Schizophrenia is one of the most serious mental illness affecting approximately 2.4 million American adults in any given year. This figure represents 1.1% of all American Adults. (National Institute of Mental Health, 2008). It generally strikes its victims during late adolescence to early adulthood and its symptoms vary from individual and can be classified as either paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated or residual type (DSM-IV-TR, 2000, 303).
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The symptoms of schizophrenia are generally classified into three broad classifications—negative, positive and cognitive. Negative symptoms are those symptoms which occur early in the disorder and may or may cause the afflicted individual to think he/she is ill. Those symptoms are so called because they represent a loss of a particular behavior or a diminution of a personality trait. Negative symptoms are generally accompanied by a gradual decrease in the ability to function.
These symptoms include lack of expression, inappropriate emotions and altered speech to the point where it becomes monotonous (The Mayo Clinic, 2007). The positive symptoms of schizophrenia are operationally defined as those symptoms which involve heightened sensitivity or excess in normal functioning and essentially are those things that are added to the personality of a schizophrenic. The most common of those symptoms are hallucinations, delusions and disorganized speech and behavior. The hallucinations associated with schizophrenia can be auditory or visual hallucinations wherein all of the senses may be affected and they may either see, hear, smell, taste or touch objects that are not there.
Delusions, on the other hand, represent a belief in something that is logically impossible. Disorganized speech and behavior can be seen when an individual’s speech is incoherent and illogical. The behavioral aspect of seen in the exhibition of socially unacceptable behavior and odd dress (Yahoo Health, 2006). Finally, cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are those which affect the schizophrenic’s ability to function within society as well as to earn a living. These symptoms include impairment in working memory, the ability to process information and the ability to focus on the tasks at hand (Web MD, 2006).
The etiology of schizophrenia was somewhat undetermined for a sometime, however research on the disease has been conclusive in that schizophrenia can be a result of interplay between a biological predisposition and environmental factors. Essentially, there is a genetic component to schizophrenia as well as an environmental component. Researchers have been able to arrive at the conclusion that there is a genetic component to schizophrenia by conducting twin studies of both identical and fraternal twins.
In fraternal twins where one twin is afflicted by schizophrenia, the likelihood of the other having schizophrenia is only 50%. This indicates that the genetic link is not as clear cut as previously thought (Schizophrenia.com, n.d.). Additionally, some of the body of research conducted on schizophrenics indicates that there may be a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain which may be responsible for the manifestation of the symptoms schizophrenics experience (Schizophrenia Forum, n.d.).
The treatment as well as the prognosis for recovery is highly dependent on the stage in which schizophrenia is diagnosed and the age of first onset. If schizophrenia is diagnosed early [when the negative symptoms begin to manifest], treatment may involve a short hospital stay wherein the patient is stabilized and prevented from self-injury. The hospitalization will undoubtedly be followed by a medicinal regimen aimed at reducing the symptoms of schizophrenia. This proves to be effective for approximately 65% of all schizophrenics. Other treatment may involve psychotherapy or family therapy (Schizophrenia Forum, n.d.).
The optimal treatment of schizophrenia involves a combination of medications and psycho therapy. This form of treatment called psychopharmacotherapy. In the case of treating schizophrenics, antipsychotic medications are prescribed to eliminate the hallucinations and delusions associated with schizophrenia and psychotherapy is conducted to minimized or eliminate the behavioral symptoms. The prognosis of recovery from schizophrenia is excellent when the treatment involves psychopharmacotherapy. In such cases, the individual must commit to life long pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy as needed (Cohen, 2002).
In conclusion, schizophrenia is one of the most serious forms of mental illness. It affects approximately 1% of the American adult population. It can be treated by using psycho therapy, pharmacotherapy or a combination of both. Its causes are a combination of a genetic predisposition and the environment in which the schizophrenic is reared. The prognosis is highly dependent on the age of onset, the stage at which treatment begins and the ability of the patient to remain medically compliant. Essentially, patients who develop schizophrenia later in life fear better in terms of treatment.
The individuals who are diagnosed during the early stages of the disease also have a better prognosis for recovery. It is important to know that currently, there is no cure for schizophrenia. It can only be treated and it helps if the schizophrenic as well as his/her family are educated about the disorder.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSMIV-TR (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
The Mayo Clinic. (2007). Schizophrenia and chronic mental illness: Signs and symptoms. Web.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2008). The numbers count: Mental disorders in America. Web.
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Schizophrenia.com. (n.d.) Schizophrenia: Causes and prevention. Web.
Web MD. (2006). Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia. Web.
Yahoo! Health. (2006). Positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Web.