Dr Jacob Ballon: Looking Beyond Schizophrenia Symptoms to Treat the Whole Person

August 15, 2019

Providers should treat patients with schizophrenia by thinking about them as people and understanding the full context of their lives, according to Jacob Ballon, MD, MPH, clinical associate professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Stanford University.

Providers should treat patients with schizophrenia by thinking about them as people and understanding the full context of their lives, according to Jacob Ballon, MD, MPH, clinical associate professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Stanford University.

Transcript

How can understanding the brain­—body connections help psychiatrists better understand people with psychosis?

Well, we need to be thinking about people as people, and that means thinking about not just their brains but their bodies and the full context of their life. Nobody wants to be narrowly defined by their symptoms, and so that means thinking about how are we managing both their medications but also their general role in their life and what are they doing, how are they involved with their peers, and how is their overall health? We know that people with schizophrenia have a shortened lifespan, and we need to be thinking about how to provide medication and other treatments that are going to maximize their health, and not just thinking about managing their psychiatric symptoms.

What is the potential role of exercise in the treatment of psychiatric disorders?

Exercise is important. Again, if we want to think about physical health and overall health, exercise is always going to play a role. We know that people with schizophrenia, again, have a shortened lifespan, often due to cardiovascular complications, and so exercise is helpful for that. But we also know that exercise can help to improve people’s cognition, and we did a study that found that increased levels of BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a neurofactor that helps with sprouting neurons and helping enhance cognition, was increased with 3 times a week aerobic exercise. And so as a result, we know that it’s important if we’re going to think about schizophrenia as more than just an illness that is about delusions and hallucinations, that we’re treating all of the symptoms and we’re treating the whole person.