Schizophrenia is a debilitating, severe, and chronic mental illness. The disease is characterized by break down of emotional responsiveness and thought processes. In men, the symptoms of the disease start to manifest themselves in late teenage and early 20s whereas in females, they start in mid 20s and early thirties. The main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Schizophrenia, a mental illness precipitated by genetic and environmental factors can be treated by psychotic drugs and so through appropriate medication, individuals with the disorder are able to control their symptoms and lead a fulfilling life.Causes of Schizophrenia
There is no clear cause of schizophrenia but susceptibility to the disease in increased by environmental and genetic factors.Environmental factors
Environmental factors that contribute to development of schizophrenia are drug use, living environment, and prenatal stressors. Living in congested environments especially urban setting has been known to increase the risk of contracting the disease by a factor of two. Other factors that are associated with the disease are family dysfunction, poor housing conditions, social adversity, unemployment, and racial discrimination. It has been proven that the experience of childhood abuse increases the risk of getting the disease later in life(Golightley 37).Several drugs have been associated with the risk of developing schizophrenia. These drugs are cocaine, amphetamines, and cannabis. Approximately 50% of those with schizophrenia take alcohol or drugs excessively. Prenatal stressors increase one’s vulnerability of acquiring the mental illness. Increased stress increases the possibility of developing schizophrenia by increasing the production of cortisol. The stress inducing factors include low level of oxygen during labor and prenatal infection as a result of viral exposure (Drake and Lewis 40).Genetic Factors
There is a strong genetic component related to Schizophrenia. Individuals have a 10% probability of obtaining schizophrenia if first degree relatives (Siblings or parents) have the illness. This is opposed to 1% chance of the general population getting schizophrenia. Genetics only influence an individual developing the disease but does not determine whether one gets it or not. While the illness runs in families, approximately 60% of people with the disorder do not have family members with schizophrenia. Furthermore, genetically predisposed individuals do not always develop the disorder, which clearly show that genetics does not determine whether one develops the disorder but only influences its development (Golightley 41).Types of schizophrenia
There are five types of schizophrenia and each is based on the symptom exhibited by a person during assessment.Paranoid schizophrenia
In this type of schizophrenic disorder, an individual is preoccupied with one or many auditory hallucinations although he or she does not exhibit any disorganized behavior or speech.Disorganized schizophrenia
The major symptoms are disorganized behavior, disorganized speech and inappropriate effect. The person does not show catatonic symptoms.Catatonic schizophrenia
A person portray at least two of the following signs: excessive movement, resistance to movement, abnormal movements, repeating what others do or say, and difficulty in moving.Undifferentiated schizophrenia
It is characterized by a combination of two or more of the following signs: Hallucinations, delusions, disorganized behavior, disorganized speech, and catatonic behavior. The patient does not qualify for diagnosis of disorganized, catatonic, or paranoid type of the disorder.Residual Schizophrenia
Individual only exhibit negative symptoms which include withdrawal, decrease in function, and disinterest. All positive symptoms of schizophrenia are absent.Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia has five types of symptoms. These are hallucinations, delusions, negative symptoms, disorganized behavior, and disorganized speech. These symptoms vary both in severity and pattern.Delusions
This is a strongly held idea that a person possesses despite obvious and clear evidence. Delusions involve bizarre or illogical fantasies or ideas. The common forms of delusion are delusion of persecution where one believes that other people are after him or her, delusion of grandeur where one believes that he or she is a famous and important figure, delusion of reference where a neutral event is believed to have a special message to a person, and delusions of control which involves the belief that outside alien forces are controlling one’s actions or thoughts (Drake and Lewis 37).Hallucinations
These are sounds or other sensations that a person experiences as being real but in real sense, they only exist in the mind of the individual. Although any of the five senses may be involved in hallucination, the most common in people with schizophrenia is auditory hallucination. Visual hallucinations also occur relatively frequently. According to researchers, auditory hallucination transpires from misinterpretation of an individual inner self considered to be emanating from an external source. The voices in hallucination may be from a person that one knows and can be abusive, critical or vulgar. When an individual is alone, there is a high possibility of hallucination becoming worse (Drake and Lewis 38).Disorganized speech
The way a schizophrenic person talks reflects fragmented thinking. An individual finds it difficult to maintain a line of thought and concentrates poorly in his or her speeches. They may speak incoherently, may offer unrelated answers to questions and may say illogical things. Common signs of disorganized speech are neologisms which include phrases that only the patient understands, loose association that involves moving from one topic to the other without logical connection between thoughts, clang that involve using of rhyming words meaninglessly, and perseveration that entails repetition of statements and words(Golightley 60).Disorganized behavior
Goal-directed activity is disrupted in persons with schizophrenia and may result in inability of the person to take care of him or herself, interact with others and work. Disorganized behavior may be presented as unpredictable emotional response, daily functioning decline, bizarre behaviors, and lack of impulse control (Drake and Lewis 39).Negative symptoms
This refers to absence of behaviors that are usually shown by a normal and health person. Common negative symptoms of schizophrenia are lack of enthusiasm or interest, speech abnormality and difficulties, apparent lack of interest in the world such as social withdrawal, and absence of emotional expression (Drake and Lewis 39).Diagnosis
There is no proven laboratory test that offers diagnosis of schizophrenia. People with the disorder often exhibit several neurological abnormalities (non-diagnostic).They have decreased brain tissue, large cavum septum pelludi, enlarged lateral ventricles, decreased volume of thalamus and temporal lobe, and decreased metabolic functioning and blood flow of the frontal lobes. Upon psychological testing, they show several cognitive deficits that include poor memory, poor attention, impaired sensory gating, trouble in changing response set, slowed reaction time, abnormal smooth pursuit, alteration of brain laterality, and saccadic eye movements (Golightley 87).Treatment
Antipsychotic medication prevents recurrence and shortens the duration of psychosis experienced in schizophrenia. In most cases, it takes long for an individual to accept that he or she had the disorder that requires medication. Actually, after an individual stops taking their psychotic medication, schizophrenia may recur although it may take months or years before its relapse. Antipsychotic medication that includes antianxiety medication and antidepressant medication minimizes instances if suicide, improves individual’s social functioning, and reduces the frequency of rehospitalization. Lifelong medication of antipsychotic medication is critical for an individual to recover from schizophrenia (Golightley 77).Prevention of schizophrenia
Evidence for efficiency and effectiveness of early intervention of schizophrenia has not been concluded and research is till ongoing on. Whereas there is some proof that early intervention of individuals with psychotic episode may have good short term results, there are minimal benefits of these measures in attaining long term outcomes. Preventing schizophrenia is difficult as there are no reliable indicators for later development of the disorder.Epidemiology
Between the age of 15 and 44, schizophrenia is one of the leading causes of disability in developed countries. In fact it is the fourth largest cause of disability. The prevalence of the disorder varies from 0.5% to 1.5%.The occurrence of the disorder is higher in males than female. Men exhibit more of negative symptoms whereas women tend to be affected most by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and depression. The disorder is rare among children and the middle and old age. Schizophrenia causes about 1% of global disability adjusted life years and varies with each country (Golightley 89).Effects of schizophrenia
When signs and symptoms of the disorder are improperly treated or ignored, the effect can be destructive to both the individual and the society. The possible effects are:
Relationship problems: Relationships involving individuals with the disorder may suffer because they often isolate and withdraw themselves. Paranoia may cause the individual with schizophrenia to be suspicious of his or her family and friends.
Substance and alcohol abuse: People with the disorder usually develop problems with drugs or alcohol abuse. Alcohol and substance may be used in self medication attempts. Furthermore, they may resort to heavy smoking, thus making the situation complicated because cigarette smoke interferes with the effectiveness of psychotic medication (Sims 30).
Increased suicide risk: People with the disorder have high risks of committing or attempting suicide. Any threat, gesture or talks about suicide should be taken seriously and appropriate remedy taken. During psychotic episodes, schizophrenic people are likely to commit suicide. The tendency to commit suicide may also occur when they are depressed or in the first six months after taking medication (Sims 30).
Disruption to Normal daily activities: Schizophrenia results in extensive disturbance of normal daily functioning of an individual. This is because it causes social difficulty and makes tasks to be harder for the patient. Individual’s hallucination, disorganized thoughts and delusions typically bars him from conducting normal activities such as eating and bathing (Sims 30).Society and culture in relation to schizophrenia
The major obstacle towards the recovery of the patients is social stigma. In a 1999 study, 12.8% of Americans believed that people with schizophrenia were “very likely” to act violently against others whereas 48.1% stated that they were “somehow likely” to commit a violent act against others.74% of the representative sample stated that people with the disorder were “not able at all” to make resolutions on their treatment whereas 70% stated that they could not make any decision on managing money (Sims 33).
In conclusion, the options for treatment of schizophrenia are effective and the viewpoint of the disease continues to undergo positive changes. With therapy, strong support network, and medication, a large number of individuals with schizophrenia are able to gain greater independence, lead a fulfilling life and control their symptoms.
Sims, Andrew . Symptoms in the mind: an introduction to descriptive psychopathology.
Philadelphia:W. B. Saunders, 2002.
Drake James and Lewis Stephen. Early detection of schizophrenia. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 18.2(2005):14–150.
Golightley, Malcolm. Social work and Mental Health Learning Matters. London: Oxford
University Press, 2004.