by E. Fuller Torrey
Review by Lisa Perkins on Apr 29th 2002
Schizophrenia is viewed as a four-letter word,
something that shouldnt be discussed in polite society or around the dinner
table. It is a word feared by those who are told they are inflicted with it. It
is regarded with disdain by almost everybody who hears it. It is a disease. My
mother has it.
Surviving Schizophrenia, written by Dr. E. Fuller
Torrey, is a well-written survival guide for those who are, or know someone who
is, afflicted with schizophrenia. Torrey is the Executive Director of the Stanley
Medical Research Institute, as well as the author or editor of eighteen books.
He is also a clinical and research psychiatrist who specializes in bipolar
disorder and schizophrenia.
While well written and informative, Surviving
Schizophrenia can be overwhelming and frightening. Torrey does a good job of
giving statistical information in the first chapter, informing the reader about
things such as: how many individuals are thought to have schizophrenia, where
they are, and how the medical community is treating these people. Although the
statistics are interesting, they are very alarming to the layperson having to
deal with the thought of schizophrenia for the first time.
The second chapter of Surviving Schizophrenia
is a wonderful insight into the mind of a person with schizophrenia. Torrey
uses quotes from patients describing their sensory perceptions, which helps us
understand the workings of the mind of the schizophrenic. He describes
not like a flood, where one can imagine all ones
possessions being washed away. Nor like a cancer, where one can imagine a
slowly growing tumor, relentlessly spreading from organ to organ and squeezing
life from your body. Those of us who have not had this disease should ask ourselves,
for example, how we would feel if our brain began playing tricks on us, if
unseen voices shouted at us, if we lost the capacity to feel emotions, and if
we lost the ability to reason logically.(31)
Subsequent chapters deal with other aspects of schizophrenia.
For example, chapter four deals with other conditions that are mistaken for
schizophrenia, such as the multiple personality. Torrey also explains early symptoms of schizophrenia, and in
chapter six, he explains findings of research done on the disease.
Chapter seven covers theories about the cause of
schizophrenia and treatment options (medication or no medications). This
chapter tells how some people with schizophrenia have been rehabilitated
successfully. The remaining chapters of Surviving Schizophrenia deal
with many things, such as rehabilitation of the schizophrenic, how consumers
and how families can deal with schizophrenia. In is concluding chapters, Torrey
gives the answers to some commonly asked questions, how people imitate
schizophrenia in the media, and the issues that advocates deal with.
Torrey uses easy to understand language and delves
into the mind of the person with schizophrenia, effectively explaining the
disease to the layperson. In his last chapter, Torrey gives a comprehensive
list of books and associations where help is available. Surviving
Schizophrenia, while frightening at times, is nevertheless a great source
of information for the family having to deal with this disease.
2002 Lisa Perkins
Note: for a different perspective, see Matt Lees
review of the third edition.