A Case of Schizophrenia
Healing Through Homeopathy
Schizophrenia is considered by most physicians to be very difficult to treat: psychotropic medications may suppress the frank psychotic symptoms, however, they create additional problems due to their many side effects and most patients need to remain on these major tranquilizers indefinitely. Both of us worked extensively on psychiatric wards prior to becoming naturopathic physicians and wanted very much to find a more natural, effective form of treatment for schizophrenia. We have found homeopathy, at least in some cases, to be the answer we were seeking. Many homeopathic physicians, however, discourage the use of homeopathy to treat psychosis. Although we agree that such cases can be very difficult to manage outside of an inpatient psychiatric setting, we have had some real successes, of which this case is one. We have found, as is true in orthodox medicine, that patients in their first or second psychotic break, especially those who have not been hospitalized for their schizophreni a, are those who respond best to our treatment.
We also want to emphasize that although the remedies mentioned in this case were of considerable benefit to this patient, homeopathic treatment is highly individualized. Another patient experiencing his or her own form of psychotic symptoms would need entirely different remedies. We presented this case recently at the annual case conference of the Homeopathic Association of Naturopathic Physicians in Seattle and hope that you will find it as fascinating as we do.
K.S. was a 35 year-old woman of Japanese, French and German descent whose stated chief complaint was difficulty losing weight. However, as soon as the interview began, she reported being in the middle of a "nervous breakdown," diagnosed by her psychiatrist as "brief, reactionary psychosis," for which he had given her Navane 10 mg h.s. When she began to develop torticollis, he added Benadryl and Cogentin. She had been on the medications for less than a month when she came to see us. She felt "like a zombie" with the drugs, and complained that the Navane had also made her jittery, anxious, and fearful at night. She had decided on her own to discontinue them the day before she came to see us (which made us somewhat nervous but also made it easier to treat her homeopathically). The psychiatrist had offered her a psychiatric hospitalization, but did agree to try to treat her as an outpatient.
She had begun hearing voices two months prior. The voices invited her to join the man she'd had a crush on in the past and his girlfriend in sexual intercourse. As an aside, she mentioned having been sexually abused for a number of years as a child. One week prior to her "breakdown" she had visited a clairvoyant who told her he opened her psychic abilities. The voices increased after that. She tried to ignore them, but they continued to test her and she felt the devil was trying to "take her." She was tormented by a constant stream of obscenities and the voices instructed her to masturbate frequently. She feared her soul would be lost. She also experienced burning of both inner canthi which the voices told her was a "devil's stye." She had experienced depression since age 19, during which she lost track of time, and was prescribed anti-depressants. She always had problems with low self-esteem, described herself as oversensitive to criticism, and had difficulty with being too empatheti c to others' problems. She also complained of being impulsively generous, easily influenced and manipulated by others, and socially awkward.
In asking about any physical symptoms, present or past, she reported having had herpes zoster on the right ear a year earlier which developed into Bell's palsy. She was treated with Prednisone, after which time she developed an intense rash and fungal infection. She also reported an extreme sensitivity in the past to poison ivy. She had suffered from severe laryngitis at age 20 which prevented her from speaking for a month. She had not been sexually active since age 22 and had only two sexual relationships in her life; in both cases she felt she was just a sex object. She shared that her mother had a history of psychiatric hospitalizations starting at age 34 (probable diagnosis of schizophrenia) as well as breast cancer.
In the homeopathic pharmacopoeia, there are numerous remedies for mania and psychosis. In this particular case, we chose initially the remedy Anacardium orientalis because of her long history of low self-esteem, conflict with the devil, and severe past sensitivity to poison ivy. She took the remedy daily and returned 2 weeks later reporting that she felt a lot stronger. She was not hearing voices, but had mild visual hallucinations for 2 hours the night she started the remedy. She was no longer bothered by obscenities or burning eyes and had lost the inclination to masturbate frequently. Her memory, which had deteriorated during the recent psychotic episode, was now improving. She still felt her nerves were "somewhat fragile." She experienced a slight chest rash from the sun since the remedy. She had not resumed the Navane. Because of the improvement in her mental state, we assessed that the Anacardium was a correct prescription. The worsening of the hallucinations briefly upon beginn ing the remedy appeared to be a homeopathic aggravation, generally an indication of a correct remedy. We interpreted the rash from the sun as a likely return of old symptoms, particularly interesting because Anacardium is also a common remedy for poison ivy.
When she returned 3 weeks later, she described her mental state as improved, her energy was higher, and she was "more me" (a description we often hear after a correct constitutional homeopathic prescription). She had suffered from a "terrible cold" for one week with copious sinus drainage, a wart on the bottom of her foot had peeled, and she had experienced briefly, an unusual outbreak of acne of her face, first one side, then the other. She was clearly continuing to improve mentally. When we questioned her further about the nasal discharge, she said she had been treated at age 22 with antibiotics for a severe sinus infection. This sounded like a possible return of old symptoms. The peeling wart appeared to be another good sign following Herring's Law, which says that cure generally occurs from the inside out, from top to bottom, and in the reverse order in which the symptoms appeared. K.S. continued to improve steadily for the next 9 months, during which time the remedy was continued on a daily basis.
Then, while at a homeopathic conference, we received a phone call from our office that K.S. was in a state of severe mental distress.We interviewed her in the hotel where the conference was held and found her to be extremely anxious, restless, and confused with tangential thoughts. She had been acting out others' thoughts recently. It was as if her father and brother were inside her body. The only thing that helped was long hours soaking in a hot bathtub, which she felt compelled to do. She told us she was "spacey," had forgotten to eat much in the past two weeks, was hearing voices, and couldn't tell what was real. She had been calling people in the middle of the night and sleeping only 2 hours a night. She talked to herself a lot and was very bothered by energy flooding in through the top of her head and coursing through her. She felt herself laughing inside. At the end of the interview she shared that she had the feeling of leaving her body at night and was seeing spaceships. We we nt with her immediately to our office and started her on C. indica daily due to her inability to distinguish reality, distorted body sensations, and extreme confusion. She was definitely improved within 3 days and no longer seemed a high risk for psychiatric hospitalization. Ten days later she was considerably more able to function, no longer restless or drawn to long baths, but was beginning to worry seriously about her finances and wondering if she should declare bankruptcy.
Three weeks later K.S. came into the office complaining of forgetfulness and fuzziness of mind. She had taken a cashiering job but quit after a day because her concentration was scattered. She complained again at this time of having difficulty distinguishing reality and felt that everything was too much for her. She was more loquacious than usual, complained of her moods being up and down, and had "lost track of time." She was even more impressionable than usual and would follow through on whatever anyone told her to do. She even had a hard time catching the right bus. She misread or mistook what she heard and complained of a constantly vacillating mind. Her judgment was quite impaired, and her behavior erratic. At this point we changed her homeopathic prescription, feeling that the C. indica had helped but she had reached a plateau. Because of her loquacity, poor concentration, misjudgment, and inappropriate actions, we gave her Hyoscyamus, again daily.
By the time of her next visit, 2 weeks later, she was dramatically better. Her concentration and memory were significantly improved, her behavior was more discreet, and she was starting to read again. She had secured unemployment compensation and felt she was taking more control over her life again.
That was 9 months ago and K.S. has been steadily progressing ever since, despite some fairly stressful events in her life. She has not taken any homeopathic remedies for her mental functioning for 6 months, but was treated successfully with homeopathic Silica acutely for a dental abscess. She is working part-time, thinking of going back to her previous fulltime pharmaceutical sales work, and goes to folk dancing regularly. She reports that she feels herself again and, during the last visit, said she is involved sexually with a man for the first time in 14 years. We will continue to follow K.S. closely over time, and she will likely need more constitutional prescriptions. Allopathic medicine would have treated this patient with psychiatric hospitalization and psychotropic medication, perhaps for the rest of her life. It is very exciting for us, as avid and commited believers in homeopathy, to see that homeopathic medicine can be an effective, powerful, yet non-toxic alternative in at l east some cases of schizophrenia.
Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and homeopathic physicians, hypnotherapists, and counselors. They are co-founders of The Northwest Center for Holistic Medicine in Seattle, where they are currently in private practice.
The N.W. Center for Holistic Medicine, 4072 - 9th Ave. N.E., Seattle, WA 98105
By Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman