A study published recently in Psychiatry Research shows that a simple cold water test helps schizophrenics realize that they are ill. Even though the burden of being aware you’re suffering from a very disruptive mental illness is heavy, it also gives you a chance to better treatment and care.
According to survey data presented by Dr. Philip Gerretsen in the premises of his study, half!!! of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia have trouble following through with medication and other forms of prescribed treatment because they don’t realize they are sick. The problem becomes even more stressing in those suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. They believe not only that they are healthy, but that others are trying to make them sick, especially the doctors and the people in their entourage, who try to feed them medication.
People with schizophrenia have a hard time keeping-up with personal hygiene and this results, in a short amount of time, in a decrease in physical health. Insight into their diagnosis would guide them into constant collaboration with the medics and an overall better control of the symptoms. A way to gain insight has been discovered by Dr. Gerretsen and his research team.
First, Dr. Gerretsen noticed a successful way through which people with paralysis, who are not aware they are paralyzed, become aware of that through a cold water test. The test, more scientifically called a caloric vestibular stimulation, consists in the irrigation of the ear canal with water at different temperatures, which stimulates various brain parts, among which the one responsible for insight. The efficacy of the test has already been proven scientifically.
It was observed that the test with cold water stimulates awareness in patients with stroke that caused damage in the right hemisphere – these patients usually have paralysis on the left side of the body.
Dr. Gerretsen’s team used the cold water test – at 4 degrees Celsius – on several patients with schizophrenia. They irrigated the left ear canal with cold water and measured the patient’s illness awareness 30 minutes later. “Cold water in the left ear significantly increased patients’ insight and awareness of their schizophrenia”, Dr. Gerretsen confirmed.
Cold water in the right ear increased unawareness. Placebo did nothing.
The cold water test cannot be properly administered at home, by untrained individuals. But soon, Dr. Gerretsen says that increasing the insight in schizophrenia will be made possible through a device that people can safely use at home. The device works on the same method and is currently in testing.
Schizophrenia research has known a recent breakthrough in early diagnosis – as early as inside the womb. Scientists have identified a genetic abnormality in the brain that shows-up during testing when the person is yet unborn. The discovery is a first step on the path of prevention of this mental illness, that might become, in the future, just a thing of the past.