Schizophrenia


Biology


5-11-04

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