Schizophrenia: Explained and Treatments

Jeffrey A. Hurt
Professor Leary
Abnormal Psychology 203
2 May 1996

Schizophrenia is a devastating brain disorder affecting people worldwide of all
ages, races, and economic levels. It causes personality disintegration and loss
of contact with reality (Sinclair). It is the most common psychosis and it is
estimated that one percent of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with it over
the course of their lives (Torrey 2). Recognition of this disease dates back to
the 1800\'s when Emil Kraepelin concluded after a comprehensive study of
thousands of patients that a "state of dementia was supposed to follow
precociously or soon after the onset of the illness." Eugene Bleuler, a famous
Swiss psychiatrist, coined the term "schizophrenia," referring to what he called
the "splitting of the various psychic functions" (Honig 209-211). Having a
"split personality" is often incorrectly associated with schizophrenia.
Possessing multiple personalities on different occasions is a form of neurosis
vice psychosis (Chapman). Symptoms most commonly associated with schizophrenia
include delusions, hallucinations, and thought disorder (Torrey 1). Delusions
are irrational ideas, routinely absurd and outlandish. A patient may believe
that he or she is possessed of great wealth, intellect, importance or power.
Sometimes the patient may think he is George Washington or another great
historical person (Chapman). Hallucinations are common, particularly auditory,
as voices in the third person or commenting upon the patient\'s thoughts and
actions (Arieti). Persons may also hear music or see nonexistent images
(Sinclair). Schizophrenic thought disorder is the diminished ability to think
clearly and logically (Torrey 2). Many times, schizophrenics invent new words
(called neologisms) with unique meanings (Chapman). Often it is apparent by
disconnected and meaningless language that renders the person incapable of
participating in conversation and contributing to his alienation from his family,
friends, and society (Torrey 2). There appears to be three major subtypes of
Schizophrenia: paranoid, hebephrenic, and catatonic. Delusions, often of
prosecution, are prominent in the paranoid type (Arieti). Hebephrenic
schizophrenia is characterized by thought disorder, chaotic language, silliness,
and giggling (Eysenck, Arnold, and Meili 961-962). In the catatonic form, the
person may sit, stand, or lie in fixed postures or attitudes for weeks or months
on end. The person may also have a symptom known as "waxy flexibility" in which
the victim will maintain positions of the body in which he is put for long
periods of time, even if they are uncomfortable (Arieti). There have been many
theories to explain what causes schizophrenia. Heredity, stress, medical
illness, and physical injury to the brain are all thought to be factors but
research has not yet pinpointed the specific combination of factors that produce
the disease (Sinclair). While schizophrenia can affect anyone at any point in
life, it is somewhat more common in those persons who are genetically
predisposed to the disease (Torrey 3). Studies have shown that approximately
12% of the offspring will be schizophrenic if one parent has the disorder and
50% if both parents have the disorder. This may be due to the fact that the
offspring are reared in an environment other than normal. Although statistics
from adoption agencies show that these rates are more affected by genes rather
than environment (Chapman). Three-quarters of persons with schizophrenia
develop the disease between 16 and 25 years of age. Onset is uncommon after age
30, and rare after age 40 (Torrey 3). Psychiatric patients are generally
insulted by contentions that their trouble was brought on by bad parenting,
childhood trauma, or week character (Willwerth 79). Sigmund Freud has suggested
that schizophrenia is developed from a lack of affection in the mother-infant
relationship in the first few weeks after birth. Increased levels of the
neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain\'s left hemisphere and lowered glucose
levels in the brain\'s frontal lobes have been coupled to schizophrenic episodes
(Chapman).

Treatment for schizophrenia includes electroconvulsive treatment (shock therapy),
psychosurgery, psychotherapy, and the use of antipsychotic medications (Torrey
5). Shock therapy is the application of electrical current to the brain (Long).
In 1937, shock therapy was first introduced and was the popular mode of
treatment until the late 1950\'s (Chapman). It is effective in the most severe
catatonic forms of schizophrenia, but its use in other forms is debatable
(Eysenck, Arnold, and Meili 964-965). Psychosurgery became common in the 1940\'s
and 1950\'s but is now in disrepute. Lobotomies, most often removal of the
frontal lobes, was the most widespread form of psychosurgery. Scientists have
since found that by artificially creating lesions in the area of the frontal
lobes, one\'s personality can seriously be modified (Baruk 196-197). For the
most part, society has condemned this form of treatment as inhumane.
Psychotherapy achieves the best results when the physician listens carefully to
his client\'s symptoms,