In my essay I will attempt to explain schizophrenia and the symptoms of the disorder. I will also describe and evaluate evidence that has been put forward to attempt to explain what causes the disorder. First of all I will explain what schizophrenia is even if some deny that schizophrenia exists (see for example Laing; Foucault; Scheff). Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness and the odds that a person will develop this illness at some time in his life are one in a hundred. Schizophrenia comes from the Greek skhizo, to split, and phren, mind.
But schizophrenia is not a split personality or multiple personality disorder (i.e. movies like “The three faces of Eve” and “Sibyl” also “Jekyl and Hyde”) as most people may think, it is a distorted view of reality. It is now considered that schizophrenia is a variety of illnesses, in each of which there may be somewhat different symptoms and for which the causes may also are different. What exactly causes schizophrenia is at the moment unknown. Researchers have looked at all possibilities – physical factors, genetic inheritance, biochemical differences, social factors, and psychological explanations.
Those suffering from the psychosis schizophrenia have such severe disturbances of emotion and thinking that they are out of touch with reality. The illness occurs in all walks of life and it affects generally people in the late teens and twenty’s. Occurrence after the age of 30 is uncommon, after 40 is rare. This suggests it is developmental disorder. It can strike suddenly. Once affected people tend to drift downwards socially and often end up living in the poorer sections of their communities. This is the result of unemployment, recurrent hospitalisation, loss of vocational skill and moving away from home to be independent. The long-term effects of schizophrenia also include lack of confidence, depression and anxiety. It can also lead to exclusion by society because of the stigma attached to it.
About one third of all schizophrenics recover fully from the disease while another third relapse from time to time but maintain a reasonable level of functioning. The last third encounter acute and chronic symptoms with no realistic chance of getting back again into social life. Treatment can reduce the affects but so far no cure is known despite the world-wide research and the huge amount of money being spent to tackle schizophrenia. Schizophrenics like diabetics can usually be controlled by medication but not cured. In one study of schizophrenic patients only 8% who were taking drugs relapsed within 1 year but 68% of those who did not take the drug relapsed. In another study of schizophrenic patients taking injectable drugs, 8% relapsed within 2 years after the drug was stopped (Torrey, 1983). The greater the number of relapses the less the chances of a complete recovery.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include problems with attention, thinking, social relationships, motivation and emotion behaviour, slowness of movements, apathy and talking in a bored and dull way. Schizophrenics often have confused thinking and suffer from delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are mistaken interpretations of events i.e. the schizophrenic sees people talking to each other and thinks that there is a conspiracy to harm or even to kill him. A delusion of grandeur is when they think they are someone important i.e. Julius Caesar or Jesus. Hallucinations on the other side do not need an external stimulus. One of the most common experiences consists of voices.
There are two categories of symptoms of schizophrenia. The positive (hallucinations and delusions), also known as the acute symptoms and the negative (chronic) ones such as apathy and withdrawal. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) went further and splits the symptoms into three categories. They are named as followed: paranoid, disorganised and catatonic. The paranoid type includes delusions and hallucinations while the disorganised one have symptoms like confusion of speech and behaviour. The catatonic type reflects itself in apathy, withdrawal, lack of motivation, bizarre postures and echolalia were the schizophrenic repeats words or imitate manners of others.
There is a tendency with reasonable evidence to argue that schizophrenia has genetic factors. Most of this evidence is the result of the outcome of twin and adoption studies where one is known to be schizophrenic. These studies generally confirmed that genetic factors play a major role. The accordance rate (the rate of probability that the other twin is also schizophrenic) is 44% over several studies by monozygotic or identical twins but only 9% by dizygotic or fraternal twins which is in line compered with any other two siblings (Rosenthal, 1970). In a study by Tienari (1987) children of schizophrenic mothers were taken away from them shortly after birth and given up for adoption.
It was found that they were much more likely to become schizophrenic than adopted children who were born to ‘normal’ mothers. The closer the blood relationship to a person with schizophrenia, the higher the genetic risk of becoming ill with the disease. These findings strongly suggest is a strong that schizophrenia has a genetic basis. If there is a genetic basis, then it must show itself in some way either biologically or in structural abnormalities in the brain.
Some researchers have focused on a neurotransmitter substance in the brain that allows communication between nerve cells. Recently some evidence from research on dopamine receptors suggests that too many may cause some of the symptoms shown by schizophrenic patients. This is because a decrease of them reduces disordered thought and behaviour. Studies with amphetamines have also given further support for the theory of dopamine receptors. It seems that the dopamine metabolism in schizophrenics is abnormal. PET (positron emission tomography) scans which allows research of metabolic activity in live brains has been carried out by Wong (1986) with the result that there is a much greater number of dopamine receptors by schizophrenics than by a control group.