Understanding Schizophrenia: Unveiling the Complexity of a Mental Disorder
How would you react if you woke up one day and just felt off? You’d probably go about your day and carry on as usual. Days and weeks would go by, and you probably wouldn’t notice that feeling worsening or even notice anything different at all. Over time, you might start distancing yourself more from the things you once loved, whether it be from social occasions, hobbies, your close friends, or even possibly your loved ones. You might start to experience abnormal behavior and a lack of emotions.
Eventually, you end up having an episode where you might start to experience hallucinations or delusional thoughts. All of this could add up to being diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is typically associated with disruptive thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors. One might experience delusional thinking, loss of emotions, and possibly different hallucinations (Schizophrenia, 2018). This paper will discuss the following information regarding this disorder: history and prevalence, diagnosis and symptoms, contributors and mechanisms, biological components, social effects, and treatments.
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Prevalence and History
One of the first forms of possible evidence of mental illness dates back to the Stone Age. Some of the archaeological discoveries that were found were skulls that had burr holes drilled into them, possibly put there to release evil spirits from their remains (Burton, 2017). While researchers believe that mental illness has been around for as long as we have, it wasn’t until 1887 that German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin first distinguished this illness from other forms of psychosis. He called it ‘dementia praecox’. The name ‘dementia praecox,’ meaning ‘dementia of early life,’ was chosen because, at the time, he had believed it only occurred in adolescence. Later, the title was changed to ‘Schizophrenia’ by Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler in 1910 (Burton, 2017).
The term is derived from the Greek word schizo, meaning split, and phren, meaning mind. Due to this, It was often mistaken as an unrelated disorder known as Multiple Personality disorder (Burton, 2017). Schizophrenia is now a commonly known disorder in the United States but only occurs in about 1% of the population (Spielman et al.,2016). Having a first-degree relative gives a 6-10% greater risk of developing the disorder. If only one parent is affected, they have about a 13% chance, while having both parents affected puts one nearly at 50% (Pedersen, 2018). For most sufferers, symptoms usually start to appear during late adolescence or early adulthood. While the disorder could begin to show signs in childhood and late adulthood, it is extremely rare (Pedersen, 2018). Research has shown that males often show symptoms at a younger age than women tend to. Before the age of 19, women experienced signs of the disorder at 23%, while men were recorded at a higher rate of 40% (Pedersen, 2018).
Diagnosis and Symptoms
Most cases of Schizophrenia usually develop slowly and over an extended period of time. Other cases have shown signs of starting almost instantly (Nordqvist, 2017). Diagnosing the patient can be a long process, and different tests must be done to acquire a final diagnosis. Blood tests might be in order to rule out any other causes of Schizophrenia symptoms, such as the use of drugs like marijuana or psychedelics. They might also perform imaging studies to look for tumors or other problems in the structure of the brain that might be causing these symptoms. If no issues arise, they will give a psychological evaluation of the patient.
A specialist will observe and ask the patient about his or her mental state. Questions concerning their thoughts, moods, and violent tendencies will be asked. Along with whether they are experiencing any hallucinations or suicidal thoughts (Nordqvist, 2017). The patient must meet the requirements stated in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This manual is used to help diagnose mental illnesses by healthcare professionals. They must be experiencing at least two of the symptoms from the criteria, and the symptoms must persist for at least six months or more (Nordqvist, 2017).
Patients diagnosed with Schizophrenia may experience many unpleasant symptoms daily. Some symptoms that persist are disorganized thinking, hallucinations, delusions, and negative symptoms as well. Auditory hallucinations are most common and occur in about two-thirds of patients diagnosed with Schizophrenia. They hear voices in their head that can make it hard to concentrate on everyday tasks (Spielman et al., 2016). They can also experience different delusions, such as paranoid delusions, grandiose delusions, and somatic delusions. All deal with firm beliefs that are contradictory to their reality.
- “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness” by Elyn R. Saks
- “Surviving Schizophrenia: A Family Manual” by E. Fuller Torrey