark shadow, fueled by prejudice, extends over the world of schizophrenia, involving not only patients but also their families, researchers, health care providers and all those who try to make this difficult condition more bearable.
Unfortunately, about 10% of young patients with schizophrenia fail to find themselves, cannot find the resources to continue living with schizophrenia, and suicide shortly after diagnosis. Suicide represents the ultimate failure of communication, when the individual cannot find a space or a language that allows him or her to reconnect with the world. This difficulty in communication is a central feature of schizophrenia, making it difficult to both establish communication and maintain it with those suffering from the condition.
Classical psychopathology defined precisely the inability to empathize as one of the diagnostic criteria for the definition of schizophrenic psychosis: no matter how hard he tries, the interlocutor is unable to put himself in the schizophrenic's shoes, contributing to making the other person's experience incomprehensible. The very personal experience of a person with schizophrenia thus becomes not simply different from one's own, but impossible to assimilate into any realistically imaginable human experience.
When a person's actions exceed the expected limits of common sense and become completely incomprehensible, we may be facing a psychotic manifestation and mean that we are in the realm of schizophrenia. When it suddenly becomes impossible to put oneself in the other person's shoes, one feels that one may no longer be able to communicate. One then seeks rational explanations, not giving oneself peace. Because, while it is true that in schizophrenia a fragment of death disconnects thoughts and affections, the heart of those close to them seems to break. But the sick person continues to exist and the hearts of those who love them still beat for them, even if broken.
The goal of Dr. Stefano Pallanti's Istituto di Neuroscienze is to reduce this inability to comprehend and to promote effective communication between schizophrenic patients, their families and society. Our efforts are to overcome prejudice, allowing the heart ― albeit in its sometimes unpredictable intermittencies ― to agree with reason, overcoming the obtuseness of clichés and non-understanding towards those who ― like psychotic and schizophrenic patients and their families ― deserve not only tolerance but true respect.
Together, we can help make the world of schizophrenic patients a more welcoming and understanding place.
Personalized cutting-edge therapies
Learn about Dr. Stefano Pallanti's Istituto di Neuroscienze approach to treatment.
This video collection on Schizophrenia explores the main features of this disorder, associated neurobiological factors, and the latest perspectives on therapeutic intervention.
Watch and listen to interviews and speeches by Dr. Stefano Pallanti on the topic.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
The different types of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) represent non-invasive and non-pharmacological therapies that use magnetic field to stimulate or inhibit specific brain areas, proving to be highly effective for the treatment of many disorders, including Resistant Depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Deep Brain Stimulation for the treatment of Resistant Schizophrenia
Deep Brain Stimulation appears to be a viable option for some patients with severely treatment-resistant schizophrenia, particularly for certain symptoms and subtypes of the disorder.