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If the phobias and depression are the common colds of psychological disorders, chronic schizophrenia is cancer. About 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia, joining the millions who have suffered one of humanity’s most dreaded disorders. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder, in which a person loses contact with reality by experiencing grossly irrational ideas and distorted perceptions. Schizophrenia typically first strikes during adolescence or young adulthood; it knows no national boundaries and it affects the two sexes about equally.
This paper intends to: (1) understand what schizophrenia really is; (2) know causes of schizophrenia and; (2) aware how an individual can be schizophrenic.
Imagine yourself living hundreds or thousands of years ago. How might you have accounted for the behavior of a James Oliver Huberty? To explain puzzling behavior, our ancestors often presumed that strange forces—the movements of stars, godlike powers, or evil sprits—were at work. “The devil made him do it,” you might have said. The cure might have been to get rid of the evil force—by exorcising the demon or even by chipping a hole in the skull to allow the evil spirit to escape. Until the last two centuries, “mad” people were sometimes caged in zoo-like conditions or given “therapies” appropriate to a demon. Disordered people have been beaten, burned, and the clitoris cauterized. They have had their own blood removed and replaced with transfusions of animal blood (Farina, 2002).
In response to such brutal treatment, reformers such as Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) in France insisted that madness was not demon possessed but a disease that, like other diseases, we could treat and cure. For Pinel, treatment meant boosting patients’ morale by talking with them and by providing humane living conditions. When it was later discovered that an infectious brain disease, syphilis, produced a particular psychological disorder, people came to believe in physical causes for disorders and to search for medical treatments.
Today, Pinel’s medical perspective is familiar to us in the medical terminology of the mental health movement: A mental illness (also called a psychopathology) needs to be diagnosed on the basis of its symptoms and cured through therapy, which may include treatment in a psychiatric hospital. In the 1800s, the assumption of this medical model—that psychological disorders are sicknesses—provided the impetus for much-needed reform. The “sick” were unchained and hospitals replaced asylums.
Equating psychological disorders with sickness does, however, have its critics, among them psychiatrist Thomas Szasz. Szasz believes that mental “illnesses” are socially, nor medically, defined. When, for many years, Soviet psychiatrists diagnosed dissident citizens as “psychotic,” they were using medical metaphors to disguise their contempt for these people’s political ideas. Szasz concludes that in North America, too, mental health practitioners have too much authority in today’s society.
When they demean people with the label “mentally ill,” their parents may begin to view themselves as “sick” and therefore give up taking responsibility for coping with their problems. Many critics respond similarly to the idea that alcohol abuse, overeating, gambling, and sexual promiscuity are addictive diseases— purely uncontrollable compulsions that require sympathy and treatment. As we well see, labels can be self-fulfilling fables.
Despite such criticisms, the medical perspective survives and even gains renewed credibility from recent discoveries. Genetically influenced abnormalities in brain chemistry have been linked with two of the most troubling psychological disorders, depression, and schizophrenia, both of which are often treated medically.
Those who accept Freud’s psychoanalytic perspective agree that psychological disorders are sicknesses that have diagnosable and treatable causes. However, they insist that these causes may include psychological of traumatic stress such as that caused by raped and combat.
Schizophrenia is not only the most dreaded psychological disorder but also one of the most heavily researched. Some important new discoveries link schizophrenia with biological factors, such as brain abnormalities and genetic predispositions.
Schizophrenia is one of the most heavily researched psychological disorders. Several factors have been proposed as causes of schizophrenia, from biochemical imbalances in the brain to faulty family relationships and socioeconomic environment. Although a great deal of interesting research has been carried out, to date no single factor has been isolated as the cause of schizophrenia.
Recent advances in the measurement of brain structure and function have set the stage for comparing normal individuals with those suffering from schizophrenia. One brain-imaging technique, computer-assisted tomography, or CT scan, uses many low-energy X-rays of the living brain taken at a number of different points and integrated into pictures by a computer. Studies using this technique show that many individuals with schizophrenia have enlarged brain ventricles, compared to normal persons. Some researchers believe a link exists between the enlarged ventricles and the lower frequency of alpha waves observed among individuals with schizophrenia.
A popular line of research in recent years has been the search for a genetic link in schizophrenia. Several approaches to the study of genetic relationships have been used. Overall, results of this research are consistent with a genetic basis for the disorder. For example, identical twins are more likely to share schizophrenic diagnoses than fraternal twins, whether the twins are reared apart or together. The greater the severity of schizophrenia, the more pronounced this relationship is. Furthermore, children whose parents both have schizophrenia are three times more likely to develop the disorder than are children with only one parent with schizophrenia, whether children are reared with their parents or not.
Children who are reared by an adoptive parent with schizophrenia but whose biological parents are normal do not have a higher rate of schizophrenia (Kestenbaum, 2001). The most convincing evidence for a genetic relationship comes from research showing a characteristic defect on chromosome 5 among family members who have some types of schizophrenia (Sherrington, 2000).
Naturally, scientists wonder whether people inherit a predisposition to these brain abnormalities. The evidence strongly suggests that some do. The 100-to-1 odds against any person is being diagnosed with Schizophrenia become 10-to-1 among those who have an afflicted identical twin. Although there are only a dozen such known cases, it appears that an identical twin of schizophrenia victim retains that 50-50 chance whether they are reared together or apart (Wong, 2000).
Adoption studies confirm a genetic link (Gottesman, 2001). Children adopted by someone who develops schizophrenia are unlikely to “catch” the disorder. But adopted children do have an elevated risk if a biological parent is diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The genetic contribution is beyond question. But the genetic role is not so straightforward is beyond question. But the genetic role is not as straightforward as the inheritance of eye color. After all, about half the twins who share identical genes with a schizophrenia victim do not develop the disorder. Thus, behavior geneticists Susan Nicol and Irving Gottesman (2001) conclude that some people “have a genetic predisposition to the disorder but that this predisposition by itself is not sufficient for the development of schizophrenia.”
Schizophrenia sufferers must not be condemned but need assistance from their loved ones. The most common psychosis is schizophrenia, which usually appears first in childhood or adolescence. There are several types of schizophrenia, with symptoms ranging from excited and sometimes aggressive behavior to complete withdrawal into a stupor. Contrary to popular belief, a schizophrenic does not have a “split personality”; this notion may have developed from the fact that episodes of the illness may be separated by periods of completely normal behavior. Many psychiatrists believe there is an organic basis for schizophrenia—that it is only partly psychogenic or not psychogenic at all—and that it may be hereditary.
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