Early scientists and doctors such as Dr. W.A.F. Browne and Dr. Amariah Brigham suspected that schizophrenia is a disease of brain. The invention of brain imaging technology in 1980s proved this when it was found that schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes patients to be unable to differentiate what is real and not real, respond normally to emotions, socialize normally, and think clearly. People with the disorder are normally unable to reason and evaluate their surroundings. They always cannot interact normally with others and always believe on things that are not true. According to Resser et al. (2010), schizophrenia causes a loss of the grey matter of the brain.
The global prevalence of schizophrenia depends on the kind of treatment available in different regions and the response to treatment (Bhugra, 2008). It affects about 26 million people around the world, and 60% of those affected become disabled (Lora et al., 2011). High rates of the disorder is experienced in women than in men and in urban than in rural areas (Murray, 2008). It accounts for 1% of the global burden of the disease (GBD).
Causes of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is hereditary. About 10% of people from families with history of schizophrenia are likely to have the disease at some stage in their lives. While genes inherited from parents make people more vulnerable to developing the disease, environmental factors stimulate it. Stress, for example, triggers the development of the disorder, especially when related to early loss of parents, sexual assault, or viral infections. Some people with the disorder have less tissue in their brains as a result of large brain ventricles while others have little activities in their brains’ frontal lobe. Neurotransmitters, chemicals that aid in transmission of information in the brain, connect to schizophrenia, because some symptoms of schizophrenia are relieved by some drugs that change the level of neurotransmitters. Complications during pregnancy and birth such as excessive bleeding and lack of enough oxygen may cause schizophrenia.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia normally start by telling stories or coming up with ideas that are not believable. They might tell stories of things that cannot exist or happen in real life. They may also not have good manners, not be able to take care of themselves, or do normal simple things such as taking bath or eating.
Types of Schizophrenia
People with paranoid subtype are characterized with auditory hallucinations and delusions of things. They can, however, work and relate well with others and can be treated if properly managed. Disorganized subtype is more severe than paranoid subtype. It is characterized by disorganization in the thinking processes of persons, inability to perform normal activities such as eating or brushing tooth, emotional impairment, and communication impairment (Freudenreich, Weiss, & Goff, 2008). People diagnosed with this type of schizophrenia produce speech whose words are not properly ordered and are very difficult to comprehend.
Catatonic subtype is characterized with problems in locomotion. People with this type of schizophrenia always show some resistance to movement. They may not want to move from where they are. Sometimes they might not want to change their body positions and might maintain them for a long duration of time. For example, when a person is diagnosed with this type of disorder, he/she might bend and maintain this position for some time even when not necessary. They might also develop unusual body positions. For example, they might be walking while carrying up their hands.
In residual subtype, patients do not display serious symptoms. Though, they experience hallucination and delusion, they as not as severe as in paranoid subtype. Patients can work and socialize with others without being identified that they have the disease.
Treatment of Schizophrenia
In the past, patients with schizophrenia were considered abnormal and people employed past treatment methods to relieve then from the symptoms. It was considered a symptom of the heart and uterus and people thought that it was caused by evil spirits. They, therefore, considered exorcising them so that patients become well. Other societies treated the disease by playing some kind of music and others went to the extreme of drilling patient’s skull. Some societies that did not want to associate with the sick secluded them with the hope that they will get well in the places.
Present treatment of schizophrenia aims at reducing its symptoms and effects. Psychotherapy treatment controls the effective treatment. Research has found that antipsychotic medication lessens the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia and enable patients to continue living and socializing normally (Elkis, 2009). Examples of antipsychotic drugs include thorazine and perphenazine. Psychosocial treatment assists patients to be stable after they have undergone antipsychotic treatment. It deals with ways of managing the challenges that the disease bring when undergoing daily duties. It equips patients with skills that help them manage their symptoms of their illnesses and socialize well with others. Activities done at psychosocial treatment centers include rehabilitation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family training (Schultz, North, & Shields, 2010).
Life Expectancy of Patients with Schizophrenia
Patients living with schizophrenia are likely to die 12 to 15 years earlier than those not diagnosed with the disorder. Since patients with the disorder normally become isolated socially, abuse drugs, lack motivation, become irrational and emotionless, and cannot maintain high standards of hygiene.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that was traditionally considered a normal disease and treated using traditional methods. Currently, its treatment is aimed at reducing its symptoms. It is treated using psychotherapy, antipsychotic, and psychosocial means.