Schizophrenia. What is schizophrenia? What are the causes? What is it's history? What are the symptoms? How is it treated? What are the different forms of the disorder?

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Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects the brain. There are two ways in which

schizophrenics are viewed. Some view people with this disorder as blessed because they see visions and communicate with voices, as if they were getting messages from higher beings. Psychics often say that the way they predict the future is through hearing voices, messages from dead spirits, or by seeing objects around the person whose fortune they are telling. Could Psychics really be schizophrenics? Or could schizophrenics really be psychic? This disorder is believed to have been around for a while. In the past, people with these visions were thought of as messengers of the gods. They were believed to have magical powers and were thought of as medicine men who could heal.

Later on when Christianity became the main religion, people with this mental disorder were believed to be witches and were burned at the stake.

They were thought to be possessed by the devil. They were locked up or cast out to live on the street. If they committed a crime, they were imprisoned and often kept in chains, unlike nowadays, where if they commit a crime and are found it to be a result of a mental disorder, instead of being locked up, they are given treatments and sent to get help. Just like the Christians from back then thought of these people as crazy, most people today think of schizophrenics as insane, and that they deserve to be locked up from the outside world. Most people don't understand this disorder and so they treat people with this disorder as if they weren't human.

There seems to be a link between artistic creativity and mental illness. Many artists, musicians, and writers have had mental illnesses. Some example of these are, Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe, and Vaslav Nijinsky.

One in every 100 people gets schizophrenia at least one time in their lifetime. This disorder usually comes about between the teen years and early twenties. So far, no real cause has been found for this sickness and no permanent cure has been found. There are treatments though that can help schizophrenics to live a normal life.

Schizophrenia is a non-contagious disease where the person cannot tell reality apart from imagination. He may hear voices or sounds, smell and see things that aren't really there. They believe that these hallucinations are real. Some of them believe they have special powers like that they are able to read people's minds, or they believe that others are plotting against them. They often remove themselves from society as a result of this. They are loners and usually don't have very many friends. Schizophrenia starts out gradually and most schizophrenics were odd, or different, and rebellious as a teenager. Many are also very smart but have no interest in showing off their gifts and talents. Their talents are wasted as a result of their condition. Many end up without a job and without a home. Attempting suicide is common among schizophrenics, and sadly, many succeed.

Many schizophrenics have something like an invisible friend. They see people and hear people that no one else can see or hear. This "person" or persons often tells them to do stuff and they often get in trouble as a result of this. This is why many people become murderers as a result of a mental illness. Did you have an invisible friend when you were a child? I always wanted to have one but it never worked. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stretch my imagination that far. Now I wonder if the little kids with imaginary friends really thought their friends were real and if maybe this was a result from a mental disorder.

Many Schizophrenics think that they are normal, and that everyone is like himself or herself. They think that everyone hears disturbing voices, or sees objects and have to deal with everything that they have to deal with, and they are always wondering how everyone else seems to be so happy. Many schizophrenics think that their disorder is their fault and they sometimes use suicide as a punishment instead of just an escape. They are often moody, and remove themselves from social interaction.

Symptoms of schizophrenia are usually first seen between the ages of 16 and 30. This person can't tell the difference between reality and the imagination. They are often confused, anxious, withdrawn, and quiet. They may have strange reactions. For example, they may laugh at the death of someone, or they may cry at a joke. They have hallucinations and delusions. A hallucination is something that is imagined, it is not real, but the person thinks is real, for example ghosts. These may be seen, heard or smelled. A delusion is a false belief. The person may have a delusion that they posses a special physical or mental power. They may believe that they are someone else, like the president or a celebrity. I once saw one example of this in a TV series, Friends. One episode was about this girl who thought that she was able to see the world through her television set, she believed the show Days of Our Lives was real because she knew one of the actors ( a character named Joey). She believed that she could spy on Joey through her television set , and believed that everything that went on in the show was actually happening in real life.

One type of delusion is called paranoia. This is when the person thinks they are being watched or followed. They think that others are plotting against them..

Schizophrenics often find normal every day tasks such as school work, household chores, and job duties, super hard to do because they find it hard to concentrate. They have a hard time trying to make conversation and trying to express their feelings. Sometimes they become so busy with their fantasy world, that they forget about personal hygiene. They may forget to bathe, change clothes, eat, and sleep properly.

Forty to fifty percent of schizophrenics attempt suicide to get away from their fantasy world. They think about suicide during times that they are not experiencing the effects of the disorder, when they are able to think clearly and they realize the kind of life they are living. People who know they are sick are more likely to commit suicide than those who refuse to accept it.

Treatments for schizophrenia first started out in the 1800s. This disorder was given a name, dementia praecox, dementia meaning insanity and praecox meaning premature. This name was probably given because many people when they reach old age get a condition called Alzheimer's disease where they become mentally ill. In 1911, Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler gave it the name schizophrenia, which means split mind.

Schizophrenia is considered to be a psychotic disorder. A psychotic disorder is when there is something different about the mind, something that is missing or not supposed to be there, and it includes hallucinations, disorganized speech, delusions, and disorganized behavior. Schizophrenia involves many symptoms. Some of these symptoms are called dysfunctional symptoms. These include, problems with concentration and thinking, emotional upsets, weird non sensible speech, stopping suddenly when talking, not caring, and a lack of attention. The symptoms of schizophrenia can be categorized into two categories. These are positive symptoms and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are symptoms that show an increase of activity in the brain, it is where there is a lot of thinking, a lot of use of the brain. Negative symptoms are those that show a decrease of activity in the brain. This is brought on by a loss of normal brain function.

Delusion is a positive symptom. A person who has delusions may feel extremely superior or extremely low. Usually, the person with schizophrenia feels extremely low, they feel like they are nothing, that they are worthless and everyone else is better than them. They also think that people are plotting against them. For example, if they see a group of people talking, and suddenly one of those people turn around and looks at the schizophrenic, the schizophrenic will think that the people are talking about him. Other schizophrenics feel superior to others. For example, they may feel like they are mind readers or that they can control other people's actions. Some may even think that they caused a recent natural disaster such as an earthquake or a volcano that just occurred, or they may believe that there is a war going, which of course only they know about, that will determine the fate of the world. For example, I once read of a schizophrenic that believed that he was getting secret alien messages from library books and that they were telling him that the world would soon come to and end and he would end up living in outer space with a blue space women. They would be the only survivors and would start their own new species of turquoise people.

Another positive symptom is hallucinations. The person may smell, hear, and see what is not really there. The most common hallucinations are voices. Sometimes the voices are talking to the person and sometimes the voices are talking about the person as if the person wasn't even there. A less common hallucination are visual hallucinations. The person may see ghosts, objects, animals, or fantasy creatures like dragons.

Hallucinations and delusions are the more frequent positive symptoms. A less frequent positive symptom is disorganized thinking. This symptom shows in the person when they talk. For example, they may show this if lets say u asked the person a question about cats, and then the person starts talking about something completely off the subject such as say chocolate.

Sometimes you can't even understand what the person is saying. Another symptom that is also not as frequent is called grossly disorganized behavior. This symptom includes acting silly and having a sloppy or weird appearance. For example the person may wear winter clothes during the summer.

Another symptom is called catatonic symptoms. This is when the person is not aware of what is going on around them. The person may stand while everyone else is sitting for no reason whatsoever. The person may refuse to move when you try to move them. The person may be extremely active or excited. All of these things are called catatonia.

One negative symptom is one called affective flattening. This is when the schizophrenic looks confused, they may not respond when you talk to them, or refuse to make eye contact as if they were ignoring you. They don't show expression. Another one is alogia. Alogia is when the person gives short meaningless answers to questions or comments. The person with alogia may seem like they can't turn their thoughts into words. Avolition is another negative symptom. It is when the person is not interested in doing anything and he or she does not have any goals, neither long term nor short term. This person doesn't do any social interactions, and does not have any hobbies, or plans for their life. They show very little interest in work and social activities.

There are 5 main subtypes of schizophrenia. The first subtype is paranoid type. This is the most common type of schizophrenia. These schizophrenic's symptoms include delusions, and hallucinations. This person is able to think and communicate with other people, so you can't tell they are schizophrenic just by looking at them. There is very few signs of disorganized speech and catatonic behavior. There may be some negative symptoms, but positive symptoms are more noticeable. This person is often angry and anxious.

Another type is the disorganized type. This person may go off subject a lot during conversation. They may forget to shower, eat, and change their clothes. The is person may have a hard time thinking and may make strange expressions. They may laugh or smile for no reason whatsoever. Hallucinations and delusions are not common for a person with this type of schizophrenia.

A third type is catatonic type. With the catatonic type the person shows what is known as a psychomotor disturbance. They may make weird motions and may stand sit or rest in weird positions. They may appear numb and have stiff posture. They may also have involuntary muscle reactions. There is also repetition. They may repeat a word or an action that someone else just said or did. Just because a person shows catatonic symptoms though, does not mean they have schizophrenia. The symptoms may be a result from another brain disease, alcohol, drugs, or a mood disorder.

Another type is the undifferentiated type. This person has some symptoms of schizophrenia but he/she doesn't really fit into any of the categories. The last type is the residual type. A person that fits into this category has suffered from schizophrenia in the past but shows no main symptoms anymore. They may not have the major symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, but they still display some minor symptoms such as they may be emotionless and have minor speech difficulties.

There is no sure cause of schizophrenia but there are some theories as to what may contribute to the disorder. Genetics, chemical imbalances, and a person's surroundings have been found to contribute to schizophrenia. Schizophrenia seems to run in the family. Schizophrenics that have a family history of the disease tend to have more serious behavioral problems as a child than schizophrenics that do not have a family history. The risk for a person to get schizophrenia if someone in their family has it is ten times greater than people whose family does not have a history of the disorder. Scientists have found that abnormal genes are sometimes found more often in schizophrenics than in other people. Another thing that shows that genes may be a factor is the study between identical twins. If one twin is affected with schizophrenia, the other one has a 40% risk for the disease.

Schizophrenics may be a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Studies of the brain have found differences in the brain structure of schizophrenics. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans show that people with schizophrenia often have ventricles that are larger than they are supposed to be, and reduced amounts of the other brain tissue. Tests have shown that people who have schizophrenia seem to have a difficult time balancing activity between different areas of the brain. For example, when some one thinks or talks, that person usually if you see what their brain is doing, it will show an increase of activity in their frontal lobes, and a decreasing activity in the part of the brain that is used for hearing. People who have schizophrenia also show an increase in frontal lobe activity, but there is no decrease of activity in the hearing area.

Schizophrenia may also be linked to a lack of nutrition during pregnancy. It has been shown that pregnant women who eat less than 1000 calories a day during the first three months of their pregnancy have a higher risk of having a child who will get schizophrenia than those expected mothers who don't starve themselves. Also, other studies have shown that a person may also get schizophrenia if there were abnormalities at the point when their brain was developing while they were a fetus. this is usually around week 34. Studies have also shown that people who were not breast fed as a baby also have a higher risk for schizophrenia, but then again, studies

have shown that if you were not breast fed you have a higher risk for everything, cancer, allergies etc.

Drug abuse can often make symptoms of schizophrenia worse. Alcohol also causes bad effects. It may contribute to delusions, and it can be dangerous if it is taken in while the person is on a medication, especially if they are on tranquilizers. Even regular drugs like those that help fight a cold can be dangerous for a schizophrenic. Relapses of schizophrenia can be brought on by traumatic events such as a death, loss of job, or stress.

Schizophrenics tend to be big smokers. New studies have found that smoke may block the activity of the protein monoamine oxidase B. This leads to an increase of phenylethylamine in the brain. Phenylethylamine is a compound that is related to mania and hyperactivity.

There is no cure for schizophrenia but it can be treated with medication. Since a certain drug may work differently for different people, doctors have to experiment to see which drug works best for their patient. When they find the best drug, they try to find the smallest dose possible that will work. Drugs used to treat schizophrenics are called anti psychotics. One common anti psychotic is thorazine. This drug blocks the activity of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Two other common ones are haldol, a tranquilizer, and risperdal, which controls the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. When given a medication, patients should keep using the medication even if they think they will feel fine without them because they risk relapses. Women are more likely to have a better chance in a positive outcome than men, this may be because of the effects estrogen has on the brain. Some women don't develop schizophrenia until after menopause, when levels of estrogen start to disappear.

A dramatic form of treatment is electroconvulsive therapy. This is connecting electric wires to the person and quickly sending electric shock through his forehead. This is risky and can result in memory loss. This method is rarely used and it is only considered when the patient is extremely depressed or doesn't show improvement with other medication. Even more dramatic is a lobotomy (brain surgery). In this procedure, the prefrontal lobe of the cerebrum is cut. This is the part of the brain that coordinates a lot of the human intelligence.

Medication and surgery isn't enough to treat schizophrenics. Physiotherapy is also used. Individual therapy may be used. This is one on one sessions with a psychiatrist or other mental health worker. They help the patient tell the imagination and reality apart from each other. Another type of therapy is family therapy. This is used to help the family understand and cope. Another form of therapy is group therapy. In this scenario, the patient is surrounded by others like himself and everyone learns off of each other. This helps in developing social skills.

People with schizophrenia and other related mental disorders are often shunned and not accepted in society. This is partly because of the way Hollywood portrays people with mental illnesses. People see them as dangerous, they think that they can kill them and others and that they should be locked up. In reality the mentally ill have no interest in harming others, unless of course if their hallucinations tell them to do it, but that does not happen often as you might think. Usually they are too stressed with their own problems to worry about hurting others, and most of them are less violent than everybody else. They are usually the victims, not the criminals.

Many people fear schizophrenics and others with disorders similar to schizophrenia because they do not truly understand the disorder and what the person is going through. Some people even go as far as to think that the mentally ill are actually possessed by evil spirits, or that they have the devil inside of them. These beliefs were more common in the past, luckily nowadays more and more people are starting to understand schizophrenics as a result of technology and its advances.


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