West Georgia Technical College
This paper focuses on the foundations of schizophrenia, such as the biological, psychological, and the social causes of this illness, as well as the symptoms and treatment. The biological causes of this disorder are genetics and brain structure, therefore much of it is inherited (Tamminga and Madoff, 2000). The structure of the brain is somewhat irregular in schizophrenic patients. According to Tamminga et al. (2000), the hippocampus, located in the brain, has irregularities in shape. The psychological causes of schizophrenia vary from person to person, according to MacPherson (2009). Also, the social causes of schizophrenia can happen in any stage of life. In the prenatal stages of life, tragic catastrophes such as famine or exposure to radiation can be a risk for contracting schizophrenia (Tamminga et al., 2000). The major symptoms of determining if a person has schizophrenia are hallucinations and delusions, according to Picchioni and Murray (2007). Finally, treatment ranges from patient to patient; however, most patients are prescribed antipsychotics (Picchioni et al., 2007).
In today’s society, psychological disorders affect people’s lives tremendously. One specific disorder that scientists deemed as the “most serious and frightening of all mental illnesses” is schizophrenia (Picchioni and Murray, 2007, p. 91). According to Picchioni and Murray (2007), schizophrenia is defined as a persistent, reappearing disorder that “splits the psychic functions” (p. 91). There are many different reasons for the biological, psychological, and social causes of this disorder, as well as symptoms and treatments. Yet, still many questions are asked to this day on what the disorder actually is and how to treat it as effectively as possible.
Genetics and brain structure are the prime explanations of the biological causes of schizophrenia. A great risk for this disease is inherited (Tamminga and Medoff, 2000). Tamminga et al. (2000) found that “the more closely one is related to an individual with schizophrenia, the greater the risk of contracting the illness” (p. 340). For example, although the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia is less than 1%, it increases to 6.5% in first level relatives of patients already with the illness (Picchioni et al., 2007). Also, genetics greatly affect the risk of schizophrenia in twins. According to Tamminga et al. (2000), “the monozygotic twin of a person with schizophrenia, who shares the same genome, has a 40% to 50% risk of contracting the illness” (p. 341). Additionally, abnormalities in brain structure occur in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. Consistently, confirmed by numerous laboratories, concluded that the medial temporal cortex, parahippocampal cortex, entorhinal cortex, and the hippocampal cortex, all structures inside the brain, are reduced in size (Tamminga et al., 2000). Also, one study by Csernansky, established that there were “hippocampal shape irregularities” in patients with schizophrenia (Tamminga et al., 2000, p. 343).
The psychological causes of schizophrenia vary based on patient to patient. For example, according to a first person account of a schizophrenia patient, M. MacPherson, stated that the beginnings of this illness started with a unstable and confused sense of self that converted into a very low self-esteem (MacPherson, 2009). He then compared the boundaries of his self to his mother and/or father’s boundaries (MacPherson, 2009). Finally, MacPherson (2009) conjectured that his “world is very different from a normal world as experience in general society” (p. 286). Due to this realization, this very chaotic mental state led to a “splitting of emotions” (MacPherson, 2009, p. 286). Furthermore, an environment set apart by emotion and stress is a stimulant for schizophrenia (Tamminga et al., 2000).
There are many explanations to the social causes of schizophrenia in all phases of life. In the prenatal stage of life, tragic events such as famine, exposure to radiation, or illness from the mother can cause schizophrenia (Tamminga et al. 2000). Furthermore, during adulthood, various environmental factors, like “social isolation, migrant status, and urban life,” can have an effect of the development of this disorder (Picchioni et al., 2007, p. 92). Additionally, drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, and especially marijuana can trigger paranoid schizophrenia (Picchioni et al., 2007). For example, a study made by Dunedin in New Zealand, concluded that “early cannibis use increases the future risk of schizophrenia fourfold.” (Picchioni et al., 2007, p. 92).
The symptoms of schizophrenia could be positive or negative and are very vast. The positive symptoms, according to Picchioni et al. (2007), are the “lack of insight or failure to appreciate that symptoms are not real or caused by illness” (p. 92). Some big factors of determining schizophrenia are hallucinations and delusions (Picchioni et al., 2007). Hallucinations are defined as a “perception without a stimulus” and happen with all the five senses (Picchioni et al., 2007, p. 92). Furthermore, hallucinations that deal with hearing are most common (Picchioni et al., 2007). Delusions are “held false beliefs that are not shared by others from the patient’s community” (Picchioni et al., 2007, p. 92). Delusions have different themes, depending on the specific individual. For example, persecution is where the patient thinks that they are “victims of some form of threat” (Picchioni et al., 2007, p. 92). Another example of a specific type of delusion is passivity, where the patient thinks that “their thoughts or actions are being controlled by an external force or person” (Picchioni et al., 2007, p. 92). Thought disorder defines symptoms of schizophrenia as well (Picchioni et al., 2007). Patients with thought disorder are unable to logically and coherently use language and make out sentences when speaking (Picchioni et al., 2007). According to Picchioni et al. (2007), negative symptoms of schizophrenia include “social withdrawal, self-neglect, loss of motivation and initiative, emotional blunting, and paucity of speech” (p. 92).
The most advantageous treatment of schizophrenia is still widely debated today and fluctuates from patient to patient. For example, McPherson (2009) stated that his schizophrenia was treated with a medication assessment program and exercise. He also emphasized that recovery included “housing, support, education, life skills, technology, employment, and enjoying the arts” (MacPherson, 2009, p. 285). However, in general, once the symptoms of schizophrenia are affirmed by a psychiatrist, the patient is usually prescribed an antipsychotic (Picchioni et al., 2007). In conclusion, schizophrenia is a powerful psychological disorder that raises many questions. However, with the right minded people and technology, it is one illness that can be stopped.
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