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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Living With Schizophrenia, An Inspiring Story

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 15th 2012

Living With Schizophrenia, An Inspiring StoryHer name is Elyn Saks. She is an attorney, professor of law and psychiatry at University of Southern California, a PhD in psychoanalysis and an advocate for the mentally ill. This highly respected and accomplished person also suffers from chronic schizophrenia. She is prolific in her writings including a memoir she wrote about having schizophrenia called The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness. It describes her experiences and journey coping with this illness. I recommend it to everyone who is interested.

Dr. Saks is no stranger to psychiatric hospitalizations, having experienced them three times during her early years beginning as a law student at Yale University, when she had her first psychotic episode. It is interesting that she is pro psychiatry and medication but against the use of force in the psychiatric hospitals. During the 1990's she had been free of psychotic symptoms for so many years that she wanted to see if she could handle being off of her medications. After one week without medication she once again became extremely paranoid and psychotic. She now knows that her mental health depends upon her maintaining her medication regimen. It is important to stress the point that she has always gone to psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

Dr. Saks likes to point out that she is not schizophrenic. Rather, she suffers from schizophrenia. She has a disease but it does not define who she is. When asked she states that she credits three important factors for her success in dealing with this mental illness:

1. Excellent treatment including psychiatry, medication and psychotherapy.
2. Wonderful relationships with her husband, family and friends.
3. The intellectual stimulation that comes with being a law professor and writer.

Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain that causes over-whelming psychotic symptoms. Among those symptoms are paranoid delusions, and hallucinations that are usually auditory and visual. As Dr. Saks points out, the disease causes people to lose touch with reality.

What is so striking about this brave woman is that she did not allow this disease to stop her. She accepted the need for medication and was always compliant with it's usage. This gives hope to all of those suffering from the same illness. Statistics show that one percent of the world wide population suffer from schizophrenia.

Dr. Saks's life is a good example of the fact that, at this time, there is no cure for schizophrenia but that it can be controlled with medication and therapy.

Her story should give hope to all of those with psychotic illnesses and their families. Remember, family involvement and support is enormously important.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Caring Friend - Carolyn Sheridan - Jul 19th 2014

I have a friend who I talk to daily on Facebook messaging.  My daughter in law asked if I could try to help and encourage him.  He has schizophrenia (not on medication at the moment...also no insurance) and is an alcoholic.  I am a recovering alcoholic and have been sober and in AA for over 20 years.  I work in a mental hospital so am familiar with mental illness but want to learn more so I can be an encouraging but realistic friend to him.  I am thankful for your story.  My friend is very very intelligent and holds at least one master's degree, though unable to work in any truly viable position right now.  He gets so discouraged, so I am so glad to hear that it is possible to function in society in a meaningful way when you have schizophrenia. 


Thanks - Carlos - Aug 20th 2012

This is a very inspiring story. I work with teens who suffer from mental illness and this womans life is a great example for them that people can have a productive and satisfying life despite mental illness.

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