Schizophrenia ISU Essay, Research Paper
Adam “was a wonderfully, sweet young man,” his mother said. He was a high school athlete and captain of his team, active in his college fraternity, a good student. He had graduated from college and started working while studying for a professional certification exam when something inside him changed. . . Adam stopped being careful about his personal appearance. He told his parents he suspected them of communicating with each other in secret ways, such as in sign language which he couldn’t understand. He began to hear his mother’s voice in his head and he asked her why she was sending him messages. . . he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Many people believe they know what schizophrenia is. However, it is very misunderstood by many people as they view in with a narrow-mind as it is simply labelled as a psychological problem. The truth is, schizophrenia is a medical illness, just like diabetes and cancer. It is not a split personality, it is not caused by bad parenting or childhood trauma, and it does not necessarily mean violent behaviour. It is a very serious and devastating disease of the brain. It is actually quite common, as it occurs in 1 of 100 people at some point in their lives. The disease begins for most people between 16-25, it is uncommon to begin after age 30, and rare after age 40. Although both males or females can have schizophrenia, more males have the disease. There are several symptoms of schizophrenia, all being very serious and many of them are frightening.
For years the disease has been misunderstood. However, in recent decades more information has been revealed about schizophrenia and we now have a better understanding. However, it is a complex disease and is often difficult to understand. The brain chemistry behind the disease goes into great depth, as there are several theories. The following report describes schizophrenia, it?s causes, symptoms, treatments and solutions, and the latest news.
What is Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain. To be more specific, schizophrenia is a disease of neural connectivity caused by multiple factors that affect brain development. Although labelled as a mental disease, it is a common and very serious physical disease. There are many different theories for the causes of schizophrenia, however, what is known and accepted by all is that it is a problem with the brain chemistry. Each nerve cell in the brain have branches that send and receive messages from other nerve cells. The chemicals released from these branches are called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters carry the message from the end of one nerve branch to the cell body of another. Two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, play a big role in schizophrenia. Research has shown that too much dopamine in certain areas of the brain appears in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia, as well as abnormalities in serotonin activity.
There are three main symptoms of schizophrenia: grossly abnormal behaviour in terms of thought; delusion; and hallucinations.
- In grossly abnormal behaviour in terms of thought, one?s thoughts will not be clear or logical. Other symptoms which come along include disconnected or incomprehensible language, which causes social problems for the individual.
- Delusions are when individuals often feel like others are spying on them, or trying to harm and torment them.
- Hallucinations are when patients hear voices, or even see, feel, taste, and smell other things which really aren?t there. These voices can be extremely frightening to the patient as the voices usually tell them what to do or are talking about the person in a nasty or critical way.
There are different types of schizophrenia: Paranoid schizophrenia, catatonic schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia, and undifferentiated schizophrenia.
- Paranoid schizophrenia is the type in which a patient has delusions and hallucinations of a theme of persecution. The patient is in fear of being harmed or controlled by others and hallucinations are quite common.
- Catatonic schizophrenia is the type in which a patient is disturbed in such a way that their movement and responsiveness to the environment have diminished; this is known as the catatonic stupor. Another factor is negativism, this is when an individual refuses to follow instructions.
- Disorganized schizophrenia is the type in which a patient has incoherent speech, loose associations, irrationality, and disorganized behaviour. A person with this type of schizophrenia has inappropriate, unpredictable, or grossly exaggerated responses. They may experience delusions and hallucinations, but not of the same theme of a patient with paranoid schizophrenia. Overall their behaviour is very abnormal and bizarre.
- Undifferentiated schizophrenia is the type in which a patient has mixed symptoms which cannot put them in any one category. Some people with schizophrenia have symptoms that change over time. They are put under the label of undifferentiated schizophrenia.
Since schizophrenia is a medical illness, it is inherited genetically or it can occur in brain development as a fetus or a young infant. However, most of the patients do not show the symptoms of schizophrenia until they are in the stages of late adolescence or early adulthood. There are generally some male and female differences in schizophrenia however. If one parent has schizophrenia there is a 13% chance of the offspring to develop schizophrenia. If both parents have the disease there is a 35% chance of the offspring to develop the disease. 75% of people with schizophrenia first get the disease between the ages of 16 to 25. Of this category there are more males and females. Of the 30+ category, there are more females who first get the disease than males. There are many people with schizophrenia who recover completely and can live independently after proper treatment. This is fortunate for the majority of people with schizophrenia. However, about 15% of people with schizophrenia respond only moderately to treatment and require extensive support throughout their lives, and another 15% do not respond to existing treatment at all. For some patients, who do not recover completely, the disease will relapse and they would need to be hospitalized for some time.
Since most people who get schizophrenia are young many of them don?t get a chance at developing their life skills. However, since schizophrenia is treatable many of these people can get back on their feet. More information in the following section explains how people end up having schizophrenia, more detail about their symptoms, and the types of treatment.
Causes of Schizophrenia
In the past, people did not think that schizophrenia was a medical illness. Instead, they thought it was some sort of psychological problem. More and more information is discovered about schizophrenia and describes it?s causes, which is entirely biological.
Recent evidence has been gathered that pointed to one physical cause: a heavily biological basis that originates in the fetus. What happens to people who develop schizophrenia is as a fetus the neurons do not develop properly, causing the patients to have disorganized thoughts and problems with mental functioning. Another study states that there are 5 chromosomes involved that contribute to schizophrenia, but chromosomes 22 and 6 play the biggest role. New studies show that there are new genes that are responsible for schizophrenia as well as manic depression. These are chromosomes 11q, 3q, 18q, and 6p. The likeliness of inheriting schizophrenia from a parents, or both parents, is relatively high.
There is a combination of inherited genetic factors and non-genetic factors in the cause of schizophrenia. During the first two decades of life there is an ongoing process of brain development and maturity. During this stage, when the connectivity and communication within neural circuitry are disrupted, patients end up with a variety of symptoms and impairments. Therefore, the common pathway that defines schizophrenia is misregulation of information processing in the brain. The rate at which an identical twin also has schizophrenia is at 40%, which means that non-genetic factors do have a role. Studies have shown that birth during winter or in urban areas have increased the risk of schizophrenia. An example is infections during pregnancy or early childhood. Non-genetic factors that can possibly contribute to the increased risk of schizophrenia are the effects of poor nutrition on fetal and childhood brain development, exposure to toxins that damage neurons or affect neurotransmitter systems (such as alcohol and retinoid), and exposure to radiation that might cause mutations. Any damage to the neurotransmitter systems of the brain at an early age will put an individual in high risk of having schizophrenia.
Since the symptoms of schizophrenia usually occur in late adolescence or early adulthood, a question arises: ?If the cause of schizophrenia starts with the fetus then why don?t they have symptoms as children??. Due to studies, we have found some unnoticed information. Every child born in Britain, in the first week of March 1946, has been kept track of every two years until they were 43 years old. Dr. Robin Murray found childhood differences among those who later developed schizophrenia. The children who developed schizophrenia, had a delayed time period of when they first sat up, and were also delayed in academic performances. There were no gross abnormalities, however, of delayed maturation of their brains. Another study was conducted in 1994. Researchers asked families of people with schizophrenia if they can view home videos of the patients as children. Researchers had found some things that children tended to display, such as slightly odd hand movements. This did not trouble their parents at the time but if one knew what they were looking for in the child they would know right away that it is a bad sign.
The causes of schizophrenia are often inherited, but there is a wide list of non-genetic causes. Although inherited genetic factors greatly contribute to the chance of offspring to develop schizophrenia, there are non-genetic factors that can also contribute the likeliness of developing the disease. For this reason it is always important for a pregnant woman to stay healthy, even a virus like a flu can seriously harm a fetus and damage brain development.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
There are several symptoms that people with schizophrenia suffer from. Some suffer from a few, some suffer from many, and some suffer from all. Or the symptoms can change at different times. The symptoms are split into two categories: Negative symptoms, and positive symptoms. Negative symptoms are symptoms that are absent or lacking, but they should be there. Positive symptoms are existing symptoms that should be absent. Negative symptoms can be the initial signs of schizophrenia, and start to become noticeable when one loses interest in usual activities or becomes unfeeling. However, sometimes types of moodiness and withdrawal are typical for many teenagers. Some of these negative symptoms can becomes very severe, and one may not even be able to do a simple task like grocery shopping. It used to believed that negative symptoms are side-affects of the treatment against schizophrenia but now it is known to be false. Positive symptoms are usually very obvious because the patient would believe something that does not make sense to others around them.
Blunted affect, emotional withdrawal, poor rapport, passive/apathetic/social withdrawal, difficulty in abstract thinking, lack of spontaneity, stereotyped thinking, as well as some physical symptoms.
- Blunted affect ? Individuals may say that they feel less emotionally connected to what is around them, and they appear less responsive to their surroundings. An alternative is when an individual responds with an inappropriate emotion, such as laughing for no apparent reason.
- Emotional withdrawal ? An individual becomes less social, has fewer interests, and fewer personal relationships.
- Poor rapport ? A lack of energy or drive which allows them to do nothing more but eat or sleep. To those around them they appear as lazy, but this is part of the disease because a drive mechanism in the brain is missing.
- Passive/apathetic/social withdrawal ? One spends most of their time alone because they feel safer and calmer. They are so wound up in their own thoughts that they lose interest in the feelings and lives of others.
- Difficulty in abstract thinking ? An individual cannot see beyond details and move from the specific to the general.
- Lack of spontaneity ? A hesitance in speech or action. They decrease spontaneous movements or they become very strange with their own movements.
- Stereotyped thinking ? An individual can hold a very rigid attitude or belief against somebody which may seem unreasonable. Repetitive thoughts interfere with their thoughts.
- Physical symptoms ? In severe cases a person might sit motionless and stare off into space for a long period of time. They become less concerned about their personal hygiene.
Delusions, hallucinations, thought disorders, excitement, grandiosity, suspiciousness/persecution, hostility.
- Delusions ? Beliefs that others are unable to see. A typical delusion is the belief that one is being spied on, plotted against, harmed or tormented. Some believe they have special powers or are being controlled by other forces. Often delusions of some sort of religious nature are common.
- Hallucinations ? Individuals have the ability to hear, see, smell, taste, or feel something. The most common form of hallucinations is hearing voices. Usually these voices are talking to the person or about the person in a nasty and critical way.
- Thought disorders ? One may have difficulty sorting out or processing their thoughts in such a way that they can communicate with others. Their speech may become incoherent or fragmented because their thinking is not straight.
- Excitement ? Individuals may seem hyperactive or restless as they feel various rapidly changing emotions.
- Grandiosity ? Individuals get such a great feeling of wealth, power and fame. They become so unrealistic that they start to think that they can withstand bullets and fly over buildings.
- Suspiciousness/persecution ? Individuals start to guard themselves and become mistrustful of others. They believe that they are being watched and others are trying to harm them. They begin to search for proof of their suspicions.
- Hostility ? Abusive, sarcastic, and uncooperative behaviour towards family and caregivers.
Positive symptoms are usually more striking and call attention to the patient, however, negative symptoms are also important as they can impair a person?s ability to function and live in their society.
Treatment and Solutions
There is no cure to schizophrenia, but it can be treated. Full recovery is possible, but it cannot be predicted. The delusions and hallucinations are most intense for people in their 20?s and 30?s but tends to decline later on in age. Therefore later on in life, one may experience fewer positive symptoms. However, hallucinations are still possible late in life.
There is no simple way to diagnose schizophrenia, as the symptoms can represent other problems. It?s possible that one might have epilepsy or brain tumours. If one has hallucinations it is not definite that they have schizophrenia because it could be possibly could be the result of drug abuse from cocaine or LSD. There is no blood test to determine the presence of the disease either. It takes a doctor sometime to diagnose the disease, as the symptoms have to be present for at least six months. The diagnose is done according to a detailed patient history, and the patient?s symptoms.
Drugs are the key form of treatment for schizophrenia, as they are for other diseases. These drugs help control the symptoms of the disease. Medications called antipsychotics, developed in the 1950?s, are the drugs used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic problems. This way, they do not have to remain in the hospital for years. These drugs can treat other things as well as anxiety. Sometimes the side effects can be a drawback to the drug, so other drugs have to be taken to lessen the side effects. Although antipsychotics often control the positive symptoms, the negative symptoms do not necessarily respond to these drugs. Therefore, not only drugs are necessary but psychosocial therapy and social support. When the disease first strikes, and is severe, hospitalizition is probably necessary since the patient can receive a lot of help. Even after the disease is treated, or partially treated, regular visits to the doctor or help from support staff is necessary. It is important to receive this type of help. This way people can get encouragement, make friends, and get good practical advice. A good education of the disease is important for the entire family when it is present in a member.
Recent News About Schizophrenia
As medical research becomes more and more advanced we are now learning more about schizophrenia and it?s biological explanations. The brain is very complex to explain, but many theories and explanations are made to further explain schizophrenia with greater detail.
It was only recently that we were able to discover that fetal development plays a very significant role. In May 1996, further information was discovered that certain nerve cells migrate to the wrong areas when the brain is first taking shape, leaving small regions of the brain permanently out of place of miswired. These errors may have one or more cause, which still hasn?t been discovered. However, one speculation is that brain misconnections might develop when the mother catches a virus early in pregnancy.
Another recent theory of schizophrenia are along the lines of metabolic brain changes in patterns and activities, as well as ?over-perfusion of blood, others to under-perfusion?. One similar discovery in London, England found evidence of altered blood flow in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part most linked with human social behaviour. When there is too much blood in one area, and presumably brain cell activity, while the other area had to little the crossed circuits may cause hallucinations, delusions and loss of self-control. Therefore, schizophrenia can be the result of more than just one problem of the brain, and most likely is.
To find answers many researches study data and statistics. In 1988 a study was done on children born to women who had been pregnant during a severe flu epidemic in Helsinki, Finland, in 1957. Dr. Sarnoff Mednick, a psychologist at the University of California, found that the children of mothers who had caught the flu in the second trimester of pregnancy, the time when the neural subplate goes into action, were at a higher rate of developing schizophrenia as adults. This bit of information had further contributed to the theory that virus? do have an influence over the chance of one to develop schizophrenia.
Medical research has contributed a lot to our understanding of schizophrenia. Perhaps one day a cure for this common and devastating disease will be developed.
Schizophrenia is a very common disease, and it is fortunate that nowadays it is less misunderstood. We have acquired a better knowledge of schizophrenia and have learned that it is indeed a very serious and frightening medical illness. The disease itself is not fatal, but can lead to death. 10% of all people who get schizophrenia commit suicide. Many people with the disease end up in poverty as well, for example, one third of the homeless population is America suffers from schizophrenia. This shows that the symptoms of schizophrenia stop people from living normal lives, as they end up alienating themselves. For this reason, a lot treatment with support is necessary for somebody with schizophrenia. The best way to make someone feel better is to let them know that they are worthy. Schizophrenia will continue to victimize millions. Our health care system can feel the effects of schizophrenia, as it is the largest contributor to the cost of hospitalization, and it costs Canada well over $2 billion per year. Fortunately, at least there is some sort of treatment for this serious and misunderstood disease. As we continue to perform further medical research we hope that one day there will be a cure for schizophrenia. Until then, it is important that everyone has a good knowledge of the topic and be aware that it is quite common and it is not what most people think it is.
Paranoid schzizophrenics are often become suspicious of others.
People with catatonic schizophrenia are sometimes left immobilized for long periods of time.
Expressed emotion in families has been associated with schizophrenia.
1) Bibbo, Kimberly ?Change In View: Schizophrenia Moves From Psychology to Biology?. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro99/web1/Bibbo.html
2) Andreasen, Nancy C ?Understanding the Causes of Schizophrenia?. http://www.nejm.org/content/1999/0340/0008/0645.asp
3) ?More Evidence of Physical Cause of Schizophrenia?. http://www.schizophrenia.com/newsletter/697/697physical.htm
4) ?Several genes confirmed as responsible for schizophrenia and manic depressive illness?. http://www.schizophrenia.com/newsletter/397/397genes.html
5) ?Roots of schizophrenia may lie in development of fetal brain?. http://www.schizophrenia.com/news/causes2.html
6) ?Many Americans with Untreated Psychiatric Illnesses Have Nowhere to Go Homelessness: Tragic Side Effect of Non-Treatment?. http://www.psychlaws.org/General%20Resources/fact10.htm
7) ?An Introduction of Schizophrenia?. http://www.schizophrenia.com/family/schizintro.html
8) ?Schizophrenia ? Understanding the Disease?. Canadian Mental Health Association.
9) Perrotto, Richard S. ; Culkin, Joseph. ?Exploring Abnormal Psychology?.
10) ?Understanding Schizophrenia? ? Ontario Ministry of Health.
Table of Contents
What is Schizophrenia3
Causes of Schizophrenia7
Symptoms of Schizophrenia10
Treatment and Solutions14
Recent News About Schizophrenia16