One of the concepts discussed this week related to designer personalities. These personalities are considered designed because the individual’s personality is modified or altered through chemical means. There is a great deal of controversy regarding treatment of psychiatric disorders solely with medicines. One typical example, portrayed frequently on television, is the schizophrenic who stops taking their medication. Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder affecting over two million persons worldwide. Symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behaviors. Other symptoms include lack of empathy, feeling out of touch, and/or experiencing mismatched feelings to situations. Treatment typically includes medication, but counseling and support programs are also important.
A popular television series this year is Perception starring Eric McCormack as Dr. Daniel Pierce, a schizophrenic neuroscientist / professor / consultant to the FBI. Dr. Pierce experiences hallucinations and supposedly uses them to his advantage in solving detective type puzzles. A positive of the series is that it does suggest positive behavioral modification strategies to aid a schizophrenic is leading a typical life, i.e., being cared about and having a meaningful career. A regular routine, healthy eating habits, and support are mentioned frequently. However, the down side of the series is that Dr. Pierce discontinued medication treatment in favor of continued hallucination episodes, knowingly. This could, to a schizophrenic disinclined to seek treatment, give them a falsely optimistic viewpoint that they can “handle” schizophrenia on their own. This is especially likely because one of the symptoms of schizophrenia is delusions.
Although it is good that the television is putting schizophrenia center stage allowing that it is not an end of the world diagnosis; however, the writers could be more careful in their portrayals of the condition, treatments, and consequences of both.