Schizophrenia is actually a group of problems and not a single psychotic disorder. It often starts in the teenage years and is characterized by an alteration in the ability to form concepts, with misinterpretation of reality. This affects behaviour and the intellect in varying degrees. The most common disorders are a tendency to withdraw, ambivalence, inappropriate responses and irregular moods, difficulty in maintaining a stream of thought and, in severe cases, hallucination and delusion.

This condition is not necessarily easy to establish if symptoms are mild so the term ‘borderline’ schizophrenia is often used when symptoms are mild but nevertheless noticeable. Symptoms of schizophrenia in childhood are termed autism but a shy, withdrawn, overly nervous adolescent may be all of those things or borderline schizophrenic. As the individual grows up, these tendencies may be assumed to be normal and the underlying psychiatric disorder not noticed and therefore not treated.

Terms such as hebephrenic (childish behaviour and markedly disorganized thoughts), paranoid (a conviction of persecution) and catatonic (completely cut off from the outside world, often associated with rocking in the foetal position) are all types of schizophrenia. The underlying cause is, from an orthodox point of view, an imbalance of brain chemicals. Holistically it is well established that certain nutritional deficiencies, environmental hazards and heavy metal poisoning are associated on the physical plane. There is always a fine line between genius and madness’ and there may be a strong spiritual link to those labelled schizophrenic and those a step closer to God. The Eastern philosophies would assume that a chemical imbalance in the brain could be created by an excess energy flow in the higher chakras and therefore spiritual or emotional effects, especially in childhood, may be at work.

Diagnosis is generally made by a psychiatrist using a variety of tests. Other tests include checking for deficiencies in all the B group vitamins, checking the mineral levels and assessing from other physical symptoms the possibility of deficiencies in essential fatty acids. Amino acids may be deficient and investigation of any specific absence may be relevant. Schizophrenia has been associated with coeliac disease, which is an over-sensitivity of the bowel to gluten and other gliadins and glutenins found in wheat, rye, corn and, to some extent, in all other grains and starches. Most naturopaths with experience in this area would support the view that other food components may also trigger psychiatric problems.

Schizophrenics are more likely to harm themselves than others, but their presence can be extremely disruptive both to family life and society. Correct professional treatment is necessary.

Assessment by a psychiatrist for a definitive diagnosis is essential before any treatment is undergone.

Perform nutritional deficiency tests under the care of a complementary medical specialist with experience in this area.

Test for heavy metal poisoning and, regardless of the results, remove mercury from the mouth and aluminium from the kitchen. Specifically, look for copper levels (via red blood cells, not hair only).

Chelation therapy is recommended if toxicity is found.

Test for food allergy and eliminate any allergens.

Consult with a homeopath. There are many remedies when used at potencies above 200 that will have a profound effect on the psyche. Self-prescribing can be considered in acute schizophrenic episodes when the remedy Stramonium 6 can be given every lOmin. Paranoia may be helped by Hyoscyamus 30 given every lOmin and should be kept or carried by an individual or their families or partner especially if travelling away from home.

Family therapy is essential for both the individual and home life. Any illness within the household will affect all members. Individual psychotherapeutic sessions are a must for children or adolescents because early recognition and counselling can have a profound effect in the long run.