When a person hears the word “crazy”, their first thoughts are probably of symptoms of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is seen as the ideal case of insanity. The causes of this disease remain unknown, but scientists are constantly searching for answers. Although a cure for schizophrenia is surely far in the future, research and understanding is making more and more progress every day.
To find a cure for schizophrenia, scientists must first understand the disease itself. Over the years, professionals have come up with a fairly accurate definition:
When a person’s thinking, feeling, and behaving are so far from normal so as to interfere with his or her ability to function in everyday life, and delusions, hallucinations, or irregular thinking or emotions are produced, then he or she has a mental illness called schizophrenia (Smith 19).
The most common symptoms of schizophrenia are the typical hallucinations and delusions, and disturbed thinking. Other signs include abnormal physical activity, such as pacing or rocking, as well as abnormal speech and communication, such as silly talk and repetition.
The thought process of a normal person is basically organized, while the thought process of a person with schizophrenia is not. The person with schizophrenia usually has delusions and hallucinations that interfere with their thinking. Often times their speech is difficult to follow, out of order, and off subject.
The person’s emotions are also all mixed up and usually incorrect. Instead of smiling or laughing at something amusing, the person with schizophrenia may get angry or upset. Such responses are usually easy to recognize, even by acquaintances. Schizophrenics are unable to shift gears quickly in. They often find it difficult to understand who they are, how they should act, or what they should feel.
Since not all schizophrenics act alike, professionals have sorted them out into three classic types. The first type is paranoid schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenics usually have a single theme or idea on which they focus their delusions and hallucinations. They are constantly afraid that people are “out to get them”. The second type of schizophrenia is disorganized schizophrenia. Disorganized type schizophrenics show very unorganized behavior. Facial grimaces, extreme withdrawal, and constant health complaints are typical symptoms of this type of schizophrenia. Hallucinations and delusions are symptoms of all types of schizophrenia, but the disorganized schizophrenic also exhibits senseless laughter and silliness. The third type of schizophrenia is catatonic. Someone with catatonic schizophrenia may hold a single position for hours on end. This is called a “stupor”. Their condition resembles that of suspended animation. Sometimes the person is rigid and hard to move, but at other times may flail around highly excited for no apparent reason. Although, through use of newer medications, catatonic schizophrenia is rare today.
Medication has been the most successful treatment by far. Antipsychotic drugs do little for helping the patient understand and deal with various aspects of their illness. Because of this, psychotherapy is absolutely necessary along with medication. Alarmingly, a recent study shows that only a third of schizophrenia patients are getting the correct dose of medicine, while another third are being prescribed doses that are too high. Higher doses can sometimes lead to depression and eventual suicide. Side effects of antipsychotic drugs include such things as skin problems, the shakes, and weight gain. Although, the overall benefit of these medicines is greater than the inconveniences.
Not all treatments for schizophrenia have seemed so practical under today’s standards. In the past, some schizophrenia patients had holes bored in their skulls to “release the evil spirits”. Others were chained to walls in order to control their behavior and prevent destructiveness. Most treatments like these had no effect and accomplished nothing. Another type of treatment available for treating schizophrenia is psychosurgery. In some extreme cases, professionals in the past would perform frontal lobotomies, which permanently disconnected several sections of the brain. Then in 1938, shock treatment was invented. Although not as effective as medication, this treatment is seldom used to treat schizophrenia today.
Individuals with mental illnesses often become homeless for the same reasons as other people with low incomes; primary among these individuals is the lack of affordable housing. When housing is affordable, it is often unsafe, in disrepair, or located far from services and public transportation. The shortage of affordable housing for people with serious mental illnesses is also due, in part,