Schizophrenia spectrum diseases are difficult to diagnose. This is due to the extensive symptoms, as well as a large number of signs that are observed in various mental disorders. One of the simplest methods for diagnosing schizophrenia is based on observing eye movements. Let’s find out what are the features of such a diagnosis.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects the brain and thinking. What causes it is unknown, but often this and other mental disorders are genetically determined. Traumas, including psychological, severe, or chronic stress, alcoholism, and other factors, can also provoke a schizophrenic attack.
Schizophrenia is considered one of the most complex psychopathologies. It has many forms and types that have their own specific features and the nature of the flow. Some of them echo the symptoms of other mental syndromes and disorders resembling schizophrenic ones. This greatly complicates the diagnosis. Sometimes, to make a correct diagnosis, you have to examine the patient for months.
So, sluggish schizophrenia develops over the years, and paranoid or hebephrenic – rapidly. Some patients have delusions and hallucinations, while others do not. Some types of pathology are accompanied by aggression, and a number of them are characterized by apathy and lack of will. Also, in diseases of the schizophrenic spectrum, catatonic syndrome, obsessions and compulsions are possible, which are observed in other mental illnesses.
In general, science has made great progress in the study of schizophrenia, but much remains unclear. It is difficult not only to determine its causes but also to predict its development. No doctor can give 100% guarantees. Some patients can lead a normal life, most of the time being in remission, and some lose their identity and remain forever in the clinic under the supervision of medical staff.
Various methods are used in the diagnosis of schizophrenia. In the first stage, information is collected from the words of the patient and his relatives, medical histories are studied, and tests are collected. On the second, the patient undergoes MRI, CT, EEG, and other studies. Then specialists are connected who conduct various tests.
There are tests on the Internet that allow you to test yourself for schizophrenia online. But doctors do not recommend making such diagnoses on their own.
Such a volume of work is explained by the fact that it is necessary to accurately identify the form, type, and stage of schizophrenia. However, the doctor can suspect it or make a preliminary diagnosis after the initial examination and conversation. One of the simplest and most accurate methods of this kind are tests that help identify schizophrenia by the movement of the eyeballs.
Definition of Schizophrenia by Sight
Assumptions that schizophrenia affects the condition of the eyes were put forward a hundred years ago. However, until now there was no exact evidence for such hypotheses. This issue was put to rest by researchers David Clair and Philip Benson, who developed tests to distinguish a person with schizophrenia by eye movement. At the same time, the accuracy of the method for determining the pathology was 98.3%, which is considered a rather high indicator.
The methodology includes three tests:
- Smooth tracking test. When performing it, a person must monitor how the dot moves across the computer display. It moves slowly, so it will not be difficult for a healthy test subject to undergo such testing. It turned out that the eyeballs of a schizophrenic do not make the same smooth movements, but seem to jump from one point to another. In other words, the eyes first lag behind the object, and then abruptly catch up with it. In medicine, this phenomenon is called saccades.
- Free viewing test. Patients are given the opportunity to freely look at any object. The researcher records the data. When comparing the results with those of healthy people, unusual features of eye movements and schizophrenics are revealed. They are more chaotic.
- Eye fixation test. For its successful implementation, you just need to look at one point without moving your eyeballs. This is not possible in patients with schizophrenia.
Researchers believe that these symptoms are observed in the early stages of schizophrenia. This means that doctors can use these markers to start drug treatment sooner rather than waiting for more severe symptoms. However, how exactly the connection between psychopathology and the organs of vision arises is still unknown.
Another group of studies was aimed at studying the eye (visual) contact of patients with schizophrenia with healthy people. It turns out that it is absent in patients with catatonic syndromes in almost 50% of cases. Often they look at the hands, the floor, the door, and with the development of depressive or depressive-delusional syndromes, the window. To put it simply, a schizophrenic patient with catatonic symptoms simply avoids eye contact and does not want to look into the eyes of his counterpart.
In patients with paranoid and hallucinatory-paranoid syndromes, as well as the Kandinsky-Clerambault syndrome, in which a person believes that his thoughts and movements are controlled, the following picture is observed. Eye contact isn’t just there, it’s continuous. Moreover, the patient very rarely blinks and looks from under his brows. Periodic eye contact is almost non-existent in schizophrenia.
When answering questions, patients try to look at the doctor but turn away at the moment when he is asked. Healthy people, on the contrary, look at the interlocutor during questioning but begin to wander with their eyes when they answer.
In catatonic disorders, contact is not observed even with intense stimulus exposure to a schizophrenic. The patient’s eyes seem to freeze. Of the entire group of subjects, only one pupil reacted to such stimuli.
Gestures for Schizophrenia
The third group of studies, which should be covered in the article, is not related to the eyes but also concerns the diagnosis of schizophrenia by external parameters, that is, by the patient’s gestures. It turned out that in the presence of delusional disorders, there are more gestures of withdrawal, disgust, anxiety, and demonstration. This is called aggressive-preventive behavior.
Depressive and paranoid positive symptoms are accompanied by gestures of address, anxiety, thoughtfulness, completed action, and clapping. With negative symptoms and catatonia, the patient often makes gestures that indicate embarrassment and humility.
As a result, scientists created a classification of syndromes based on gestures:
- Affective (agonistic behavior);
- Productive (empathy gestures);
- Negative (flight from contact).
Also in the diagnosis, observations can be made on specific parts of the body. So, nodding and tilting the head in healthy and schizophrenics are noted with the same frequency, but almost never detected in patients with deficient and catatonic syndromes. They also tend to have more reactive shoulders when talking to a doctor. With paranoid symptoms, they go up, especially during a conversation with men about the causes of the pathology, which many patients try to hide.
In affective syndromes, the shoulders shudder, but under the influence of a strong sound or a change in body position by a psychiatrist. With catatonia, this is observed even when exposed to minor stimuli – the rustle of paper, raising a hand, etc.
Research is not limited to observation of the eyes and body position. Facial expressions, the ability to be surprised, and other aspects are also studied.
Quite interesting is the motility of grooming – shaking off the dirt, putting clothes and hairstyles in order, etc. With depressive and hypochondriacal symptoms, allogrooming is revealed when they clean themselves directly, and mutual grooming (cleansing a neighbor). In all cases, the movements are stereotypical, that is, the same, which do not depend on external factors.
One patient can provide scientists and physicians with a huge amount of material for research, since delusions, hallucinations, and other symptoms, although they have patterns, are in most cases, individual.
The disease is in the process of being studied, and it is difficult to say at what stage the researchers are. Most likely, as new scientific discoveries related to the work of the brain appear, humanity will learn more and more about schizophrenic disorders.
While they are chronic, that is, incurable. However, in the future, it may be possible to save a person from this serious illness forever. In order to subsequently take advantage of these discoveries, it is impossible to start the disease, since often the lost mental functions are no longer restored. Subject to all the recommendations of the psychiatrist, the patient can hypothetically live long and comfortably.