Schizophrenia is a chronic, debilitating and severe mental illness that affects about 2 million people in the United States; it is also called split personality disorder. It makes it difficult for one to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, manage emotions, relate to others and think clearly. This paper seeks to discuss different aspects of this mental illness.
A Brief History of Schizophrenia
Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist introduced the word "schizophrenia" in 1911. He chose that name so as to reflect an effect of the disease on an individual's thought processes. According to Bleuler, the disease caused a "splitting of the mind" from reality; implying a split between brain functions like feelings and thought to a separation to distinguish between the real and the unreal. His notion that schizophrenia consisted of more than one disease went against the generally accepted view of his time. Bleuler was of the view that the disease could be the result of psychological problems. Presently, medical imaging and neuroanatomical studies have shown that brain damage significantly contributes to the development of the disease (Haycock,D.A.& Shaya,E.K.page 10).
Early warning signs of Schizophrenia
In most cases, schizophrenia comes on slowly and with subtle signs and a gradual decline in functioning way before the first severe episode. In this formative stage, people suffering from schizophrenia often seem emotionless, reclusive, unmotivated and eccentric. These people tend to isolate themselves, say peculiar things; they start to neglect their appearance and exhibit a general indifference to life. There is also a decline in the performance of these individuals in school or at work. Other early warning signs of schizophrenia are hostility or suspiciousness, inappropriate laughter or crying, depression, insomnia or oversleeping, forgetfulness or inability to concentrate, and extreme reaction to criticism. These people may also make odd or irrational statements and may have a flat expressionless gaze (Helpguide.org)
Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
These are behaviors and experiences that a schizophrenic has that healthy people do not. These symptoms include delusions; which are false beliefs that don't make sense especially when a person's culture is taken into context. Although it is normal for everyone to have wrong beliefs from time to time, people that exhibit psychotic delusions can't be convinced that their beliefs aren't real. Hallucinations which are false sensory experiences that don't have a basis in the outside world are also symptoms of this illness. They occur when an individual is fully awake and is not under the influence of either drugs or alcohol. Schizophrenics tend to exhibit disorganized speech patterns in that their words are strung together based on rhyme, sound or free associations rather than being linked together based on the normal rules of language. Schizophrenics also tend to have disorganized or catatonic behavior in that their behaviors aren't goal oriented and tend not to make sense. An example is laughing at inappropriate times or stripping in public. Freezing or adopting strange postures are catatonic behaviors (Harrison, C.).
Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Negative symptoms are more difficult to diagnose when compared to positive symptoms. Negative symptoms include; Affective flattening which refers to a reduction in the intensity and range of emotional expression for example eye contact, body language and facial expression. Alogia or poverty of speech is another negative symptom; this is the lessening of speech productivity and fluency and is usually manifested as short and often empty replies to questions. Avolition which is the inability to initiate and sustain a goal directed behavior is also a negative symptom of schizophrenia. It is often mistaken for an apparent disinterest. The patient may exhibit unwillingness to go out and meet with friends, preferring instead to sit in the house doing nothing for many hours a day and he may appear to be disinterested in things that he used to enjoy previously (schizophrenia.com).
Types of Schizophrenia
Types of schizophrenia include paranoid schizophrenia; these people tend to be very suspicious of others and are obsessed with grand schemes of persecution at the root of their behaviors. Delusions and hallucinations are common characteristics of the illness. Disorganized schizophrenia also called hebephrenic schizophrenia whereby the person is verbally incoherent and may show emotions and moods that are not appropriate to the situation. Catatonic schizophrenia; whereby the person is negative, extremely withdrawn and isolated. Residual schizophrenia; where the person lacks motivation and interest in day-to-day living, but doesn't suffer from delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech, Schizoaffective disorder where people exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia as well as mood disorder for example bi-polar mania and depression (schizophrenia.com).
Treatments for Schizophrenia
Though schizophrenia has no cure, a variety of treatment options are available for patients. The use of antipsychotic medication is the most common in treating schizophrenia, 70% of patients who use this treatment improve. Anti depressants may also be used in treating schizophrenia and are especially recommended for people suffering from schizoaffective disorder and tend to reduce the symptoms of this illusion. Psychotherapy is highly recommended for schizophrenic patients. Behavioral treatment works hand in hand with a medical treatment regiment. Family therapy, cognitive therapy and psychoeducation therapy can all help schizophrenics in dealing with the symptoms of this illness and also help them to learn how to operate in society (Epigee).
A big number of people suffer from schizophrenia; overtime advances in the field of medicine have played a huge role in the greater understanding of this illness. Though diagnosis of this illness may be difficult, the symptoms are treatable through a combination of drugs and therapy and these patients may be able to live a productive life as integrated members of the society.