This is a chronic, severe mental disorder that often interferes with the behavioral, responsive and perceptional abilities of an individual. It is sometimes referred to as split personality disorder. It is a psychotic mental disorder that is characterized by changes in thinking, behaviors and social characters of an individual. In most cases, a person suffering from schizophrenia will tend to think in a manner that is completely different and in complete contrast to the real world, a condition referred to as psychosis (Brown 3). Statistical data indicate that schizophrenia affects nearly five million people globally every year. The disorder is believed to affect mainly mental processes such as speech, attention, decision making among others.
The discovery of schizophrenia dates back to the early 18th century when medical accounts on the disorder were published by Philippe Pinel and James Mathews. Eugene Bleuler described it as a split in the mind that affects a person’s personality, thoughts, perception and memory.
Types of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia can occur in different forms namely paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated and residual schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia is where the patient is preoccupied with one or more delusions or auditory hallucinations. Disorganized schizophrenia is characterized by difficulties in speech and disorganized behaviors. Catatonic schizophrenic patients usually have difficulties in movements, high resistance to movements, excessive movements, abnormal movements and/or repetition of others’ actions or deeds. Undifferentiated schizophrenia is characterized by delusions and hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior. Residual schizophrenia is where the condition is not very severe and the patient shows minor symptoms such as withdrawal, disinterest and not speaking (Beck, Rector & Stolar 46).
At the inception of schizophrenia, the patient will show signs of thinking problems. He/she will think in a manner that is completely out of touch with the real world. He/she may experience hallucinations, have a disorganized speech, physically rigid behavior, significantly decreased emotional feelings and paranoia.
A person suffering from schizophrenia normally experiences hallucinations and delusions. Usually, the patient would withdraw him/herself from social groups (social isolation), show low problem solving abilities, poor decision making, lack of intrinsic motivation and difficulty in movement and motions.
According to Murray, symptoms of schizophrenia can be broadly grouped into two: positive and negative. Positive symptoms are usually not experienced by most individuals and include disorders in thoughts, speech, sight and smell (Murray 28). These are the major indicators of psychosis. On the other hand, negative symptoms refer to deficits in normal emotional and psychological responses and include alogia, avolition, anhedonia among others.
Moreover, Shean suggests that patient with schizophrenia may exhibit the flattened effect. This refers to a state of being emotionless. He advises that even though the flattened can be found in other mental disorders as well it is most common in patients with schizophrenia. Excessive sleep can also suggest existence of the disorder (Shean 113).
Causes of Schizophrenia
For decades, the exact causes of schizophrenia have not been identified. There have been strong disagreements and debates pertaining to its causes and possible factors that were suggested have been exposed to either modification or complete rejection. However, medics have concluded that it either results from genetic disorders or environmental factors. Genetically, the disease is heritable through inheritance of genes from immediate relatives, usually parents. Medical theories suggest that generic vulnerability to histone and zinc finger 804A proteins have direct link to heritability of schizophrenia (Mandal & Nizamie 187).
On the other hand, environmental factors such as long-term abuse of hard drugs and natural surrounding can as well lead to schizophrenia. When expectant mothers are exposed to severe prenatal stress, they may give birth to schizophrenic babies. Such stressors could be as a result of lack of employment, financial difficulties, domestic violence, discrimination and dysfunctional family settings. These social and life pressures have been viewed as major contributors to this disorder.
According to Ross, those who frequently abuse drugs such as cocaine and cannabis sativa and excessive drinking of alcohol have higher risks of schizophrenia (Ross 24). Research by medical doctors from Duke University indicates that those who use cannabis have thrice the risk of psychosis and consequently schizophrenia. During pregnancy, when the mother is exposed to stressful conditions and malnutrition, chances of giving birth to a schizophrenic child are slightly increased (Shean 162).
In addition, the disorder may result from infections especially when a child is born during winter. Other diseases such as polio, herpes simplex and muscles have been connected to the spread of schizophrenia. Ritsner summarizes these causes into five broad categories namely, genetics, brain structure abnormalities, abnormal neuro-chemistry, seasonal exposure to viruses and environmental factors (Ritsner 120).
The Relationship Between Brain Functionality and Schizophrenia
Various researches have been carried to determine the relationship between brain dysfunction and schizophrenia. Psychologists believe that schizophrenia has a great impact on cognition. Memory loss and neuro-cognitive deficits are symptomatology indicators of schizophrenia. They advise that psychotherapy is the remedy to the disorder. Neurologists, on the other hand, propose that schizophrenia results from changes in the brain structure, its chemical reactions and neuron activities. A miscommunication between the neurons and the receptors would, thus, lead to schizophrenia (Boyle 95).
Prevention of schizophrenia has proved difficult to medical practitioners. This is because there is no direct and reliable link between the disease and other disorders such as psychosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnosis of schizophrenia starts by seeking help from psychiatrists at reasonably early stages of development. Any person who shows the psychosis symptoms should be diagnosed as soon as possible, and medications given before the condition become severe.
According to Ross, there are no laboratory tests for schizophrenia and diagnosis, thus, includes exclusive mental examination. Diagnosis will involve evaluation of the patient’s family background to determine if the disorder has been inherited, individual emotional history and responses to stimuli, the current symptoms he/she has, the developmental background of the condition and identification of any other disorder that might be affecting the patient (Ross 134).
Treatment of schizophrenia involves administration of antipsychotic drugs. In case the patient responses poorly to first medications, Clozapine, Thorazine and Prolixin may be used. However, great caution should be undertaken when using Clozapine since it has adverse side effects on the white blood cells. Patients should also undergo psychological treatment that involves various types of supportive therapies ranging from family therapies to behavioral therapies. Furthermore, behavioral techniques which include socializing skills and how to build good relationships can provide fruitful benefits to the patient if well administered.
Similarly, long term use of antipsychotic drugs may result into tardive dyskinesia, a disorder characterized by the increased body movements. Schizophrenic disorders that results from environmental exposure to stressful conditions can be managed by learning how to cope with such conditions effectively.
Schizophrenia has diverse effects on different people, though these complications are usually interconnected to thinking, emotional expressions and response to environmental stimuli. Some medical researchers have also shown that schizophrenic individuals may as well suffer from other mental illnesses and other diseases that have no direct relation to psychosis. Generally, schizophrenic patients usually suffer from increased depressions. More often than not, they are not able to care for themselves and hence, require close and personalized support from friends and relatives. They are unable to earn for themselves a living, possess poor relationship maintenance skills and cannot work properly.
Psychiatrics have proved that schizophrenia has a great impact on the intelligence level of an individual. In a research study carried out by psychiatrists, doctors and psychologists from Medical Research Council, it was found that more than three quarters of patients reported a decline in their Intelligence Quotient (IQ). It is believed that the disorder usually damages the brain nerve at its early stages (Fatemi 248).
According to Mahoney, most people suffering from the disorder have or at least attempted to commit suicide. This is because of increased loneliness and withdrawal from social groups and irrational thinking (Mahoney 173). The patients similarly excessively abuse certain drugs such as nicotine and alcohol. This usually results in increased mild response to antipsychotic drugs used during treatment, hence, a prolonged period of illness.
Apart from the suffering of the individual, family members may as well suffer from guilt and grieves financial obligation and emotional and social disturbances. The patient may also behave in a self-destructive manner, for instance, by becoming extremely violent.
Last but least, schizophrenia may also lead to overstretching of available medical resources of the state. When a greater percentage of the population suffers from this disorder, they will need for additional resources for medical supplies, and consequently larger proportions of a nation’s resources will be channeled towards prevention and cure of the disease (Tsung, Faraone & Glatt).
Schizophrenia and Children
There have been fewer research studies on schizophrenia in children. However, previous investigations have found that children as young as six years can have schizophrenia, though the symptoms may not show clearly until their adulthood.
Schizophrenia is a deadly disorder that has no definite cure. It is, therefore, advisable that people take precaution on behaviors that are abnormal. The disorder could be easy to manage if it is diagnosed at its early development stage. Due to their poor decision making abilities, schizophrenic patients should be well taken care of. This would help to reduce the number of accidents or suicidal deaths they may commit.
During medication, they should be strictly supervised to ensure that they take the correct doses of prescribed drugs for the stated time period. Patients with mental disorders should be taken to rehabilitation centers where they can receive appropriate emotional and psychological support. The society members as well should also be educated on symptoms of schizophrenia to enable them to take appropriate actions at early stages of development of the disease. Affected families can seek assistance from self-help groups where they will meet people with similar experiences.