Schizophrenia is one of the most devastating mental illnesses known to man.
Those who are schizophrenic are dehabilitated in every aspect of human thought,
emotion, and expression. A schizophrenic's thoughts become chaotic and disorganized
and his mind becomes "divorced from reality" (Young 1988: 15). Schizophrenia crosses
all racial, gender, social, and economic boundaries, affecting approximately 2.5 million
people in the United States alone (Goleman 1996: C1). It is the most prevalent mental
illness in the world, and is the leading reason for admittance into mental hospitals
(Brittanica 1992: 520). Schizophrenia is incurable, but it is possible to allay its symptoms
with antipsychotic drugs and therapy.
It is not known how long the disease schizophrenia has been in existence. A study
by the National Institute of Mental Health uncovered descriptions of the psychotic
symptoms common to schizophrenia dating back 5000 years ago, lending support to the
idea that schizophrenia has been around for most of human history (Young 1988: 21).
Ancient Greek physicians described deterioration in cognitive functions common to
schizophrenics today. Schizophrenia is the classical example of madness. Mental illness,
as a whole, was misunderstood and treated improperly. Disease was believed to be
caused by various types of body fluid known as humours. A believed imbalance of
humours was treated by such methods as bloodletting and vomiting. During the Middle
Ages, religion was associated with mental illness, and those who were ill were thought to
be possessed by demons. The first method of confinement of the mentally ill was to herd
them onto ships. The first hospitals for the mentally ill opened in Europe during the 13th
and 14th centuries.
Emil Kraeplin, a German psychiatrist, first classified schizophrenia as a distinct
illness in 1896. What we know today to be schizophrenia was dubbed dementia...