Schizophrenia: Loss of Touch With Reality

Schizophrenia: Loss of Touch With Reality

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Imagine you are walking in a crowded street. Now, stop for a moment and take a look at the world around you, the buildings, the people passing by, the voices you hear. How real are they? Is it possible you are hearing things or seeing things that aren’t actually real? Well, for some people with schizophrenia this is possible.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder and probably one of the most complex points that a human brain can reach. It is associated with changes in the structure and functioning patterns of a number of key brain systems, including the prefrontal, medial and temporal lobe regions.

According to Katherine H. Karlsgodt, a psych researcher at UCLA, patients diagnosed with this disorder lose touch with reality and usually don’t even realize the fact that they have a mental illness.

Symptoms of the disorder are mainly categorized into three major areas: positive, negative, and cognitive. Positive symptoms can consist of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior, and impaired cognitive ability. Negative symptoms are characterized by a loss or deficit, such as the removal of normal processes in the brain. Lastly, examples of cognitive symptoms include impairments in attention and working memory. However, different patients might experience different symptoms.

What are delusions? They are fixed and false beliefs for which there is no evidence. Similarly, hallucinations are false sensory experiences. People experiencing these symptoms might see images or hear voices that aren’t actually real, which has the potential to unfortunately escalate to committing or attempting suicide.

These images and voices are mostly negative and commanding. The early onset of the disorder, along with its chronic periods, disables most people who suffer from it as well as the people in close contact with them. As the patients experience mood shifts, emotional isolation, and withdrawal from social interaction, it may gradually prevent them from maintaining things like holding a regular job, study or engage in normal daily activities. This disability is ultimately a result of both the negative and cognitive symptoms.

Causes of schizophrenia

According to an article published in the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Journal, written by Krishna R. Patel, although the precise cause of schizophrenia is still unknown, several studies have shown that a combination of genetics and environment contributes to the development of the disorder.

The fact that genetics play an important role in the development of schizophrenia was proven through a study that has shown that the risk of illness is approximately 10% for a first-degree relative and 3% for a second-degree relative. This result is further supported by findings that siblings with schizophrenia often experience an onset of the illness around the same age.

Environmental influences could also stimulate the development of schizophrenia, especially in individuals who are already vulnerable to the disorder. Childhood trauma(s), being a visible minority, living in an urban area, and social isolation are examples of environmental stressors linked to this disorder.

An overview of statistics for schizophrenia

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), approximately 1.1% of the world’s population, over the age of 18, suffers from schizophrenia, which means approximately 20 million people worldwide are affected by it.

This mental disorder also commonly starts earlier among men. As mentioned in an article published by the public health department, of the Government of Canada, national data (2016-2017) shows that 1 out of every 100 Canadians aged 10+ were living with diagnosed schizophrenia. 56% were men and 44% were women.
A research study was done by Thomas J Craig, Qing Ye, and Evelyn J Brometin in 2006 shows that approximately 1.7% of all patients with schizophrenia die from suicide. In addition, another research done by Michael R. Phillips, published in The Lancet Journal in 2004, indicates that 10.1% of all people who have committed suicide had schizophrenia, which indicates how common suicidal thoughts and behavior are among people with this disorder.

Schizophrenia genes favored by evolution

Research actually reveals that genes linked to this disorder may also provide developmental advantages and therefore, have been favored by natural selection. 76 DNA sequences linked to schizophrenia were examined by researcher Bernard Crespi of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. As a result, out of the 76 genes studied, 28 showed evidence of being favored by natural selection.

A psychiatric research study conducted by Daniel Nettle and Helen Clegg suggests that people with schizophrenia could be more creative or imaginative than the general population, which increases the possibility of schizophrenia genes helping carriers to solve survival problems or attracting a mate.

Control and Cognitive Redirection Activities

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that unfortunately targets a large number of people, mostly in their twenties, and about half of the people who suffer from it, commit suicide or struggle with it daily. However, most people with schizophrenia are known to have a very strong imagination and therefore, tend to be more creative as a result. It is very important for the patients and their family members to be optimistic and seek help from a mental health professional in order to control the disorder. Lastly, keep in mind that anything, no matter how awful, can have a bright side as well.

Helicopters on Mars? From Rolling Rovers to Flying Drones

Helicopters on Mars? From Rolling Rovers to Flying Drones

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Image for reference only; this is not NASA’s Perseverance.


Since the 1960s, dozens of missions and spacecraft launchings have been carried out by NASA with the intention of exploring the Martian surfaces to discover if the red planet was once habitable, and perhaps if it is a candidate environment for the future of our human species.

A great amount of information is known about the red planet, that we call Mars, due to the successful wheeled rovers that have been used to obtain such information, ranging from the planet’s geology all the way to its atmospheric characteristics.

However, with increasing ambition to further expand discoveries, these slow-moving rovers simply aren’t fast enough. So, what may be the solution to increase rover movement and maximize exploration? A fast-flying rover perhaps! And, believe it or not, NASA has already got that covered.

Meet the ‘SOL’ sisters: Perseverance and Ingenuity

Ingenuity is an autonomous technological experiment that was built by NASA to show the possibility of powered flight on a planet that is not our own, just like the very first Mars rover, Sojourner, which rolled on Mars’ soil in 1997.

This helicopter’s name was not originally given by NASA, but by a student who won the, “Name The Rover” contest in 2020. “Ingenuity is what allows people to accomplish amazing things, and it allows us to expand our horizons to the edges of the Universe,” wrote Vaneeza Rupani, winner of the contest.

The goal of this helicopter is to simply be a successful (experimental) project, which can help future flights such as the Dragonfly―a drone that is planned to launch on Saturn’s moon in the coming years.

Helicopter launches are actually quite difficult. The reason being, Mars’ atmosphere is 99% less dense than Earth’s, making it quite thin, resulting in difficulty to lift any spacecraft off of its surface.

So, how exactly is Ingenuity going to be any different?

Well, Ingenuity was built with a light anatomy, weighing only 4 pounds, with carbon-fiber blades that spin at 2,400 rpm, 6 times faster than the ones on Earth, making Ingenuity’s flight off of the Martian soils possible, which was tested on April 14th, 2021.

The helicopter has also shown success just by surviving the journey to Mars, and no, it did not fly itself there. The small drone was transported in a large six-wheeled rover known as Perseverance, which made its landing on the planet in February 2021. Two months later, the small helicopter was sent free from Perseverance by finally being dropped onto Mars’ surface.

Evidence of success kept on rising as the helicopter, now independent from Perseverance, survived Mars’ below-freezing temperatures, of minus ninety degrees Celsius, thanks to the heating systems that were built in to keep Ingenutiy’s electronics properly functioning in below-freezing temperatures.

The two spacecraft will continue to work hand-in-hand as Ingenuity takes its first flight, capturing 30 pictures a second that is then analyzed to assess its location using a tracking-like software, all of which is then going to be sent back to Earth through Perseverance.

The innovation doesn’t just stop here! Make sure to follow along with Ingenuity’s journey through the red planet’s atmosphere, and the many more discoveries that this helicopter is going to make on NASA’s website, or you can follow NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Facebook and Instagram.

Breaking The Silence: Destigmatizing Medical Conditions

Breaking The Silence: Destigmatizing Medical Conditions

About This Series

Living with a chronic or life-threatening illness brings a whole host of challenges. Oftentimes, these challenges can be invisible. This makes it harder for others to be compassionate and helpful. People who experience medical issues can feel like their life is out of their control, which can make it really difficult for them to reach out for help.

The goal of this series was to raise awareness about medical conditions through storytelling and thorough information.

Knowledge is power. Hearing and understanding people’s experiences can help you be better equipped to respond the next time you encounter someone with a medical condition.

It will hopefully make you more aware and sensitive towards others struggling. This can even be in the simplest form of avoiding the generalization and misuse of medical conditions. Doing so diminishes undermines and devalues what individuals with those conditions experience. For example, using expressions like you’re retarded, I’m depressed, I’m so OCD can be hurtful to those who have medical retardation, depression or OCD.

According to the CDC, 795,000 people have a stroke every year in the USA alone. Just about every 40 seconds, someone in the States has a stroke and someone dies of a stroke every 4 minutes. It is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Despite its prevalence, roughly 38% of bystanders knew all of the major symptoms of a stroke. Strokes require immediate care. Some strokes may be treated exclusively within the first 3 hours from when the symptoms start.

Patients who receive treatment are more likely to either fully recover or live with less disability than those who don’t. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke can save lives.

Breaking The Silence: Hemorrhagic Stroke

Did a Full 180

I was working at a gym as a receptionist. I talked to two clients and explained our memberships to them when they started tilting their heads and looking at me strangely. I was trying to figure out why they were doing that.

I started realizing that when I was talking, it sounded like I was eating my words. I asked them if it was okay with them if I switched to French and they agreed. My French started okay and then I started eating my words in French too. My words were not coming out properly. They couldn’t understand me so they started giggling a little bit. They told me that it was okay and that they would come back another day.

I turn to my computer and I’m staring at it. I’m starting to panic because I was stuttering. I asked one of my friends, who was working out, to come and see me. He asked me to repeat some numbers with him to try to get the hang of my speech back. After a few minutes, it came back a bit. He had thought that maybe it was caused by stress because I had two exams the next day (which I hadn’t studied for.)

He went to continue working out and I went back to my desk to continue working. I looked at the screen and I realized that, although I was smashing down on the keys, nothing was typing. I thought it was maybe the computer that was broken. I went to go grab my phone but it just slipped right out of my hand. I picked my phone with my left hand, I tried to open it with my finger-ID but it wasn’t working. Essentially, my hand wasn’t working and went completely numb. I used my other hand to type into the search bar “why can’t I feel my hand?” I started panicking because I couldn’t understand what I was reading and I couldn’t feel my hand.

As this is happening, I slowly started falling off the chair. I hit the ground and my friend came running. When he asked me what I was doing on the ground, I just started crying. This part is a blur. I don’t remember falling or getting back on the chair. He later told me that he was trying to get my attention. He started asking me simple questions to try to help ground me. I started lisping. My lips started tingling. I was producing saliva and drooling but I couldn’t swallow it. I tried to eat but couldn’t lift my fork.

Closing time came around and I tried to clean up by putting the weights away. I was incapable of doing so. My friend helped me out a bit and then drove me home. I get home and go to my mother. I looked at her and said I don’t feel well. I was talking funny but she started laughing because she thought I was just joking around.

It’s Not All in My Head

The next day, my entire arm was numb. My mom called me and it felt like my face was being pulled in two different directions. My mom’s boyfriend (at the time) time) picked me up and drove me to the ER. They were looking at me like I was crazy because everything returned back to normal. It was as if nothing happened. The nurse told me that they were probably going to send me home because they couldn’t find anything. Then, someone working at the hospital who had no medical training decided that they would try to get me a CT scan just to be safe. We get the CT done.

The nurse came over to me and told me that the blood test results came back. My numbers were a little wonky but they weren’t sure why. Then, the resident came to see me and asked me to come into a conference room. He told me that I had a minor brain bleed on the top left corner. I was told that they would give me some anti-seizure medications and that it shouldn’t happen again. The next minute, the main neurosurgeon came running into the room and told me that I had a massive brain bleed.
They had me do an MRI. They couldn’t see anything because of the amount of blood there. They didn’t know what was happening or why it was happening. They only knew that I had a massive bump in that region because of the CT scan I took earlier. They said it was a cyst.

On the Tip of My Tongue

I was hospitalized for about two weeks. In that time period, I had unbearable headaches. I couldn’t walk. I had another episode in the hospital where my right side went numb again. On one of the first few days I was there, they came in and told me that they were going to keep me in the hospital. They were trying to wait and see if my brain would somehow reabsorb the blood. They told me that I would be taking a second MRI in a week’s time. It was an important region of my brain and they were trying to avoid surgery at all costs.

The first day I was hospitalized was the scariest because I was having memory lapses. I lost my French and a lot of my English too. The only language I could remember was my native language, which I only spoke as a child. My English came back a few days after and my French only returned after a month’s worth of speech therapy. The resident printed out a list of my Facebook friends. She would choose random people and ask me who they were, where we first met, and how I knew them. I had friends from elementary school whom I didn’t recognize. It was as if someone had taken white-out and erased parts of my life. I would know that I was being asked questions. I was supposed to know the answers too but then would forget that they had asked me a question altogether. That’s how bad my memory was. With time, my memory came back.
For the first week, I couldn’t get out of bed without a walker. I needed help using the bathroom. Not being able to move was also really scary. I was being seen by a physiotherapist to try to help me to regain my strength.

Slow & Steady

Luckily for me, the bleeding started going down. The process was very hard and slow. My doctor had asked me if I had done any strenuous sports or fallen down the stairs. I told him that I was in school and during that two-week period prior to this incident, I had stopped all exercise to focus on my exams. He told me that it looked like I was hit in the head by a baseball bat, but without a fracture. After the week passed, they did another MRI. As the bleeding had started going down, they were going to let me go home on the condition that I wouldn’t do anything.

It was really hard. I would look at my phone and feel like puking. Too much light or noise would bother me. I started going to a rehabilitation center. They were helping me organize and schedule my life. They would give me tasks to test my re-organizational skills and my memory. They made me play word games to try to reboot my language skills. I was in rehab for eight or nine months. During this time, I had to drop school, quit work, and stop going to the gym. This all took a really big toll on my self-esteem.

Towards the end of rehab, I enrolled back in college, but I started the semester late; it was all really overwhelming. I was also a little ashamed of the fact that I was in rehab. I didn’t tell anyone to avoid questions and assumptions people would make about me. I would try to study but couldn’t focus and I couldn’t play video games, which really got me down.

I started slowly going back to the gym, with my doctor’s permission. It was important for me to start prioritizing my mental health. He told me my physical health would improve as a result. I wasn’t allowed to lift weights that were too heavy and I definitely couldn’t push myself.

Ran Myself Ragged

A year later, my doctor asked me if I was stressed at the time. I replied affirmatively because I was working three jobs, in school, working out every day, trying to maintain a romantic relationship and a social life. I was trying to manage everything and I wasn’t sleeping enough. He told me that my level of stress may have been so high that it caused a cyst I had in my brain to rupture. The bleeding was considered a hemorrhage. The hemorrhage covered up areas of my brain causing me to have seizures. The pain of the cyst rupturing had caused my nervous system to shut down and glitch. I had symptoms of a stroke because of everything going on.

I had no long-term side effects to all this. Thank goodness the cyst was not cancerous. I additionally have another cyst in the back of my head which was non-cancerous as well. They were probably there from birth and I must have either done something to rupture them or it ruptured because of the high levels of stress. My doctor told me that if there was no more blood, I wouldn’t need to see him anymore.

Left Me on Read

People were upset at me that I was no longer talking to them, nor texting or calling. I tried to explain to these friends what I was going through but they just couldn’t understand. I also didn’t want to share what was going on in my life, which really bothered them. They made my incident about themselves. My immediate family, however, was very supportive. My mom was my caregiver so she was dealing with my appointments and giving me medications. It was pretty hard on her.

I’m Better on the Other Side

This whole incident made me a lot more studious. I learned how to better balance my life more efficiently. I started becoming more in tune with my health and I started becoming more appreciative of what I had. It made me more mature because I realized how close I could’ve come to death. I’m not scared of dying but I am scared of not experiencing everything I wanted to experience and not spending enough time with my family. If I were to die tomorrow, damn it, I spent all of my time in school.

Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence

Destigmatizing Medical Conditions

See it through my eyes 

As a child, I had headaches but I didn’t think much of it. When I was in grade five, it was a known thing that I’d get a headache by 3:30 every day. 

When I was a little older, I went to the eye doctor. He was checking my eyes and asked me if I was getting headaches to which I responded the affirmative. He told me that those are migraines based on my sensitivity to the light. He suggested that I stay away from certain foods like nuts, seeds, cheese and wines. 

Although I became more cautious and tried to avoid those food items, I was too young to understand the magnitude of what the doctor had told me.

Navigating in the dark

When I was in tenth or eleventh grade, my migraines increased dramatically. I couldn’t go a week without missing days of school. They started to come more frequently and increasing in length and intensity. 

My pediatrician referred me to see a neurologist who conducted various exams to make sure that there was nothing else serious going on. 

My mother wanted me to hold off on starting a prescription medicine. My uncle is a doctor and my aunt gets migraines too. We sent them the prescriptions to look at. They suggested trying to find another solution as this one can make you become more forgetful. 

Laying low 

By my first year of CEGEP, I was experiencing waves of extended periods of time where I’d be fine and then missing more than three weeks at a time because of migraines. They became so debilitating that I was bed-bound. My migraines lasted more between 8-12 hours. 

Migraines also include experiencing nausea, vertigo and distortion of sight. Usually I’ll experience tell-tale signs that a migraine is setting in. 

It was at this point where I started taking medications. They help decrease the frequency and intensity of my migraines. It also causes side effects like brain fog which can be from the medication or the migraines.

Migraines ≠ headaches 

People don’t understand the magnitude and implications of having chronic migraines. I will often be told to take Tylenol and move on with my life. This is a pretty universal response that those who experience migraines will receive. 

If there was one thing I wish people would know, it would be that migraines and headaches are not the same thing. Migraines can be debilitating. When I get migraines, my eyes and head start hurting. Lights and noise become unbearable. I need to just lay down until it passes. 

Stress Management

Stress Management

How does Stress affect our body?

What is stress? According to the Mental Health foundation, stress is our body’s response to pressure related situations which can lead to physical, mental and emotional changes. When we feel like we are in danger, our bodies go into a “fight” or “flight” response. Stress can cause short term as well as long term health issues or problems. Catecholamines (including adrenaline and noradrenaline hormones) are triggered by the adrenal gland during the short term stress. Similarly, during long term stress cortisol is released and a high increase of cortisol leads to Cushing’s syndrome, which makes you feel tired and weak. Even though stress is unpredictable, there are many ways to control it. These include following a proper healthy diet, exercise and getting enough sleep.

Why follow a healthy diet? 

Following a proper diet is very important for our body. According to Matthew J. Kuchan, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at Abbott, “Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body,” These include cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and high blood pressure. According to the VeryMindwell article, coffee does boost your body immediately but it also increases the cortisol levels in your body. Fish and nuts contain omega 3-fats, which play a role in the regulation of mood.  In an article published by the journal Nutrients, researchers Jiwon Kim and Jihye Kim have found that green tea which contains an amino acid, called theanine, which acts as an anti-stress benefit for people fighting with depression. At the end of the day, it is very important to take a proper healthy diet.

Feel Fresh, Feel Good

 The most important factors in reducing stress is exercise. We already know that exercise is good for weight loss and improving muscle strength but did you know it also helps in the production of endorphins? According to an Exercise and Depression article, their role is to reduce pain and increase positive feelings. The famous philosopher, “Saint Thomad Aquanias”, mentioned that, “All men need leisure”. Exercise is a way to distract ourselves from the daily grind of our lives.  When we are involved in  some type of physical activity, our minds are relaxed and we are able to think freely.

Connection between Stress and Sleep levels

Getting an adequate amount of sleep is mandatory. As per the National Sleep foundation guidelines, an adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Usually if our cortisol level increases during the night, it will disrupt the release of melatonin. This hormone controls the sleep-wake cycle. In an article written by Sleepscore, research shows that lack of sleep can make you more impulsive, and more sensitive to negative stimuli. Sleep deprivation can give rise to stress in a number of ways. It is our job to give our brain some rest so that we can be active and improve our concentration, thinking skills.

Small efforts lead to good results

In order to be able to reduce or overcome stress, we should begin to follow a healthy diet meal, perform some sort of physical activity and most importantly get the right amount of sleep. These small efforts will allow your brain to think freely. You will feel confident and full of energy.

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