Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental disorder characterized by a dysfunctional thinking process and withdrawal from the outside world. The word schizophrenia comes from two Greek words schizo which means split and phrenia, which means mind. This doesn’t mean that a person with the disorder has multiple personalities, but rather parts of the mind seem to be operating independent of each other. The disease affects approximately 1 in 100 people and there are thought to be over 2 million schizophrenics in the United States today. Schizophrenia has been found to be a biologically based brain disease due to the imbalance of two of the brains chemicals dopamine and serotonin. In the brain of a schizophrenic there are elevated dopamine and serotonin activity. The cause of the disease is still unknown, but some of the most accepted theories are genetics, a biochemical imbalance, an early viral infection, or birth trauma. Generally, schizophrenia has a major impact on thinking and functioning, impairing a person’s ability to care for themselves and to respond to surroundings in a civilized manner.
In the diagnosing of schizophrenia, there are 5 different types to be diagnosed as. One of the major types is Disorganized Schizophrenia. This is characterized by disorganized thinking, speech, and poor concentration. There is also a lack of emotional expression and inappropriate emotional response to certain situations. There are also no really well established delusions that may characterize it. One other major type of schizophrenia is Paranoid Schizophrenia. The main character of this is delusions. The delusions are usually paranoid, but tend to occasionally be grandiose. There are also hallucinations and there frequently episodes of voices inside the head. One other symptom is high anxiety and a high level of argumentativness. Catatonic Schizophrenia has more of a physical notability. A rigid body, a very odd posture, and repetitive motioning are the main characteristics, which are together called catatonia. A Catatonic Schizophrenic is also very unresponsive to surroundings. There are 2 other types of schizophrenia, and they are Undifferentiated and Residual. Undifferentiated is characterized by symptoms that tend to match either none or more that 1 of the above types of schizophrenia. Residual Schizophrenia is characterized by rare episodes of attack and there are less severe symptoms after the initial attack.
The diagnosis of schizophrenia is not an easy process and diagnosis is looked into very seriously and extensively. Characteristic symptoms are one are looked into for the diagnosis. These symptoms must be present for a significant period of time during a one-month period. The characteristics used for the diagnosis include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms. Social or occupation dysfunction is another are for diagnosis. This may be characterized by a disturbance in one or more areas of functioning such as work, interpersonal relations, or self-care way below a level a person may have previously been at. Duration, or continuous disturbance for 6 months of which 1 month must show symptoms, is also used to diagnose the disease. Schizoaffective and Mood Disorder exclusion are also criteria used to diagnose schizophrenia. These features have been ruled out recently though because no major depressive, manic, or mixed episodes have occurred at the same time as active-phase symptoms.
A major theory in the cause of schizophrenia is that it develops in the fetal brain. When the fetal brain is being developed and wired in, the nerve cells grow, divide, and build connections with each other. The basic physical flaw in the brains of many people affected with the disease is that certain nerve cells migrate to the wrong areas when the brain is first beginning to form. This leaves small regions of the brain permanently out of place or miswired. These errors in the development of the brain’s architecture have not yet been discovered, but one theory is that these misconnections might develop when the mother catches a virus early in her pregnancy. Evidence to support this was found when 7 out of 20 schizophrenics were found to have misplaced neurons in the prefrontal area of the brain. Some of the neurons were oddly stacked and some were missing in this area. This is opposite of the 0 out of 20 normal people with misplaced neurons. These out of place cells are unexpectedly large residues of