Paper on Schizophrenia

This essay has a total of 2287 words and 11 pages.


Schizophrenia: A Life Destroyer

Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious psychiatric illnesses. It affects one
percent of the general population. This is a socially and financially devastating disease
that robs people of their most productive years of life. Schizophrenia still continues to
be one of the most complex, puzzling and disabling of the major mental illnesses.

Most symptoms develop in men around the age of sixteen and twenty-five years old, and
around twenty-five to thirty years old in women. Schizophrenia rarely develops in
children and most schizophrenics appear to have a normal childhood.

A delusion, which is a false belief that defies logic and common sense, is a common
symptom of schizophrenia. The person thinks someone is watching them constantly or they
think people can read their mind. Hallucinations, hearing, seeing or sensing something
that isnít there, are another common symptom of schizophrenia. Some people experience
heightened senses, which is hypersensitivity of sense that leads to visual distortions.
Others experience auditory hallucinations. They sometimes carry on conversations or are
told to do things by one or may voices that are not there. Very rarely, but still as
devastating, some experience visual hallucinations or smell odd smells coming from
themselves. (Young, 67-68) More that 300,000 adults in this country are unable to
distinguish their imaginations from reality (Cookson).

In the 1700ís and the 1800ís, before much was known about mental diseases, schizophrenia
was thought of as witchcraft (Nichols). Anyone who displayed signs of this

disease was thought to have been possessed. The Puritans believed "distraction", as they
called it, was either possession by the devil, or punishment for sins. Yet, the strange
behavior of those afflicted was looked upon with tolerance. Through much of the 1700ís,
family or friends were expected to take care of the mentally ill. Dorothea Dix was a
school teacher who took up the cause of the mentally ill in the mid 1800ís, found
disturbed individuals living in sordid conditions, "confined in cages, closets, cellars,
stalls and pens: chained, naked, beaten with rods and lashed into obedience." She worked
to help these people live a more normal life. (Goode)

A dismal outlook for schizophrenia was dramatically changed in the 1950ís with the
development of the first antipsychotic drug, Chlorpromazine (Thorazine). Since then, more
that a dozen other similar-acting antipsychotic medications have been developed. These
drugs work by blocking binding sites of dopamine, which is a main factor in schizophrenia.
Chlorpromazine was first used as an antihistamine. Then, it was found to calm
hyperactive schizophrenic patients out of withdrawal and reduced major symptoms of the
disease. A lot of false medication was used before the discovery of chlorpromazine. An
insulin coma, as one example, was used to relieve most symptoms by overloading the
patientís body with insulin. This helped some patients, because it calmed them down, but
killed most of them. Electroconvulsive therapy, where brief pulses of electronegativity
are passed through the brain, was also used. It was thought that using this type of
treatment, symptoms could be reduced or eliminated, but it did neither. This only helped
the severely depressed and only calmed them for a little while. Doctors also attempted a
frontal lobotomy, which was a surgical removal of the front parts of the brain. A frontal

lobotomy was done because it was thought that the front part of the brain was responsible
for schizophrenia. This did nothing but make a quieter patient. These practices were
commonly used to try to suppress the main symptoms of schizophrenia. Mainly, these
practices did nothing but torture the patient and make him or her suffer extremely.
(Young 67-68)

Many schizophrenics will carry on conversations with voices or people who are not really
there. The voices may tell them what to do and how to harm themselves or others. This
puts the patient at a huge risk for committing suicide. The medication that is prescribed
to them attempts to stop the voices or other symptoms. In turn, most schizophrenics would
experience severely painful side effects. These side effects included constipation,
drowsiness, dry mouth and blurred vision, which would most like diminish after a few
weeks. Other side effects that is less likely to diminish included restlessness, slurred
speech, trembling of hands and feet, muscle rigidity in the neck and head. Most patients
experienced a tremendous amount of weight gain and could not lose the extra pounds, while
some also experienced sun sensitivity and fainting.

The next story is one case of schizophrenia. It shows what a typical schizophrenic would
go through in life. The ending is like most schizophrenics, where the stress becomes too
much and the patient attempts to escape it by killing themselves. Eighteen to fifty-five
percent of people living with schizophrenia attempt suicide, with more than ten percent of
a success rate (Bathen). Many schizophrenics cannot cope with the stresses of everyday
life and feel that the only way to escape would be to kill themselves. Environmental
factors can affect the person too. If the person is constantly treated as a

nuisance, is abused about how the act or is not shown love and understanding, he or she
may be lonely and turn to other things to help them deal with it. In turn, some talk to
the voices in their heads and actually think that the situation is really that bad and may
listen to what they are being told. It can be quite frightening for the patient.

Janet was 15 in the late 1960ís. Her parents assumed she was rebelling like the rest of
the kids were during that time. They took Janet to an adolescent specialist and were told
there was no need to worry. In 1972, after changing schools for the third time, she lived
at home and became a born-again Christian. She would lie on her bedroom floor and would
scream, "Iím damned to hell and my family is damned to hell." She would slam her sister
against the wall. She tells them "Youíre not my family." She left home and moved in with
a cult leader in downtown Boston, collecting donations on the street and ate from open
carts in the North End. At nineteen, she asked her parents to meet her outside a
counseling center. She runs to the car, screaming, and she hit her father on the
shoulder. She was taken to the emergency room where she was put on the psychiatric ward.
This was Janetís first hospitalization. (Goode)

Janet was shuffled to and from private and city hospitals. Some doctors told her parents
its best if she was at home, yet others told them not to take her home. She was
prescribed numerous drugs, alone and in combination. They make her muscles stiff and her
hands tremble. They do nothing to help her. Sometimes, she would escape the hospitals
and disappears for months. Sometimes, she was discharged and her parents were not told.
One night, she was picked up for hitchhiking. Another time, she was arrested for
shoplifting. She stayed in halfway houses or at home. In her last years, she lived in a

halfway house for two and a half years. She occasionally broke the rules, but she
otherwise was on her best behavior. On August 25, 1986, the painful news arrives to
Janetís parents. She has killed herself by drinking several bottles of nail polish
remover and jumping from a second story window. (Goode)

This story, although sad and painful, is what many schizophrenics go through. Anyone who
Continues for 6 more pages >>