Schizophrenia And Its Causes Essay, Research Paper
In the search to find out what schizophrenia is and its causes, researchers have now determined that schizophrenia is a neurological or physical brain disorder as opposed to earlier diagnosis as mental disorder. These questions have plagued everyone who has had contact with someone with schizophrenia, from the public to the medical profession alike. It is now clear that schizophrenia is caused by a brain defect. People with schizophrenia show a number of biological abnormalities, all of which point to a severe problem in the way the brain functions. The terms in which researchers have chosen to define schizophrenia are neurobiological disorders (neuro meaning the disease is a dysfunction of the nervous system and biological because the origins and primary manifestations are biological in nature) (Andreasen p646) .
For many years the word schizophrenia has aroused a lot of discomfort in the world. Invested with meaning once feared it is still used as an instrument of ridicule in ordinary conversation, in the media and among professionals themselves. Schizophrenia, the disease, continues to be an illness about which the public at large remains ignorant even though, along with other psychiatric disorders, it has become more susceptible to modern scientific investigation producing information that has clarified the origin, process, and outcome of the disorder. Brilliant advances in brain and behavioral research over the last twenty years have armed scientist and clinicians to such a degree that both diagnosis and therapeutics now rest on more solid ground than ever before.
Anyone who has ever had a friend or a family member diagnosed with schizophrenia knows firsthand the anguish, confusion, and a sense of helplessness that often accompany this diagnosis. Schizophrenia is a serious medical illness that affects about 2 million Americans regardless of race, nationality, or economic background. Even though this disease is widely misunderstood and unfairly stigmatized, schizophrenia is a highly treatable disease of the brain just as cancer or heart disease. Although recent advances in accessing brain structure and function have created a wealth of new information about this common yet devastating disease, and have provided new treatment options many clinicians and families are still unaware of these new developments.
However, one of the principal questions that anyone who knows someone who develops schizophrenia ask is ?Could I have known somehow? There has be a significant amount of research on the pre-illness characteristics of persons who develop schizophrenia. The results of those studies suggest that there is a great deal of diversity in the way people look before the illness manifested itself fully, just as there is afterward. In fact, it is very possible to think mistakenly, that the early signs of the illness should have been noticed.
Schizophrenia as Define by Researchers
Although an exact definition of schizophrenia still evades medical researchers, the evidence indicates more and more strongly that schizophrenia is a severe disturbance of the brain?s functioning. In The Broke Brain: The Biological Revolution in Psychiatry, Dr. Nancy Andreasen states ?the current evidence concerning the causes of schizophrenia is a picture of inlaid pieces. It is quite clear that multiple factors are involved. These include changes in the chemistry of the brain, changes in the structure of the brain, and genetic factors. Viral infections and head injuries may also play a role, finally, schizophrenia is probably a group of related diseases, some of which are caused by one factor some by another ( 222).
There are billions of brain cells in the brain. Each nerve has branches that transmit and receive messages from other nerve cells. The branches release chemicals, called neurotransmitters, which carry the messages from the end of one nerve branch to the cell body of another. In the brain afflicted with schizophrenia, something goes wrong in this communication system. In order to best understand this, let?s compare the brain to a telephone switchboard. In most people the brains switching system works well. Incoming perceptions are sent along appropriate signal paths, the switching process goes off without a hitch, and the appropriate feelings, thoughts, and actions go back out again to the world. In the brain afflicted with schizophrenia perceptions come in but get routed along the wrong path or get jammed or end up at the wrong destination. With all this in mind we must understand that schizophrenia is more than a sum of its parts. The symptoms of schizophrenia are complicated and variable and that there is no clear definition of what schizophrenia is. This is not an omission, but rather an acknowledgement of the fact that schizophrenia is difficult to define because it has no single set of symptoms that definitively identify its presence. Both behavioral excesses and deficits are present in people with schizophrenia, as well as some other symptoms that are not a part of the official diagnostic criteria. In contrast to many less complex illnesses, there is no on sign that clearly identifies it. At the same time, new approaches to the definition of schizophrenia may make it easier to treat by distinguishing it from similar disorders.