What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia literally means “a splitting of the mind” in Latin, despite it having nothing to do with split personalities at all. This can make the disorder commonly confused with Multiple Personality Disorder, otherwise known as Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Schizophrenia is a severe psychological disorder that causes people to hear voices and see things that other people don’t and cannot hear. They suffer through delusions, disordered and incomprehensible thoughts and speech, and hallucinations of all kinds. They oftentimes believe they possess magical abilities and may believe that people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting behind their backs to physically or mentally harm them. They have a very difficult time understanding and perceiving what is real in reality. This disorder can terrify people living through it on a daily basis and can easily make them withdrawn from society in fear of harm or, in cases where they refuse to stay isolated, extremely paranoid and/or agitated in social events most people can attend.
People with schizophrenia have a tendency to not make much sense when they talk, and that is when they actually decide to converse. Schizophrenics can be quite for hours, remaining still without moving or budging. Sometimes a person with schizophrenia may seem “normal” until they decide to speak their minds and end up talking about what is going on inside their heads. Because of this, many people with schizophrenia have difficulties holding onto jobs and caring onto themselves, relying on other people and society — the very things they distrust — for help.
Leading psychological experts “think” schizophrenia is caused by several factors, including genes, local environment, and chemical makeup.
Scientists know and understand that a strong connection to schizophrenia and its sources is that it runs in families. The illness occurs in one percent of the general population, but a majority of recorded and reported cases occur in around ten percent of people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder, such as a parent or sibling. People who have second-degree relatives (such as an uncle or grandmother) with the disease also develop schizophrenia more often than the general population. The risk is highest for an identical twin of a person with schizophrenia. If one identical twin has schizophrenia, the other has a 40 to 65 percent chance of developing the disorder later in his or her life.
The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three incredibly broad categories known as positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms.
What are the “Positive Symptoms” of Schizophrenia?
Positive symptoms are basic psychotic behaviors not seen in “healthy” or “average” people. People with positive symptoms often “lose touch” with reality. These symptoms can come and go and are oftentimes not permanent. Sometimes they can be incredibly severe, but at other times hardly noticeable, even without any form of treatment.
Things a person sees, hears, smells, feels, etc. that no one else can are known as hallucinations. Voices calling out to them or directly speaking to them are the most common types of hallucinations in the disorder. Many people with schizophrenia report hearing voices. The voices may talk to the person about his or her behavior, order the person to do things, or warn the person of danger that oftentimes doesn’t exist. Sometimes, if there are multiple, the voices talk to each other. People with schizophrenia may hear voices for a long time before family and friends notice the problem. Other types of hallucinations, although not as common, include seeing people or objects that are not there, smelling odors that no one else can, and feeling things like invisible limbs touching their person.
False beliefs that are not part of the person’s culture and do not change are known as delusions. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are not true or logical. People with schizophrenia can have delusions that seem bizarre, such as believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves. Believing in mind control, obscene or unnatural shifts in their world, and being afraid of the general public due to paranoia can be seen as delusions. People with the disorder also tend to believe that people on television are directing special messages to them, or that radio stations are broadcasting their thoughts aloud to others. They may believe they are someone else, such as a famous historical figure, and base their lives off of them.
Unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking are common examples of schizophrenia. One form of thought disorder is called “disorganized thinking.” This is when a person has trouble organizing his or her thoughts or connecting them logically. They may talk in a garbled way that is hard to understand. People with thought disorders might make up meaningless words and definitions, or “neologisms.”
A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may become catatonic. Catatonia is a state in which a person does not move and does not respond to others. Catatonia is rare today, but it was more common when treatment for schizophrenia was not available. As of 2013, Catatonia is no longer as strongly associated with schizophrenia as it used to be.
What are the “Negative Symptoms” of Schizophrenia?
Negative symptoms are associated not with psychotic behavior but with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for depression or other conditions. These symptoms include but are not limited to the following:
They may talk in a dull or mundane voice.
They oftentimes lack of pleasure in everyday life
They lack of ability to begin and sustain planned activities
They speak little, even when forced to interact.
They often neglect basic personal hygiene.
What are the “Cognitive Symptoms” of Schizophrenia?
Cognitive symptoms are subtle. Like negative symptoms, cognitive symptoms may be difficult to recognize as part of the disorder. Often, they are detected only when other tests are performed. Cognitive symptoms include the following:
Trouble understanding information and using it to make decisions
Trouble focusing or paying attention to anyone or anything
Problems with being able to apply a memory or task immediately after learning it
Cognitive symptoms make it hard to lead a “normal life” and earn a living doing anything. They can cause great emotional distress to the people around them. Some may claim that cognitive symptoms are the most life threatening of the three major classifications of schizophrenia due to the subtle yet sheer shock it plays against the society surrounding the person with schizophrenia.
Famous People With Schizophrenia
Dr. John Forbes Nash Jr. was a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician known for his genius, although genius can be considered a high leveled form of insanity, as well as his paranoid schizophrenia. While many people with schizophrenics suffer keeping a job and making a living, Dr. Nash climbed to the top of the ladder in his field of knowledge. Later in his career, Dr. Nash struggled with schizophrenic delusions of persecution from government agents. His life was depicted in the movie A Beautiful Mind.
Mary Todd Lincoln was American President Abraham Lincoln’s wife. Throughout her life she suffered from outbursts and sporadic erratic behavior. She believed in ghosts and oftentimes communicated with the “dead” through seances. It worsened after her husband was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Although she never was officially diagnosed due to psychological disadvantages during the nineteenth century, many psychologists currently speculate that she may have been schizophrenic.
Many criminals diagnosed with schizophrenia have a chance to plead insanity and escape the death sentence due to the fact that they might not have been fully there during heinous crimes. In the past, schizophrenia wasn’t even heard of and the insane asylums would be full of people not only suffering inside their own minds but in the situation surrounding them. Scientists and psychologists today are currently studying schizophrenic patients not to harm them but to help. Different genes like “Gomafu” are currently being studied for any links they might have between people and the heinous psychological disease.
Many people wouldn’t help someone different from themselves. Society has created out-groups and unseen prejudice against separate mentalities and disabilities. While you would definitely help someone with a physical problem such as a broken leg or empathy deserving physical disability, would you help someone having a panic attack? Or an alcoholic who has passed out in front of you? Would you help someone slowly being eaten away by their own thoughts? Someone crazy in your eyes? People tend to frown on insanity, but what people don’t realize that insanity comes in many forms.
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