Schizophrenia is considered to be a threatening mental disorder that is associated with abnormal social behavior of people, failure to distinguish reality, manage positive and negative emotions, think clearly, and, finally, participate actively in social activities. The current paper aims to shed light on the nature of schizophrenia, the main causes and symptoms of this mental health disorder, and the most efficient ways of its diagnosis and treatment. In addition, much attention will be paid to the negative and irreversible impacts of the disease on patients and the investigations of leading psychologists who researched this disorder.
The Concept, Main Causes, and Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Taking into account the estimations of the researchers, schizophrenia is a chronic and progressive brain disease that is characterized by numerous symptoms that affect the overall functioning of a human body, including false beliefs, unclear as well as confused thinking, reduced expression of positive and negative emotions, poor cognitive functioning, dysfunctional thinking processes, and poor motivation. Moreover, significant percentage of individuals who suffer from this health disorder often faces numerous additional symptoms, including anxiety disorders, depressions, and, finally, numerous substance use disorders. In addition, this neurological disorder that often strikes young male and female individuals distorts different senses and deprives them of the opportunity to continue a normal living.
Despite the most common symptoms of this serious mental illness are associated with the failure of people to understand the difference between real and imagined experiences and feelings, not every individual who is diagnosed with this mental disease has the same symptoms. Because of this reason, the definitions and nature of this disorder are very wide and complex because the combination of possible symptoms is extremely wide. However, the researchers who explore schizophrenia and its main symptoms claim that for many people, schizophrenia begins with a so-called “early psychosis” and “prodromal” stage that are characterized by the following symptoms: sleep and appetite disturbance, feelings and behaviors that usually seem inconsistent to other people, speech that is very difficult to follow, preoccupation with strange ideas, persistent anxieties and feelings of unreality, and drastic changes in the way people with schizophrenia appear, smell, and sound. Generally speaking, the main three categories of symptoms of schizophrenia are positive, negative, and, finally, cognitive symptoms of the disease. To begin with, positive symptoms of schizophrenia are classified as psychotic types of behaviors that are often viewed in absolutely healthy individuals, especially hallucinations, delusions, numerous thought disorders, and, finally, movement disorders.
On the contrary, the most common negative symptoms are associated with severe disruptions to moral behaviors and emotions, especially reduced speaking, physical activities, feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Finally, researchers provide convincing evidence that progression of the disease results in severe changes in memory processing and brain functioning. In other words, the most common cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are directly linked to reduced “executive functioning”, failure to concentrate and be attentive, and significant problems with the working memory that is associated with ability of people with this disease to use information immediately after the process of learning.
Psychiatrists provide evidence that the most common causes of schizophrenia are focused on numerous environmental and genetic factors. Although schizophrenia occurs in less than one percent of the overall world population, it affects approximately 10 percent of individuals who have a first-degree relative who suffers from this type of disorder, especially one of parents, brother, and sister. In addition, people who have second-degree relatives who suffer from this mental disorder are at higher risks to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, compared to the general population. However, despite the influence of genes is very strong, many people diagnosed with this progressive health disorder have neither first-degree, nor second-degree relatives. Furthermore, scientists who explore the increased risks of developing schizophrenia claim that numerous environmental determinants, especially development of infectious diseases, malnutrition before birth, and expose to poor environmental conditions strengthen the risks. According to the results of statistical data, schizophrenia affects individuals of all races and nationalities as approximately 25 million cases of schizophrenia are registered globally annually. Regardless of the fact that schizophrenia affects individuals who belong to different age categories, it affects more males than female individuals. Therefore, hallucinations and delusions are the most common types of symptoms that usually affect people between ages 16 and 30. In addition, statistics prove that this neurological disorder is rarely diagnosed after 45.
Researchers Who Explore Schizophrenia
It is important to stress that Emil Kraepelin was one of the most famous German psychiatrists who identified and described the nature of schizophrenia as “inevitable deterioration” of people . Judi Chamberlin investigated the main medical and rehabilitation approaches to effective management of schizophrenia. The contribution of William Anthony to effective psychiatric rehabilitation of this threatening disease was no less significant as he expanded the amount of effective strategies and types of rehabilitation for people with schizophrenia . C. North, D. Fisher, E. Baxter, P. Deegan, and R. Bassman were the most famous professionals in the fields of psychology and psychiatry who explored the effects of hospital treatment on development of the disease, delivery of health services to people with schizophrenia, experiences of people in overcoming this disease, and many other themes.
Subtypes of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia that is characterized by severe abnormalities in expression as well as perception of reality, is subdivided into five main categories, including paranoid, disorganized, catatonic as well as residual and undifferentiated types. To begin with, paranoid schizophrenia mainly focuses on hallucinations and delusions that result in disordered mental processes and behavior of people. On the contrary, disorganized schizophrenia is directly linked to disorganization of thinking processes that leads to emotional impairments and difficulties of people with this disease to communicate and interact with other people.
Third category of schizophrenia that is called catatonic schizophrenia involves severe disturbances in movements and dramatic reductions in physical activities of people diagnosed with this health disorder. This subcategory of schizophrenia is a rare health disorder that focuses on two main types of symptoms, including echolalia and echopraxia. In addition, catatonic schizophrenia involves extreme behaviors, including overexcitement and dramatic reductions in activities and willingness to interact with other people. Undifferentiated schizophrenia is similar to paranoid schizophrenia as it usually involves hallucinations and delusions. Moreover, undifferentiated schizophrenia is usually diagnosed in individuals with fluctuating and atypical types of signs and symptoms.
Finally, residual schizophrenia is a common type of this mental disease when an individual with schizophrenia has gone to comparatively long period of time without any obvious signs and symptoms of the disease. Generally speaking, in case of residual schizophrenia, signs and symptoms of the disease may be completely non-existent or considerably lessened in severity to the point that these symptoms do not put at risk daily functioning of people. Waxing and waning of signs and symptoms are the most common characteristics of residual schizophrenia that focus on increase and later decrease in intensity of symptoms.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Impact of Schizophrenia on People
Diagnosis of schizophrenia is a challenging task because signs and symptoms of various subcategories of schizophrenia should reach a certain level of severity before accurate diagnosis is made. Generally speaking, the diagnosis of this progressive neurological disease concentrates on a set of criteria promoted by the World Health Organization and the American Psychological Association. These criteria focus on numerous self-reported experiences, significant reported abnormalities in mental processes and behaviors, and accurate clinical assessment by professionals in the field of health care. Because there are no medical tests that ensure an opportunity to health care professionals to diagnose schizophrenia, psychiatrists and other licensed experts should participate in diagnosis of this type of health disorder.
Since the causes of this disease are still unknown, the main treatment methods focus on eliminating the main signs and symptoms of the disease. The researchers provide evidence that main ways of treatment include antipsychotic medications and psychosocial ways of treatment. Taking into account the historical perspective, antipsychotic medications have been used for treatment of neurological health disorders, including schizophrenia, since the second part of 1950s. Despite the quality antipsychotic medications was improved, dependence on these medicines is characterized by numerous side effects, especially blurred vision, increased sensitivity to sun, drowsiness, and many other negative effects associated with significant weight gains, considerable changes in metabolism processes, and, finally, the development of heart problems.
Effective psychosocial treatment is no less significant than the use of antipsychotic medications because it ensures a unique opportunity to individuals with schizophrenia to cope with their everyday challenges caused by the disease, including communication difficulties, failure to keep healthy relationships with people, and willingness to pursue personal life goals and desires.
The processes of rehabilitation strengthen the development of social and vocational skills and qualities to assist people in active engagement and participation in community activities. Moreover, individuals with schizophrenia should actively participate in controlling and managing their progressive illness, and make the best decisions regarding their care.
Finally, the researchers agree that family education and support, effective cognitive behavioral therapy, and participation in self-help groups are efficient strategies that teach people with schizophrenia to manage severe symptoms of their disease, motivate people to be more connected, and share valuable information on helpful coping methods and services. Management and early interventions in schizophrenia are essential because this disease influences not only a person diagnosed with this health disorder but the family of a person with schizophrenia and the entire society. Family members and care-givers usually fulfill a distinct role by providing effective daily care and contributing to psychological well-being and recovery of people with schizophrenia.
Thus, after having identified the nature of the disease, described its main symptoms and treatment strategies, reviewed main psychologists and psychiatrists who contributed to the study of schizophrenia, and assessed effective treatment methods and strategies of schizophrenia, it is possible to infer that schizophrenia is a threatening chronic disease that influences mental and psychical abilities of people. The most common symptoms of this neurological disease are subdivided into three main categories, including positive, negative, and, finally, cognitive symptoms. Finally, combination of antipsychotic medications and psychosocial treatment that includes cognitive behavioral theory and various rehabilitation techniques are effective strategies that slow down the progression of the disease, promote active role of patients in managing their health problem, and, finally, contribute to social engagement of people with schizophrenia.