Recovery Versus Remission: Opposing Viewpoints?

  • In an ideal world, everyone in recovery would be in remission.  Read my SharePost Optimism and Hope for Successful Treatment Outcomes that I first published here in 2007 when I started working for HealthCentral.


    A recent study reveals schizophrenia patients and their psychiatrists differ in remission definitions.  How they depart in their thinking: the patients viewed better subjective wellbeing to be the most important factor while their doctors believed better symptom scores were the most important factor for remission.


    (Schizophrenia patients, psychiatrists differ in remission definitions, retrieved on July 20, 2012 from . .)

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    It begs the idea that remission is a function of the effectiveness of the medication to treat a person's symptoms while recovery is a function of how the person lives his or her life and is able to manage the illness as well as activities of daily living (ADL) skills and long-term planning.


    I write this SharePost because as of this July I've been in remission from schizophrenia for 20 years.  I credit my success in this aspect of my recovery solely with the effect of the medications I've taken over the years. 


    For 20 years, I took Stelazine at a low dose and currently I've been taking Geodon since April 2007 so it's been over five years I'm on the atypical.  As soon as I started the cross-titer from the Stelazine to the Geodon [within three days] I noticed an improvement.  The new drug continued to work its charm up to the three years after I started taking it.


    This is what I advised a woman a year ago: it can take a number of weeks for the medication to kick in and you do often have to give the medication at least three years to experience the full benefit you'll achieve from taking it.


    At a certain point: you will know if you've gotten the best efficacy you can from the medication.  Discuss with your psychiatrist  as soon as you're given the pills the time when he or she thinks you can reasonably expect that you've gotten the most from the drug you possibly can.


    A lot of you will need to revisit at that point whether you need to change the dose or change the medication depending on whether you have residual symptoms.  A friend of mine took Zyprexa and continued to hear voices so his parents paraded him through numerous doctors' offices until they found the psychiatrist who was a drug wizard who gave him the drug that stopped the voices totally.


    How can you tell whether you should try a new drug that might halt the symptoms or keep on taking the current drug even though you have symptoms?  It might be a benefit to try the new drugs that come out on the market.  My other friend heard voices for 10 years and in that time his doctor prescribed each new drug as it came on the market.  One day, the latest drug completely stopped the voices and it was like a light switch went off and he had a new life.


    Again: I credit the Stelazine and then the Geodon for turning my life around.  I'm no fan of separating the medical model from the recovery model.  I can only credit the medication for my success because if the Stelazine didn't work when I was first given it I would have a harder time of it in life. 


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    I had a breakdown on a Friday night, was in the hospital that Saturday morning, and the next day I was given Stelazine.  It halted the positive symptoms within three weeks.


    What I achieved through my own efforts is something different and it doesn't hold the weight that the medication does.  You can dub me a "pro-medication extremist" if you want and you can accuse me of selling out and this doesn't concern me.


    I give credit where credit is due: with the drugs.


    Why?  A person will have an easier time of it when the pills effectively halt or reduce the symptoms so that they are manageable.  You can get on with your life quicker and your life will run smoother if you're not at the mercy of your thoughts or moods.


    I credit the drugs with giving me a life worth living.  Yet in the end, I'm not proud I'm remission because I had no control over this: it was a function of the effectiveness of the pills.


    It begs the question yet the goal is different for each of us diagnosed with schizophrenia.  My doctor told me the only acceptable goal is total symptom relief.  A therapist I saw years ago told me this isn't possible.


    What does it come down to?


    I submit the goal for all of us is to be able to function: to wake up and be able to get out of bed and go grocery shopping and cook dinner and meet with friends and get to health appointments.  To be able to  live out our lives as comfortable as we can with a minimal amount of worry and stress.


    So in my book, becoming self-reliant would be a criteria for either recovery or remission.


    Choosing recovery will open doors that were previously closed to us regardless of whether each of us is in remission or not.


    In July 1992, the last time I ever was in a hospital, I chose recovery.  I chose to accept that I had schizophrenia, and slowly over time my life got better and my recovery and my life took off.


    I'd love to hear from our community members on this topic.  How would you define remission?

Published On: August 05, 2012