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Schizophrenia as a Mental Illness

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Introduction

Mental illness is a problem that affects a person’s health. It interferes with the way a person think, behave and how they interact with other people in the surrounding. This problem is also referred to as a mental disorder. However, there is a slight difference between mental illness and mental disorder. Mental illness is at times curable after sometime. Mental disorder may be inborn. It is said to cause a lot of problems to the people affected and the people around them. According to a report by the World Health Organization, mental illness becomes severe with time. Depression is one of the worst mental illnesses affecting many people today. This is due to the changing life circumstances. Some of the other types include eating disorder, personality problems, schizophrenia and anxiety.

Thesis statement

Mental illness is a norm in society just like other diseases and in our paper we will extensively look into schizophrenia. Schizophrenia has lead to alienation of the mentally sick in society and adequate measures should be taken to prevent this illness.

Description of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the many mental illnesses and a person suffering from the disease experiences a disintegration of emotional responsiveness and thought processes. It is also characterized by wacky delusions, disorganized thinking and speech, auditory hallucinations and paranoia. These are accompanied by considerable occupational and social dysfunctions of the victims. Some of the contributing factors to this illness are social and psychological processes, genetics, early environment and some prescription and recreational drugs. The disorder is not only cognition but also leads to persistent emotional and behavioral problems, anxiety disorders and major depressions. Some social problems faced by these people include poverty, homelessness and unemployment for a long period of time. Due to the health problems and a high rate of committing suicide by these people with the disorder, their life expectancy is twelve to fifteen years less than the normal person.

People with schizophrenia need a lot of support from the people around and a lot of encouragement and understanding. They should not be blamed for their situations. Most mental illness can be treated if the signs are realized in good time. It is said that this illness occurs depending on different situations, and this dictates how it can be treated. It is actually not true that people with mental illness are dangerous. These are just stereotypes that people have. Mentally ill people should not be isolated because they recover more when they interact with people. One of the biggest challenges that people with schizophrenia encounter is stigmatization. People do not want to associate with them because they are afraid of them.

Mental illness in this case schizophrenia is said to be caused by stress and for others it may be inherited. With the increased work load and social expectations in society, stress and depression is said to be on the rise. People want to meet so many expectations. They multitask so that they can be able to cope with life changing situations and at the end of it all they cause stress to themselves. People compete to social class and economic empowerment in order to be at a certain level in society thus, ending up to be victims of mental illness.

Aspects of schizophrenia

Some of the schizophrenia aspects that affect many people are the panic disorder. This is normally caused by fear that something bad may happen. The person lives in fear and thus getting repeated attacks. Panic disorder normally affects women. Women are prone to panic than men. The cause of panic disorder has not yet been identified yet. It is at times mistaken with heart attack. Though heart attack is lethal that panic disorder. It is not predictable and it happens at any time and it takes about 10 to 20 minutes. Others however, take longer. Most of the people with this problem are always living in fear of another attack. This affects the way they lead their lives and some of them are afraid of being left alone either at home or work.

Social phobia is also another aspect of schizophrenia. This may be caused by the fear to be in social places with many people. One develops the fear of being scrutinized or being seen by many people. This may be caused by overprotective parents or during adolescence. It normally affects women. This can be a very dangerous illness because the victims look for an alternative way to counter their phobia. They may engage in drugs or other things that may affect them negatively. People with social phobia are always very careful and are afraid of trying out new things when in public. It is characterized by trembling, sweating, difficult in talking and blushing. This phobia can be treated by seeing a psychiatrist for cognitive counseling.

The other aspect of schizophrenia that is probably not very common is seasonal affective disorder. It normally occurs during cold seasons like winter and autumn. It however improves in hot or warm seasons, i.e. spring and summer. It is at times characterized by a lot of appetite and weight gain, loose of energy and sluggishness. This can be regulated by doing a lot of exercises, walking during the day to reduce the fatigue and being socially active. This means attending to social gatherings and hanging out with friends.

The most common aspect of all mental illness and schizophrenia in the world is alcoholism. This is more of the physical addiction that a person goes through. They are always taking alcohol and do not care what happens to them. This is normally caused by depression or a psychological problem. This problem normally affects teenagers and men. For teenagers, it is all about fitting in to the social peers. They end up being addicts and not being productive in the society. This can only be stopped through total abstinence and avoiding places that have alcohol.

History of Schizophrenia

Reports of unintelligible, irrational or uncontrolled behaviors of individuals were common before the nineteenth century although evidence in reports indicating this are not there. In 1962, there was a case report which was regarded as the earliest cases in the psychiatric and medical literature of the illness. Emil Kraepelin elaborated schizophrenia as a syndrome that affected young adults and teenagers. Some other terms that were used in the past for the illness included dementia praecox. Emil Kraepelin came up with a distinction of mental disorders and broadly distinguished between mood disorder and dementia praecox. According to Kraepelin, dementia praecox was solely a disease that affected the brain that occurred later in life unlike the other types of dementia. Schizophrenia has its roots in the Greek heredity which roughly means “splitting of the mind”. Kraepelin came up with this meaning with his intention being to describe the disconnection between thinking, memory, personality and perception of a person suffering from the illness.  He further described the symptoms of the disease as autism, flattened affect, ambivalence and an impaired association of ideas. The treatment to schizophrenia was renewed in the 1960s with the introduction and development of chlorpromazine. (Kraepelin 1962)

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

Someone diagnosed with this illness may experience delusions that are often persecutory or bizarre in nature, speech and thinking that is disorganized, and hallucinations that entail the victims “hearing voices”. When an individual experiences disorganized speech, the train of thought is lost and the meaning of sentences is lost due to them been loosely connected and incoherent. These people loose judgment and motivation; have hygiene and sloppy dressing code and they also tend to withdraw from the society. Some other people may even become mute or show signs of purposeless agitation or remain immobile in bizarre postures.

The onset periods for schizophrenia are early adulthood and late adolescence. This is where the vocational and social development is high and at its peak. It is worth noting that twenty three percent and forty percent of women and men respectively, who were diagnosed of the disease, began having the symptoms of the condition when they were below nineteen years of age. (Weinberger 2011)

Negative and positive symptoms

The positive symptoms of schizophrenia are the ones that are present in people with schizophrenia but they do not experience them. They include disordered speech and thought, hallucinations such as auditory, visual, olfactory, and tactile hallucinations, and delusions. These symptoms react very well with medication and can be cured unlike the negative symptoms that require long term treatment. The negative symptoms include poor speech (logia), the lack of aspirations to form relationships, incapability to experience pleasure and lack of motivation. According to research, these negative symptoms are the greatest contributors to functional disability, burden on others and meager value of life. People with these symptoms respond very poorly to treatment.

Causes of schizophrenia

The environmental and genetic factors play a very big role in the development of schizophrenia. There is also a twenty to forty percent chance of people with a history of the disease in the family to suffer the disease too. It is probable that genes are involved in the spread of this disease to some small extent. One of the major threats for developing the disease is having a first degree relative who suffers or has suffered the disease in the past. These genes include NOTCH4, copy number variations, protein loci and zinc protein 804A. The environment also plays a vital role in the development of the disease. Such environmental factors include prenatal stressors, family dysfunction, the living environment, poor housing conditions, unemployment, immigration, social isolation and racial discrimination. Those individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse in their childhood years are at a very high risk of schizophrenia. Drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol and cannabis have been related to the causes of schizophrenia. Infection and hypoxia in pregnant women or malnutrition and stress have a slight risk of schizophrenia in the child later in life.

Psychological factors have been said to cause and maintain schizophrenia. Those people in confusing circumstances or under stress have cognitive biases. Some brain imaging technologies such as the functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) have studied the brain and its connection to schizophrenia. It has been noted that those people with schizophrenia have changes in the chemistry and structure of the brain. (Szasz 1988)

Other causes of schizophrenia include physical injury to the brain, allergic infection or reaction, hormonal activity or viruses, and stressful events in life.

Medication/methods of treatment

Treatment will include hospitalization whereby the patient is administered drugs. Antipsychotic or narcoleptic drugs are administered to the patients in order to control the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. These drugs have a sedative action which makes it even more difficult to deal with side effects. The side effects include rapid heartbeat, blurred vision, constipation and dizziness. There are also neuromuscular effects which include muscle shaking and stiffness and sexual side effects. Others such as chlorpromazine have permanent side effects such as muscle spasm and involuntary movement. People are being advised to use the newer narcoleptics like olanzapine, amisurpride and zotepine which not only have fewer side effects, but also improve the negative symptoms that are very hard to control and treat.

The drugs may come in different forms: those that are inject able, syrup or tablets and may be taken monthly, fortnightly, weekly or daily. Some people may only take a very short time to get well and come out of medication unlike others who take a long time.

Another method of treatment includes Individual therapy. It is known as Cognitive therapy and involves a therapist helping the schizophrenic patient learn ways of coping with stressful thoughts so as to reduce your risk of a relapse.

For patients who lack family and social support, they may be helped through intensive case management programs that link to a range of community support services. This is a treatment on its own for patients as it assists in rehabilitation.

Supportive and problem-focused forms of psychotherapy may also be helpful for many individuals

Conclusion

Schizophrenia has a very great impact on the overall well being of a person and causes a great deal of discomfort. It is therefore, paramount that people with schizophrenia are given the full support by the people around. This disorder can affect anyone, of whichever age. It is then required of people to be keen to any signs that are not consistent. It is only when people are cautious that such atrocities are prevented.

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