Elyn Saks: Fighting the Greatest Battle of All

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Abnormal Psychology 152
Section 23(Shelly)
Ellen Kuo

Fighting the Greatest Battle of All

According to Elyn Saks' autobiography, she was born in Miami during the 1950's. She grew up in a happy family where she had very loving middle-class parents and two younger brothers (Saks, 2007). Because she was the oldest child, Elyn wanted to excel at everything, be the perfect model for her brothers, and make parents proud. She started having OCD tendencies when she was eight years old, which later developed into paranoia. As her obsession got worse, she started having recurring delusions of a man standing outside her house waiting to kill her and her family. Aside from OCD and paranoia, she also struggled with anorexia - a eating disorder - and lost a lot of weight. During high school, she experimented with low-level recreational drugs and her parents reacted by admitting her to a rehabilitation center. She became quite withdrawn at school and kept to herself mostly. Once, she read a book where the main character was mentally ill and she related to it in such a way that caused her to have a schizophrenic breakdown. She was 16 years old at the time (Saks, 2007).

She got accepted into Vanderbilt university after graduating from high school. Elyn noted in her book that when she first started college, she had a very difficult time adjusting to the new environment, which led to depression (Saks, 2007). Depression, on the other hand, led her to become more and more disorganized. She started having strange thoughts and hearing voices around this time too, with occasional bouts of acute psychosis. Even so, she still graduated with excellent grades and made with some lifelong friends. After her undergrad from Vanderbilt, she got into Oxford's graduate program under philosophy. At this time, her struggle with her illness started getting worse. Luckily, during her years in England she was able to receive one of the best treatments in the world, which was crucial for her to successfully graduate from Oxford with academic achievement (Saks, 2007).

Due to her own history of fighting with schizophrenia, she decided to study subjects related to that disease, and was accepted into Yale law school for Psychology and Mental Health Law. Law school was extremely difficult with constant psychotic breakdowns, but she overcame it and graduated.

Now Elyn is a professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Science at the University of Southern California Law School. She is also a faulty member of a New Center for Psychoanalysis. Aside from her professional success, she married a very loving, understanding and supportive husband, Will. 2) What is the diagnosis of the character?(8points)

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, we need to look into the criterions for the disorder. In DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder), Criteria A includes symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, Disorganized Speech, Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and Negative symptoms. A person needs to have 2 or more symptoms within a one month period. In addition, the disturbance must last at least for a 6 month period of time (N. Natsuaki, personal communication, February 26, 2013). Elyn unfortunately met quite a few of the symptoms.

A delusion is a false belief that schizophrenic patients have. These delusions are highly unlikely and often impossible (N. Natsuaki, personal communication, February 26, 2013). An example of Elyn's delusion is she often thinks that people are going to kill her, or she was bad or evil and, therefore, doesn't deserve to live. Hallucinations are abnormal perceptual experiences and can usually be expended from delusions. (N. Natsuaki, personal communication, February 26, 2013). For example, Elyn mentioned in her book that she saw a man holding a knife standing behind her couch. Also, she has disorganized speech during psychotic breakdown (Saks, 2007).Under disorganized speech, she had a...
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