Affecting barely 1% of the US population, roughly 3.
5 millionadults aged 18 or older, Schizophrenia, or “Schizo” is one of the mostdisabling diseases affecting humankind (“How schizophrenia affects thebrain”, 2015). Schizophrenia is classified as an extreme and chronicbrain disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manageemotions, make decisions and relate to others. There are numerous othersymptoms and factors that follow “schizo” which are not involved in multiplepersonality disorder (dissociative identity disorder), however the two areeasily confused to the under educated. For decades, research on the etiology ofschizophrenia has been dominated by theories associated with genetics andneurotransmitters. Psychotic disorders as such nearly always emerge in lateadolescence or early adulthood, with onset peaking between the ages of 18 and25. The reasons for its appearance in this age range have not been identified(“Schizophrenia – Fact Sheet”).Contradicting many minds of public perception, “Schizo” is notbrought on by childhood events, lack of willpower, or poor parenting, however,the symptoms are not synonymous for each person (“Schizophrenia”,2017).
Although it’s not recognized what just quite is the source ofschizophrenia, to a majority of researchers it is believed that a certain unionof genetics, environment and brain chemistry play a part in the development ofthe disorder. Scientists recognize that the disorder is observed to begenetic and that a person inherits a tendency to develop the disease over time.If a parent, brother, or sister is affected, the chances go up by 10% and ifboth parents are affected, this chance increases to 40%. Indistinguishable tosome other genetically-related illnesses, schizophrenia has a possibility tomaterialize when the body undergoes hormonal and physical changes like those thatoccur during puberty or vastly stressful situations (“Schizophrenia”,2017). But some of those affected with schizophrenia have no history of it intheir family. Scientists think that in these cases, a gene may have changed andmade the condition more probable. Differences in genetic code can sometimesincrease one’s odds for developing diseases like schizophrenia as well anddoctors believe there is more than one gene that can be a potential cause ofschizophrenia.
Environment is also a potential factor to schizophreniadevelopment. If a patient were to be exposed to certain viral infections beforethey were born, chances of getting schizophrenia are instantly increased. Thismay also be true if someone didn’t get proper nutrition from their mother whileshe was pregnant, especially during her first six months of pregnancy. Schizophrenia involves a wide array of problems with bothcognitive behavior and emotions. Signs and symptoms may vary, and also have thepossibility to come and go, all depending on the person.
(“Schizophrenia”, 2016) While signs begin occurring sooner in menthan women, signs have a tendency to appear between the ages of 16 and 30.Often times, sufferers have close to no clue at all that they arepsychologically ill until informed formally by a medical professional. Signsand symptoms viewed as “positive” are simply actions not commonly witnessed by”healthy people”.
These signs and symptoms involve one being convinced of falsebeliefs that do not exist in reality, seeing and hearing things that don’texist, disorganized thinking and speech, and abnormal motor behavior. The”negative” symptoms are correlated with disruptions to “normal” emotions andbehaviors, including decreased expression of emotions in facial expressionsand/or tone of voice. Symptoms in teenagers however, may be harder to recognizebecause of natural personality and hormonal changes which would emit the samesymptoms. These symptoms may include reduced motivation, depressed or irritablemood, insomnia, poor performance in school and isolation from friends andfamily. Also, compared to symptoms in adults, teenagers hold a higher chance tohave visual hallucinations, yet are less prone to delusions of reality.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI),diagnosing schizophrenia is not easy. Some complications stem from the tendencyof the patient not being aware that they are a sufferer, which adds complexityto any diagnosis. In order to be clinically diagnosed with schizo, one mustexhibit two or more of the above stated symptoms, occurring for a significantperiod of time during a 1-month period.
(“NAMI”). However anexception stands when “severe” delusions or hallucinations consisting of one ormore disembodied voices maintaining an ongoing commentary of the patientsthoughts and actions, will pose as enough physical evidence for a diagnosisalone. Though there are no specific physical, psychological or lab tests thatcan singlehandedly diagnose the disorder, an MRI or a CT scan may be used inorder to rule out other disorders or illnesses such as: brain tumors andbipolar disorder. Therefore, medical professionals can assess the symptomsthrough a series of prolonged observations through the a set period of saidperson’s illness, or a psychiatric evaluation using the criteria of DSM-5, inorder to gain a full understanding of the disorder. Treatment of schizophrenia remains about as chronic asthe disorder does, even when symptoms may appear to have subsided. In somecases, hospitalizing the patient may be necessary, but typically medicationsand therapy will be the most common forms of treating this disorder. The mostrecurrent prescribed medication to these patients are antipsychotics (Fluphenazine(Proxlixin), Aripiprazole (Abilify), etc)which affect the neurotransmitters in the brain therefore controlling thesymptoms (“Schizophrenia”, 2016).
but other medications such asantidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs may be used as well to achieve differenteffects, since these are two side effects of schizophrenia. Psychotherapy is aform of treatment in which is used when patients are unresponsive to medications,or are in need of additional treatment. Some of these therapy techniques areCognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Enhancement Therapy and Supportivepsychotherapy, which all can be classified as cognitive rehabilitation for thepatient. As most factors do in this disorder, the prognosis of a”schizo” patient depends on the individual’s level of diagnosis. Schizophreniaresults in a higher mortality rate than those of the unaffected, leaving men ata 5.1% and women at a 5.6% increased chance of early death (“Schizophrenia,2016) due to its correlation with obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and chanceof suicide. This disorder also makes the patient more prone to physical healthrisks like diabetes, heart problems and even lung cancer.
As much as 25% ofpatients are also guilty of repetitive and severe substance abuse, whichitself can make treatments less effective for the patient, or even worsensymptoms. Disorders like OCD and anxiety are also noticeably a commondevelopment in schizo patients. Overall, there is no prevention forschizophrenia, although consistency through early treatment is the best wayimprove the long-term outlook, reducing relapses and to keep symptoms undercontrol before severe complications are able to manifest.