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Human beings have been faced with numerous psychological and neurological disorders for as long as they have existed. According to Robins and Regier, a number of these diseases and disorders do alter the normal functioning of the body system particularly the brain (1999). The manifestation of the diseases and disorders are usually through abnormal behavioral orientations and related mental symptoms.
Psychiatric disorders, as defined by Salters-Pedneault, refers to any behavioral or mental/cognitive symptoms that cause a person to be very distressed, the individual may be paralyzed in one way or another thus making him/her very much exposed to various disabilities, pain, and may sometimes cause death (2009). However, all these manifestations need to be experienced by an individual for a period not less than two weeks in order to be categorized as a psychiatric disorder.
It is important to note that temporary mental states such as grief resulting from the loss of a relative or a close friend may not be considered psychiatric in nature. The research paper discusses schizophrenia as a neurological disorder.
Behavioral Symptoms and Functional Deficits
Schizophrenia has been known as one of the most common neurological disorders especially in the United States. This disorder is highly chronic, harsh, and with the capability of paralyzing the victims brain and hence cognitive abilities. An individual suffering from the disorder usually develops improper perception of reality.
According to Salters-Pedneault (2009), it is normally associated with auditory delusions or hallucinations, distorted thinking as well as talking patterns, and a general dysfunction in the social and occupational dimensions of everyday life. Furthermore, a schizophrenic normally exhibits notable cognitive deficits like memory loss, asocial characteristics, and a general lack of concern.
For individuals prone to develop the disorder, the early stages of adulthood are usually associated with the commencement of schizophrenia. Most significantly, schizophrenia may only be detected by the use of personal experiences and observable behavior of the victim due to the fact that laboratory testing has not yet been developed.
A number of theories to explain schizophrenia as a disorder have been put forward. In general, according to research findings by Robins and Regier, an individual’s genetic composition as well as the environment that one is brought up in and related neurological factors has been associated with the onset of schizophrenia (1999).
A neurological basis of this disorder may be linked to a disproportion of the neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) and brain-structure distortion. Neurological researchers have found that too much neurotransmitter dopamine, glutamate, amino-butyric acid, serotonin, among others may be associated with schizophrenia disorder. Many research findings reveal that the actual causes of schizophrenic characteristics have not been established yet (Gattaz & Busatto, 2009).
Furthermore, as identified earlier, the neurological basis of the disorder may also involve abnormalities in the structure of the forebrain, the hindbrain and the limbic system.
According to Salters-Pedneault, a reduction in the density of gray matter in sections of the human brain may be another factor that helps in the development of symptoms of speech and cognitive distortion as well as abnormal behavior orientation among the schizophrenics (2009). Decreased memory capacity has been associated with a decrease in the level of activity of the brain particularly in the right parietal cortex and the hippocampus on the left side.
Abnormal emotional experiences among schizophrenics, according to research findings, have been attributed to reduced activity of the amygdale (Salters-Pedneault, 2009). Moreover, diminished activity in the inferior frontal cortex as well as the vetral pre-motor cortex have been associated with the general lack of motivation, expression, and affect characteristic of people with schizophrenia (Dominiguez & Lieb, 2010).
Biological and Environmental Factors
It is important to note that the root causes of schizophrenia are yet to be conclusively established although there is a sense of hope as far treatment of the disorder is concerned. it has emerged that the antipsychotic medications used currently serve to eradicate the associated symptoms which in turn allow the victim to regain normal life and interaction in the society.
A research conducted by Salters-Pedneault revealed that older drugs for treating schizophrenia are still in use although new ones like clozapine are comparatively effective in dealing acute symptoms of the disorder (2009). It has also been found that people who are genetically exposed to develop schizophrenia are at risk of enhanced rate of being schizophrenic if they use some of these medical drugs or even those meant for recreational purposes (Gattaz & Busatto, 2009).
Modern medications like clozapine, for instance, have been known to reduce the white blood cells count in the body resulting in increased risk of infections. There are a number of side effects associated with the use of antipsychotic medicine and may include skin rashes, improper sight, increased rate of heartbeat, and in some instances affect monthly periods among women.
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It is evident that both biological/genetic and environmental factors are responsible in the onset of schizophrenia. According to research findings, individuals with family history of the disorder and who may develop a transitory neurosis are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia with a year later (Gattaz & Busatto, 2009).
It may not be easy to draw estimates of the probability of inheriting schizophrenia due to the difficulty in distinguishing both the environmental and genetic factors. However, over 40% of identical twins of parents suffering from schizophrenia are usually affected by the disorder. From these facts, biological factors are significant in the development of schizophrenia.
On the other hand, a number of environmental factors have been identified with the development of schizophrenia among individuals. Some of these factors are the prenatal stressors, drug abuse, as well as the surrounding where one lives (Dominiguez & Lieb, 2010). However, schizophrenic tendencies have not been strongly associated with the nature of parental upbringing apart from a slight link between supportive/critical parenting and that probability of developing schizophrenia.
Use of drugs like cocaine, bhang, as well as excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks contributes to the development of schizophrenia. Cannabis has been known to be a direct cause of the disorder while other drugs are used by a victim only as an option of dealing with the associated depression, social seclusion, and general boredom and nervousness (Salters-Pedneault, 2009). This drug has been known to have a very high risk of causing psychotic disorders.
Research has also established that prenatal factors like infections, poor nutrition, and stress experienced by the mother during this stage of development of the fetus are most likely to cause schizophrenic tendencies at the later stages of life (Gattaz & Busatto, 2009). Winter and spring season in the northern hemisphere have been associated with increased chances of viral infection of the uterus and hence higher risk of those born during this time to develop schizophrenia.
The chances of developing schizophrenia have been found to increase twice with living in an urban setting either at childhood stage or even at adulthood. This is the case even after other factors such as ethnicity, drug abuse, as well as the size and nature of social associations have been taken into consideration (Pletson, 2004).
Furthermore, social segregation, immigration as a result of social calamity, discrimination on basis of race, family breakdown, debilitated living conditions, as well as lack of employment have been identified as major environmental factors that can significantly contribute to the development of schizophrenia.
Cognitive and Pharmacological Therapies
Several therapies, both cognitive and pharmacological, have been advocated in the treatment of schizophrenia. Psychosocial therapies have proved effective in dealing with the disorder, at least by reducing its severity (Salters-Pedneault, 2009).
These may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), training in life skills, family therapy, provision of economic assistance, providing employment opportunities, and use of psychosocial approaches in minimizing drug abuse and management of body weight. If a schizophrenic is taken a family therapy, the frequency of hospitalization and relapse rates is highly reduced (Pletson, 2004).
The employment of CBT as a method of dealing with schizophrenia is yet to yield reliable results as far as symptom reduction or relapse prevention is concerned. Researchers are still exploring the role of art and drama as alternative therapy measures for schizophrenia.
Owing to the gap left by cognitive therapies in handling schizophrenia, pharmacological alternatives exist to treat or prevent the severe impacts of the disorder. Pharmacology refers to the science of drugs in general ranging from their formulation, uses and their effects on the individuals.
Schizophrenia as a neurological disorder has been treated by the use of antipsychotic medications which deal with those symptoms that are not experienced by normal people expect the schizophrenics like distorted cognitive and speech patterns, among other hallucinations (Gattaz & Busatto, 2009).
However, the negative symptoms of schizophrenia respond poorly to medication due to their highly environmental nature. From the above discussion, it is evident that treatment of schizophrenia still presents a great challenge yet its prevalence remains high.
Prognosis for Schizophrenics
The consequences of schizophrenia as a disorder affecting a significant proportion of the population are enormous in terms of both human as well as economic costs (Salters-Pedneault, 2009). The defensive mechanisms that the schizophrenics resort to are significantly harmful resulting in the reduction of the average life expectancy among the victims.
Extreme levels of schizophrenia cause serious disability and high rates of relapses (Dominiguez & Lieb, 2010). Schizophrenics have also been associated with the tendency to commit suicide especially at the earlier stages of manifestation and hospitalization. However, some suicide attempts are usually unsuccessful.
The research paper has discussed schizophrenia as one of the most common neurological disorder affecting a significant proportion of the US population. It is a chronic disorder with the ability to adversely affect the general normal functioning of the human body.
The paper has discussed the behavioral symptoms and related functional deficits caused by schizophrenia, the neurological basis of the disorder, a focus on the various biological and environmental factors associated with schizophrenia, cognitive and pharmacological interventions to deal with the disorder, and the prognosis of this neurological disorder.
It can be concluded, therefore, that schizophrenia remains to be one of the most feared neurological disorders and a lot has to be done in order to bring it under full control.
Dominiguez, M. & Lieb, R. (2010). Neurological Disorders: Those at High Risk for Schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167:1084-1090
Gattaz, W. F. & Busatto, G. (eds.)(2009). Advances in Schizophrenia Research 2009.
Springer Pletson, J. E. (2004). Schizophrenia Research: A Progressive Report. Nova Publishers
Robins, L. N, Regier, D. A. (eds) (1999). Psychiatric Disorders in America: the Epidemiologic Perspective Area Study. New York: The Free Press.
Salters-Pedneault, K. (2009). Psychiatric Disorders. American Medical Journal, 7 (12), 9-67