Schizophrenia has been around for decades, yet there are still so many questions and misconceptions about the mental illness. Doctors, books, scientists, and patients have all spent years researching, uncovering and discovering different forms of treatments to answer this medical mystery. In today’s time, there is plethora of research being done daily to find the answers and to formulate reasons as to what is causing this phenomenon. With no cure for the disease, it leaves multiple mysteries and questions for the patients and their families to try and journey through life to find answers.
Taking a deeper look into the world of someone with schizophrenia, what exactly is the disease? According to the American Psychiatric Association, the official criteria for the disorder is having persistent hallucinations and delusions. (“Surviving”59)
Although, researchers beg to differ with this idea and conclusion. Through their research and further investigation, they have discovered that there is not one specific symptom for someone that has been subjected in all cases of the disease.
All individuals who suffer from this form of mental illness have different signs and symptoms across the board. This mental illness affects less than one-percent of the American population according to the American Psychiatric Association. Men typically start to show signs in their late teens to early twenties. In women, they typically begin to show signs in their mid-twenties to early thirties. Studies have shown that women and men both experience similar rates of the disease. Here’s a direct quote from a patient with schizophrenia, quoted by Henry R.
Rollin, in Coping with Schizophrenia: What then does schizophrenia mean to me?
It means fatigue and confusion, it means trying to separate every experience into the real and unreal and not sometimes being aware of where the edges overlap. It means trying to think straight when there is a maze of experiences getting in the way, and when thoughts are continually being sucked out of your head so that you become embarrassed to speak at meetings. It means feeling sometimes that you are inside your head and visualizing yourself walker over your brain, or watching another girl wearing your clothes and carrying out actions as you think them. It means knowing that you are continually “watched,” that you can never succeed in life because the laws are all against you and knowing that your ultimate destruction is never far away. The onset and precursors of this disease are relatively difficult to determine especially with the fact there is no known specific cause of Schizophrenia. The schizophrenia spectrum is broad, and few patients fall into one exact grouping or subtype. Schizophrenia subtypes have been classified as different forms of mental illness and separate diseases.
There were once multiple different forms of this disease to attempt and try to classify its causes. (Torrey 93) One of the initial diseases that was tossed around whilst researchers were attempting to determine what was causing this phenomenon was, “dementia praecox”. This disease is when an individual shows signs of dementia early in one’s life. In today’s time, there are three separate symptoms categorized as positive, negative and cognitive symptoms. Positive symptoms are psychotic behavior not typically found in individuals without some form of this disease or mental illness. Negative symptoms are considered disruptions to daily life. Cognitive symptoms are subtle in some patients or rather significant in other patients. Cognitive symptoms can range from memory loss or to the patient’s core way of thinking in certain aspects. There are various questions and mysteries behind what exactly Schizophrenia is.
Multiple theories attempt to cover what the mysterious cause of Schizophrenia truly can be defined as. Regardless of the multiple theories, there is not one exact explanation as to what causes it. Researchers widely believe and have narrowed it down to genetics, environment, or chemical off-balances. Genetic theories started in the 1960s and are continuously being speculated about today. In recent times it has taken a new turn towards epigenetics. This new discovery is that the problem doesn’t stem from the genes, but rather small variations of the genes then the genes of the larger aspect. Developmental theories are based on the idea that something occurs during the developmental stages of the brain that leave the individual with the lasting effects of schizophrenia. This theory doesn’t focus on what exactly the motive of schizophrenia, but rather when the disease begins and progresses. There is a wide range of events that could cause the developmental stage. Stress theories are still considered possibilities and can cause developmental propositions.
Brown and Birley in 1968 published a study covering how life’s many stresses could contribute to the inducement of schizophrenia. According to Dr. Eugen Bleuler in their book stated: In cases which we have excellent anamneses [history], one regularly notes that signs of disease existed before the suspected psychic trauma so that becomes difficult to impute to such trauma any casual significance. In the majority of cases, it is also quite evident without much searching that the unfortunate love affair, demotion from office, etc., were consequences and not causes of the disease if there was any connection between them at all. This was put in place to make a significant statement. This theory and association made this disease a life crisis rather than giving Schizophrenia a true definition as Dr. Bleuler did (qtd. in Torrey 143) Life’s stresses show no correlation to leading directly to schizophrenia in young adults. Early childhood trauma has also showed no correlation directly with the mental illness in recent studies. Obsolete theories are credited as the “over the top” theories category that have circulated for years and display little to no proof of their relation to the disease. One example is the Freudian theory.
Freud in a 1907 letter claimed he had hardly ever seen any other severe types of this psychosis. Then four years later in a letter, he wrote: “I do not like these patients [with schizophrenia] I feel them to be far distant from me and from every human.” Torrey claims in Surviving Schizophrenia that any health professional who professes Freudian beliefs are incompetent. (145) With such little knowledge as to what exactly provokes this disease, some people assume that treatment is a far-fetched idea and that there are not multiple ways to treat this disease. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is in fact, no overall cure for the disease, but there are multiple treatments to take control of the symptoms and the disease itself. There will never be a cure until there is a full understanding of what causes the disease. The three most common forms of treatment are Antipsychotic medications, Psychosocial treatments, and coordinated specialty care. The first step in the treatment process is finding a good doctor. Getting second opinions is also crucial to a patient’s well-being throughout this lifelong process.
This process requires information that noncoherent patients heavily rely on their loved ones to provide. Such as: Physical and neurological examinations, labs, chemical screening, urinalysis, psychological tests, MRI Scan, Lumbar Puncture, and Electroencephalogram. All these tests are crucial in giving the patient the best treatment possible and building a strong case for the individual. One of the biggest things that recent research has proven is that early detection is in the best interest of the patient. Delays and prolonging treatment can worsen the result for the patient and cause more diseases and harder long-term outcomes. When a psychosis goes untreated, it relates directly back to functionality and symptomatic outcome. Another form of treatment in the schizophrenia realm of mental illness is-rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is key to someone’s success with schizophrenia. Individuals with schizophrenia cannot function without a complete treatment plan, just medication is not enough. (Torrey 212) No two cases of Schizophrenia have ever reflected exactly alike.
With that being said, some studied cases have displayed similarities throughout multiple research opportunities and studies. One major thing that stands out about quite a few cases of Schizophrenia is that they are often chain smokers and smoke excessively. According to Schizophrenia: Painful Minds by Lynn Eleanor DeLisi, MD: Numerous scientific surveys now confirm the association of cigarette smoking with schizophrenia. Behavioral therapies in the past were geared toward positive reinforcement by the attainment of a goal and thus “winning” a pack of cigarettes. You might think that the consequence of this would be lung cancer and other cigarette-associated cancers would also be increased in schizophrenic patients, but this does not appear to be true. Another correlation that cases of individuals have schizophrenia is that they are homeless. Recent reports claim that individuals who are homeless would most likely eventually be diagnosed with schizophrenia. In previous studies, it was widely concluded that most of the individuals lining the streets suffered from some form of mental illness.
This was previously detailed in Torrey in 1989. Before mental institutions were put in place, it was well known that the individuals lining the streets had a high percentage of suffering from some form of mental illness that was most likely going unaddressed. Among the homeless population of women, some were surveyed. The results varied, 71% of the homeless women suffer from some form of psychiatric disorder. With 12% of the women in the homeless population experiencing schizophrenia. To put that in perspective, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 500,000 – 600,000 individuals are homeless each and every night. Men and Women both experience Schizophrenia to different strenuous degrees. Men typically do not respond well to antipsychotic drugs. They have a harder time adjusting and have a higher relapse rate. Surviving Schizophrenia by Fuller Torrey explains that: “They require higher doses of the doses of the drugs; they have a higher relapse rate; and marriage, work record, suicide rate, and level of function-is not nearly as so good as women’s” (101) This then leads into the topic of women’s rights issues take a massive part in multiple different spectrums in todays society.
From the wage gap, to sexual harassment in the work place, domestic violence, and women’s health also in the forefront of women’s basic rights that still are not being met. Women who are diagnosed with schizophrenia experience different challenges and upheaval battles that their male counterparts never will. Whilst women are taking antipsychotic medications, they are significantly less fertile than women who are not taking them. Studies have shown that women who take these medications whilst pregnant or lactating, the fetus could experience long-term consequences. It’s a known fact that women who give birth with schizophrenia will need extensive support and treatment afterwards. Women with any prior psychotic history will have a higher chance of experiencing postpartum. Another question that occurs with women who have schizophrenia and are mothers is if they should breast-feed their offspring.
The answer is that it should be taken with high caution. There is not enough information regarding if patients on neuroleptics have any effect on the infant. These offspring could experience a greater chance of congenital malformations. (Delisi 168) A famous image portrayal of schizophrenia depicted by one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most acclaimed stories, The Tell-Tale Heart (1843). The story is about the protagonist slipping into what seems like Schizophrenic state throughout the narration. The main character states, “Have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but overacuteness of the senses?” This is a major clue that the main character might be living with schizophrenia since he is consistently experiencing hallucinations and auditory notions that someone with the disease might as well. According to Anissa Maulani, in their recounts, the main character displays referential delusions. This is when someone believes that certain actions or reactions are directed at them. Poe is known for his twisted way of writing that he, and only, he can do.
Edgar Allan Poe has a way of playing upon the human experience and molding his stories to attach itself to the human psyche. According to Mental Health.net, schizophrenia affects approximately 1.2% of the American population. With that being said, there is still a lot of research and information to be discovered. As the world is at an all-time peak in scientific discoveries and technological advancement, there is hope that a cure and an explanation for the cause will eventually be found. At the end of the day, every person that has some form of mental illness is an individual and has their own complications and struggles that need to be considered throughout their lifetime. The most important and crucial thing for an individual living and surviving with Schizophrenia would be to take everyday as they come. As there is no cure, there is only hope and understanding to be done.