An Analysis of Schizophrenic
-By Sania Patel
Mental health. Most people are familiar with the term; however, few truly understand the meaning of mental health. It’s defined as the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of a person. Poor mental health conditions are among the most common health conditions in the United States.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental health illnesses are described as “health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these).” Mental illnesses are associated with distress, anxiety, and depression, and they commonly cause problems functioning in social, work, or family activities.
One example of a severe mental illness is schizophrenia. Schizophrenia affects how people think, feel, and act. Many people that suffer from schizophrenia comment on their loss of reality. If left untreated, schizophrenia can lead to persistent and disabling symptoms. The American Psychiatric Association defines schizophrenia as “a chronic brain disorder that affects less than one percent of the U.S. population. When schizophrenia is active, symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, trouble with thinking, and lack of motivation. However, with treatment, most symptoms of schizophrenia will greatly improve, and the likelihood of a recurrence can be diminished.” Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disorder that involves a breakdown between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal; from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.
There are many symptoms of schizophrenia, and they can be divided into three main categories. The first type of symptoms seen in schizophrenic patients if psychotic symptoms. Psychotic symptoms include altered perceptions, abnormal thinking, and odd behaviors. People experience changes in vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. People with schizophrenia often experience a loss of reality through hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorders. Patients hear voices and see things that are not true, they face irrational fears and beliefs, and they suffer from disorganized speech.
Another category of schizophrenic symptoms is harmful symptoms. Negative symptoms include reduced motivation, difficulty planning, indecisiveness, and an overall loss of motivation in daily activities. They also experience social withdrawal and have difficulty showing emotions and functioning normally. Patients also encounter the “flat affect”, which explains the reduction of expression or emotions through facial expression or voice tone.
Cognitive symptoms categorize the last schizophrenic symptoms. Cognitive symptoms include problems in attention, concentration, and memory. Some patients experience difficulty processing information to make decisions, have trouble focusing, and have issues using information immediately after learning it.
There are three leading causes of schizophrenia - genetics, environment, and brain structure and function. Other factors may include exposure to biochemical substances, alcohol and drug abuse, pregnancy, birth complications, and family relationships. The first cause of schizophrenia is genetics, and there are some cases where schizophrenia runs in families. Genetic studies strongly suggest that there are specific genes that increase the risk of developing schizophrenia; however, there is no particular gene that causes the disease itself.
Another cause of schizophrenia is the environment in which one is subject. There have been several studies that link schizophrenia appearance in people who have experienced particularly stressful environments. Particular factors may include poverty, exposure to viruses, malnutrition, and sexual and physical abuse.
The final cause of schizophrenia lies within the brain structure and function. Scientists believe that minor differences in brain structure can affect the interactions among neurotransmitters, further affecting the particular areas of function. The National Institute of Mental Health provides an example, “differences in the volumes of specific components of the brain, in the way regions of the brain are connected and work together, and in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, are found in people with schizophrenia.” These differences can develop before birth or during puberty, resulting in psychotic episodes and initial signs of schizophrenia.
There are many effects of schizophrenia that touch both the physical and social aspects of a patient’s life. People commonly face anxiety, depression, fear, and thoughts of self-harm. Due to the illusions in their daily life, normal activities can be neglected, such as maintaining a job, cooking, cleaning, and social interaction. Schizophrenia develops extreme paranoia in patients, which can further affect one’s ability to make decisions, take care of their finances, and deal with relationships. Overall, these effects can make it very difficult for a patient with schizophrenia to survive daily life; luckily, there are some available treatments.
Before looking to treatment, one must be diagnosed with a mental illness. Schizophrenia has a series of steps to take before medical professionals can make an accurate judgment. First, one must take a physical exam and complete various tests and screenings. Next, one must take a psychiatric evaluation and meet the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia to be accurately diagnosed.
Current treatment of schizophrenia includes typical prescription and over-the-counter drugs; however, it is often recommended that patients seek psychiatric help in conjunction with their current treatment. Depending on the level of the disease, one might also be offered a social worker, psychiatric nurse, therapist, and possibly a case manager or therapist. Many current medications provided for patients with schizophrenia only treat specific symptoms of the mental illness, but not the disease itself. Many people still face hallucinations and illusions that embed themselves into reality and manipulate their emotions, feelings, thoughts, and actions. Overall, it is crucial to understand and continue searching for treatments for schizophrenic patients.