Could Amanda Bynes Have Schizophrenia?

Let’s face it, Amanda Bynes has not been acting normally for quite some time:

Since last year, the former Nickelodeon starlet has been arrested for DUI, charged with 2 hit-and-run accidents and an alleged bong throwing incident.

There were reports from people at her gym and neighbors that Bynes had been “laughing hysterically for no reason” and having conversations with inanimate objects in her back yard.

More recently, she’s reportedly had plastic surgery and is trying to lose weight to get to a goal of 100 pounds.

She’s taken to Twitter to rant about a variety of people she calls “ugly”, including Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and even the President and Mrs. Obama!

She’s threatened to sue the NYPD for sexual harassment saying the arresting officer “slapped my vagina,” and tweeted:

“I Want A Million Dollars A Year For Illegally Having My Mind Read And Privacy Stolen.”

xamanda-bynes-blue-wig.jpg.pagespeed.ic.o2Dh2j368aShe’s been seen wearing bizarre multicolored wigs, not only walking around town but in court as well.

And just this week she was hospitalized under a 72 hour involuntary psychiatric hold, called a 5150 hold. This happened after Amanda allegedly set fire to a gasoline can in a stranger’s driveway. A passerby saw the fire and called 911.  Additional disturbing details have emerged:  Amanda may have gotten her pants burned during the episode but was not burned herself. While setting the fire, she got gasoline on her pet Pomeranian and then ran to a local liquor store to try to wash the dog off.

TMZ is now reporting that the hold be extended up to two weeks to allow for a complete psychiatric evaluation. Their sources are also telling them that Amanda is showing “signs of schizophrenia,” and that her parents “will now ask a judge to put the 27-year-old in a conservatorship, a la Britney Spears, because they believe she is unable to care for herself and could be a danger to others.”

Hopefully Amanda will now be thoroughly evaluated and get the help she so desperately needs.

What is Schizophrenia?

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that has affected people throughout history. It affects approximately 1% of Americans.

Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. It occurs at similar rates in all ethnic groups around the world. Psychotic symptoms (such as hallucinations and delusions) usually emerge in men in their late teens and early 20s and in women in their mid-20s to early 30s.

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Experts think schizophrenia is caused by several factors:

Genes and environment. Scientists have long known that schizophrenia runs in families. The illness occurs in 1 percent of the general population, but it occurs in 10 percent of people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder, such as a parent, brother, or sister.

Different brain chemistry and structure. Scientists think that an imbalance in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain involving the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, and possibly others, plays a role in schizophrenia.

What are the Signs & Symptoms?

The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three broad categories: positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms.

Positive symptoms

Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors not seen in healthy people. These symptoms can come and go and include:

  • Hallucinations are things a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel. “Voices” are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia. Other types of hallucinations include seeing people or objects that are not there, smelling odors that no one else detects, and feeling things like invisible fingers touching their bodies when no one is near.
  • Delusions are false beliefs that are not part of the person’s culture and do not change. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are not true or logical. People with schizophrenia can have delusions that seem bizarre, such as believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves. They may also believe that people on television are directing special messages to them, or that radio stations are broadcasting their thoughts aloud to others. Sometimes they believe they are someone else, such as a famous historical figure. They may have paranoid delusions and believe that others are trying to harm them, such as by cheating, harassing, poisoning, spying on, or plotting against them or the people they care about. These beliefs are called “delusions of persecution.”
  • Thought disorders are unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking.  These include “disorganized thinking,” “thought blocking,” and  “neologisms”-meaningless words
  • Movement disorders may appear as agitated body movements. A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may become catatonic. Catatonia is a state in which a person does not move and does not respond to others.

Negative symptoms

Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for depression or other conditions. These symptoms include the following:

  • “Flat affect” (a person’s face does not move or he or she talks in a dull or monotonous voice)
  • Lack of pleasure in everyday life
  • Lack of ability to begin and sustain planned activities
  • Speaking little, even when forced to interact.

Cognitive symptoms

Cognitive symptoms are subtle and include the following:

  • Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use information immediately after learning it).

Cognitive symptoms often make it hard to lead a normal life and earn a living. They can cause great emotional distress.

How is Schizophrenia Treated?

Because the causes of schizophrenia are still unknown, current treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease.

Antipsychotic medications have been available since the mid-1950s. They effectively alleviate the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. While these drugs have greatly improved the lives of many patients, they do not cure schizophrenia.

Relapses occur most often when people with schizophrenia stop taking their antipsychotic medication because they feel better, or only take it occasionally because they forget or don’t think taking it regularly is important.

Numerous studies have found that psychosocial treatments can help patients who are already stabilized on antipsychotic medications deal with certain aspects of schizophrenia, such as difficulty with communication, motivation, self-care, work, and establishing and maintaining relationships with others.

For more information, click here to go to the Resounding Health Casebook on the topic.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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