Conquering Schizophrenia: A Father, His Son, and a Medical Breakthrough

Peter Wyden

Published by Random House, Inc., 1998
ISBN 10: 0679446710 / ISBN 13: 9780679446712
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Synopsis: This story of a father guiding his son from despair to hope is a chilling, inspiring journey through the mysterious tunnel of schizophrenia--a world once closed and forbidding, now suddenly radiating excitement as thousands of patients are, in effect, being reborn.

Jeff Wyden, a bright, happy boy in childhood, began to withdraw in adolescence, and by the age of twenty-one was severely psychotic, disconnected from reality. He was schizophrenic. In the ensuing twenty-five years, Peter Wyden accompanied his son into a hell without certainties as they searched for a solution.

We see them pass through the hands of more than fifty psychiatrists and countless hospitals, clinics, and halfway houses. Doctors and health-care providers help and sometimes hinder both father and son in their odyssey through hypnosis, electroshock, dozens of drug therapies, and disabling "side effects."

Throughout their ordeal, the father's management of his son's managers is his daily task, self-assigned despite self-doubt. He is alternately tolerant and challenging while he observes and learns, always primed for more of Jeff's mercurial signs of new crises.

Along the way we learn about the history of the treatment of schizophrenia, from barbaric stopgaps like prefrontal lobotomy to the biomedical treatments that have revolutionized psychiatry. And finally, there is the new drug Olanzapine--a godsend for Jeff, and reason for cheer. It is not a cure, but many consider it the safest, most effective treatment to date (the first of similar medications recently licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, with more on the way). The story of its development is told here for the first time.

Until now, few of us have realized that two and a half million Americans, mostly young and intelligent, are schizophrenic, merely existing through the decades, separated from reason, rendered dysfunctional by the costly and little-understood disease. Fifty million people worldwide suffer from it. This compelling and enlightening book offers useful information about what can be done for them today--and the hope of more help to come.

Review: Described by Nature magazine in 1988 as "arguably the worst disease affecting mankind, even AIDS not excepted," schizophrenia is devastating for both sufferers of the affliction--more than 50 million people worldwide--and their families. Conquering Schizophrenia is one family's account of their terrible, 25-year journey to hell and back.

Jeff Wyden was a bubbly and vivacious child, described by his father as "unusually charming." In early adolescence, small changes occurred in Jeff's personality--his boundless energy was replaced with silence and a devastatingly low self-esteem. By age 21, Jeff had become severely psychotic and completely withdrawn from reality. So began the nightmare of schizophrenia. Jeff's story is eloquently told by his father, Peter Wyden. Although an inspirational book, especially for those affected by a mental illness, the Conquering Schizophrenia doesn't lapse into excessive sentimentality. Jeff is frequently portrayed as a monster, consumed by the wretched disease. Treatment options for the illness were particularly grim, including prefrontal lobotomies and electric-shock therapy. For more than two decades, Peter Wyden searched for a better answer, which eventually came with the development of new drugs. With this treatment, Jeff was "almost civilian" again. Wyden is an energetic and illuminating author who writes of a subject matter with which he has lived so closely for several decades.

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Title: Conquering Schizophrenia: A Father, His Son,...
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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