Schizophrenia Essay, Research Paper
When a person hears the word crazy , their first thoughts are probably of symptoms of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is seen as the ideal case of insanity. The causes of this disease remain unknown, but scientists are constantly searching for answers. Although a cure for schizophrenia is surely far in the future, research and understanding is making more and more progress every day.
To find a cure for schizophrenia, scientists must first understand the disease itself. Over the years, professionals have come up with a fairly accurate definition:
When a person s thinking, feeling, and behaving are so far from normal so as to interfere with his or her ability to function in everyday life, and delusions, hallucinations, or irregular thinking or emotions are produced, then he or she has a mental illness called schizophrenia (Smith 19).
The most common symptoms of schizophrenia are the typical hallucinations and delusions, and disturbed thinking. Other signs include abnormal physical activity, such as pacing or rocking, as well as abnormal speech and communication, such as silly talk and repetition.
The thought process of a normal person is basically organized, while the thought process of a person with schizophrenia is not. The person with schizophrenia usually has delusions and hallucinations that interfere with their thinking. Often times their speech is difficult to follow, out of order, and off subject.
The person s emotions are also all mixed up and usually incorrect. Instead of smiling or laughing at something amusing, the person with schizophrenia may get angry or upset. Such responses are usually easy to recognize, even by acquaintances. Schizophrenics are unable to shift gears quickly in. They often find it difficult to understand who they are, how they should act, or what they should feel.
Since not all schizophrenics act alike, professionals have sorted them out into three classic types. The first type is paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenics usually have a single theme or idea on which they focus their delusions and hallucinations. They are constantly afraid that people are out to get them . The second type of schizophrenia is disorganized schizophrenia. Disorganized type schizophrenics show very unorganized behavior. Facial grimaces, extreme withdrawal, and constant health complaints are typical symptoms of this type of schizophrenia. Hallucinations and delusions are symptoms of all types of schizophrenia, but the disorganized schizophrenic also exhibits senseless laughter and silliness. The third type of schizophrenia is catatonic. Someone with catatonic schizophrenia may hold a single position for hours on end. This is called a stupor . Their condition resembles that of suspended animation. Sometimes the person is rigid and hard to move, but at other times may flail around highly excited for no apparent reason. Although, through use of newer medications, catatonic schizophrenia is rare today.
Medication has been the most successful treatment by far. Antipsychotic drugs do little for helping the patient understand and deal with various aspects of their illness. Because of this, psychotherapy is absolutely necessary along with medication. Alarmingly, a recent study shows that only a third of schizophrenia patients are getting the correct dose of medicine, while another third are being prescribed doses that are too high. Higher doses can sometimes lead to depression and eventual suicide. Side effects of antipsychotic drugs include such things as skin problems, the shakes, and weight gain. Although, the overall benefit of these medicines is greater than the inconveniences.
Not all treatments for schizophrenia have seemed so practical under today s standards. In the past, some schizophrenia patients had holes bored in their skulls to release the evil spirits . Others were chained to walls in order to control their behavior and prevent destructiveness. Most treatments like these had no effect and accomplished nothing. Another type of treatment available for treating schizophrenia is psychosurgery. In some extreme cases, professionals in the past would perform frontal lobotomies, which permanently disconnected several sections of the brain. Then in 1938, shock treatment was invented. Although not as effective as medication, this treatment is seldom used to treat schizophrenia today.
Individuals with mental illnesses often become homeless for the same reasons as other people with low incomes; primary among these individuals is the lack of affordable housing. When housing is affordable, it is often unsafe, in disrepair, or located far from services and public transportation. The shortage of affordable housing for people with serious mental illnesses is also due, in part, to mental health agencies that have traditionally focused on offering clinical and case management services rather than housing, while the housing community has not been eager to develop housing for people with special needs. In an era of limited resources and increasing demand, many mental health and housing providers have begun to realize the importance of working together to address this problem. People with mental illnesses who become homeless have less contact with their families and are more likely to have poor family relationships than those who are not homeless. Often relationships deteriorate over time, as parents or other relatives become exhausted and frustrated with the difficulties of helping a relative who may have recurring periods of disturbing or frightening behavior. Without the ongoing care and persistent advocacy that family members provide, many people with serious mental illnesses are at greater risk for homelessness.
More than two dozen antipsychotic drugs are available today, but medication can also cost a lot of money. The average cost comes to about $65 billion a year. Nearly thirty percent involves direct treatment. The rest is absorbed by things such as lost time from work, social services, and criminal justice resources. Many types of professionals are also involved in treating schizophrenia, including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, nutritionists, and other therapists and counselors.
Scientists play a very important role in researching the causes and cures involved in schizophrenia. There is great interest in finding a technique to predict the onset of schizophrenia in people who are currently healthy. Researchers recognize that people who have blood relatives affected by schizophrenia have a greater risk of developing the disorder themselves. By the technique of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the brain can be imaged. Schizophrenia has already been shown to be associated with enlarged ventricles (four fluid-filled cavities within the brain) and decreased brain size. What is yet to discover, is whether such brain abnormalities predate the onset of schizophrenia symptoms. Dr. Lawrie and colleagues enrolled 100 people, aged 16 to 25 years, at high risk of developing schizophrenia, along with 20 of their relatives in their first episode of the disorder and 30 healthy controls (not related). Each person had an MRI scan to measure the volume of particular areas of the brain.
The investigators found that those at high risk of schizophrenia, but who did not yet have the disorder, had several structural brain abnormalities that were similar to those in-patients who already had schizophrenia. In high-risk individuals, the volume of a part of the brain (the left hippocampo-amygdala) was smaller than in normal controls, but larger than in the relatives with schizophrenia.
Scientists provide evidence that a region of chromosome 6 carries a gene involved in schizophrenia. This statistically significant finding builds on a large body of evidence from family, twin, and adoption studies, showing that schizophrenia has a genetic component. It signals real scientific progress and an ever-increasing understanding of the biology of this severely disabling brain disorder. These findings, while strong, do not eradicate the complexities of schizophrenia genetics. A specific gene on chromosome 6 has not been identified. Three studies found in an issue of Nature Genetics failed to detect any linkage between the region of chromosome 6 found by the other research groups and schizophrenia. In one of the studies, which positively identified chromosome 6, four other chromosomal regions were identified as well. Another recent discovery in genes has made headlines in the schizophrenic community. The mutated gene believed to be associated with schizophrenia falls into the same class of mutations as recently discovered genes linked to Huntington s disease, Fragile X syndrome, and several other brain disorders. This gene, combined with other environmental factors, is only one of several which can produce such disorders. Located in a narrow region of chromosome 22, the gene is found where researchers already believe was the whereabouts of a schizophrenia gene.
So, complications and complexities of schizophrenia genetics still exist. Further study will be required to reconfirm the chromosome 6 location as well as other chromosome locations involved in schizophrenia and to identity specific genes in this brain disorder. But for all of the complexities, scientists have produced the best data to date showing a linkage between a chromosome region and schizophrenia.
The odds of developing schizophrenia are usually 1 in 100. If a relative has schizophrenia, the odds are 1 in 10. If both parents have it, the odds become 2 in 5. If an identical twin has schizophrenia, the odds jump to 1 in 2. Schizophrenia generally occurs between the ages of five and fifty-five, but is more common at younger ages in males. The lowest social class often includes the most occurrences of schizophrenia. Poor economic conditions and more stress and hardship increase these incidences. Because of the confusion cause by schizophrenia, many victims lose their jobs and drift downward into the lowest social class, where they are then counted as having schizophrenia. This is known as the social-drift theory .
There are relatively few famous people that have had schizophrenia because schizophrenia is a brain disorder that typically strikes people when they are between the ages of 17 and 27. People this age typically are too young to be famous; they are just starting out their professional lives after finishing off school or college. One example of a famous schizophrenic is Lionel Aldridge. Aldridge was a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s/played in 2 Super Bowls. He suffered from schizophrenia, and was eventually homeless for two and a half years in the 1970s. Today Aldridge gives inspirational talks, and is also discussed in numerous newspaper articles. He is just one of many celebrities with schizophrenia.
The causes of schizophrenia remain unknown, but many professionals have their theories. The interpersonal theory says that the pressures of living in the world, and interacting with family members and other people cause schizophrenia. The genetic theory states that schizophrenia is inherited and passed down from generation to generation. Another theory is the biochemical theory; which says that alterations in the body chemistry produces abnormalities. One thing scientists know for sure is that narcotic and illegal drugs are not causes of schizophrenia. Speed can produce a psychotic break with reality that closely resembles acute schizophrenia, cocaine can cause behavior similar to schizophrenia, and LSD creates delusions, hallucinations, or bizarre thinking as found in schizophrenia. Drug abuse can destroy and damage the brain, but no good evidence has found that psychoactive drugs can cause true schizophrenia.
Our understanding of schizophrenia is becoming clearer every day. As long as researchers continue to make progress, people with this disease have more hope of finding a cure. Taking into consideration the success rate that has been shown so far, the cure may not be too far in the future.
Failing People With Schizophrenia. Health Newsfeed. #766 (1998): 1pp. Online. Internet. 7 Sept. 1999.
Scientists Have Identified Gene That May Raise Schizophrenia Risk. The Schizophrenia Homepage Journal (2 Sept. 1999): 4pp. Online. Internet. 7 Sept. 1999.
U.S. Health Officials Puts Schizophrenia Costs at $65 Billion. The Schizophrenia Homepage Journal (3 Sept. 1999): 2pp. Online. Internet. 7 Sept. 1999.
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