I was perusing the Internet one day when I came across some information that I, as somebody who lives with schizoaffective disorder, found thoroughly depressing. I learned that schizophrenics experience shrinkage in the brain (2% - 7% depending on your source), especially experiencing loss of grey matter. Schizoaffective Disorder (SZA) is schizophrenia plus a mood disorder such as bipolar or depression, so I’m assuming this applies to SZA as well. After mourning my loss of grey matter for a few days, I finally decided to proceed with some further research, hoping to find answers and, well, hope. From what I could gather, it turned out that the loss of grey matter in schizophrenia has been attributed by some to the medications used to treat it, but actual studies did not necessarily support that claim. More recently studies have shown that the loss of grey matter is most likely due to inflammation in the brain, and closely linked to psychotic episodes. Theoretically, drugs that prevent psychotic episodes may help prevent loss of brain matter. However, I have had bad luck with side effects from antipsychotics, many of which aren’t even very effective for me. This is not uncommon and there are a number of schizophrenics who choose to forgo the antipsychotic medications. But it got me wondering - if the brain shrinkage is likely due to inflammation, might an anti-inflammatory drug be a viable treatment option?
Naturally I did a search for “anti-inflammatory drugs schizophrenia” just in case there was any information out there on it already, and I was surprised to find a few government websites that sited studies. Results of these studies suggested that NSAID drugs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve) may indeed reduce symptom severity in schizophrenia. In addition, certain NSAIDs might reduce cardiovascular mortality in schizophrenia. Although I got the feeling further studies needed to be done for conclusive results, current evidence does suggest that NSAIDs may be helpful in reducing symptoms and even prolonging lifespans of those who live with schizophrenia.
If you are struggling with schizophrenia or schizoaffective, my advice is to familiarize yourself with these studies and, if you are curious, bring them up to your psychiatrist. Ask about a prescription NSAID to take in addition to any current medications you may be taking - they were recommended not as a replacement for traditional medications but as an augmentation. I would also recommend asking about an anti-inflammatory diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, and I was pleased to find that such a diet may include chocolate, coffee, and red wine. Avoid stress, practice a variety of relaxation techniques as often as possible, and make sure to get enough sleep. I hope this information proves helpful. Much of this is still hypothetical but personally I am hopeful that the findings from recent studies that suggest anti-inflammatories may be beneficial in treating these schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder will be proven accurate with further study. Good luck on your healing journey!