There are two main misconceptions about schizophrenia.
Firstly that people with schizophrenia are violent. This is not true, although some people with schizophrenia can be violent, that is not to say that schizophrenia causes violent behaviour. Many people are violent without schizophrenia.
Secondly, is that people with schizophrenia have a split personality can change personalities and moods without their control, this is not true and probably dervies from the etymology of the word, from modern latin the word literally translates as splitting of the mind, from the greek skhizein ‘to split’ and phren which translates as either ‘diaphragm, heart or mind.’
The uncontrollable changing of personalities is in fact an identified condition called ‘dissociative identity disorder’, which was originally called ‘multiple personality disorder.’ and the uncontrollable changing of moods is called ‘bipolar depression.’ However, although these conditions are separate from schizophrenia, it is important to note that these conditions can occur alongside schizophrenia.
The term schizophrenia was first coined by Eugen Bleuler in 1912 was so termed because of the ‘splitting of mental functions.’
Dementia Praecox, literally premature dementia was the original term for schizophrenia, because the condition is first noted in a person’s teenage years and has similar symptoms to dementia. Dementia Praecox was first used in 1891 by Arnold Pick (1851–1924) and the term was popularised by Emil Kraepelin (1856–1926) before the term schizophrenia replaced dementia praecox.
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder in which the individual afflicted may have trouble perceiving reality accurately and may therefore behave abnormally.
The common symptoms of schizophrenia are categorised into positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are those symptoms which display the addition of a behaviour or mental function and negative symptoms which show the reverse, the absence of normal mental functions.
First let’s look at the positive symptoms.
Hallucinations. The most common hallucination associated with schizophrenia are auditory hallucinations in which typically the individual reports hearing voices in their head. One of the best explanations for this abnormality, is that the schizophrenia brain has literally got crossed wires and a person’s one thoughts are triggering their auditory cortexes, so their thoughts are projected in their own head as voices, similar to the external sounds we all hear.
Another common positive symptom is that schizophrenics often report that their thoughts are ‘jumbled’ or ‘misty’ and that they find it exceedingly difficult to concentrate, especially for extended periods of time. People afflicted by this symptom are often very digressive when they talk and jump from topic to topic without a logical coherence. This can also lead to different behaviour that is similarly sporadic.
Delusions. Delusions are false beliefs that the individual truly believes, for example that the government is spying on them specifically. The nature of the delusions can vary drastically from person to person, some may believe that they are being persecuted, which is known as paranoid delusion, whereas some may think they are the chosen one.
In the vast majority of cases of schizophrenia, negative symptoms are the first to appear and are often used as indicators for schizophrenia. The period before the individual is formally diagnosed as schizophrenic is known as the prodromal period of schizophrenia. During which period the symptoms will often get increasingly more pronounced.
Negative symptoms are less clear than positive symptoms, for example the lack of interest in relationships, life and activities is a very broad definition of a symptom.
Other negative symptoms include:
- Not wanting to spend time with people and not initiating conversations as frequently as normal.
- Changes in sleeping patterns and staying at home
While the exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, researchers believe that there is unlikely to be one single cause. Instead, they believe that schizophrenia is caused by a combination of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors.
Researchers are clear that the development of schizophrenia will only occur if the individual is biologically predisposed to the disorder and they know this because schizophrenia tends to run in families. Twin studies such as Gottesman and Shields (1972) suggest that if one twin has schizophrenia, there is a 50% chance that the other twin will also have schizophrenia. This backs up the hypothesis that schizophrenia is caused by a combination of factors.
Birth complications such as a lack of oxygen many have something to do with the development of schizophrenia, as this can be found in a disproportionate number of schizophrenics.
Following on from the biological perspective of schizophrenia, researchers have noted the differences in brain development and neurochemistry in those with schizophrenia and those without. Schizophrenics have abnormal levels of both serotonin and dopamine.
While drug use and stress certainly are not causes of schizophrenia, they can certainly be triggers to the development of the symptoms of schizophrenia. There is some research to suggest that regular marijuana use in teenagers can increase their chances of developing schizophrenia before age 26 by 400%.
Online Etymology Dictionary. 2014. Online Etymology Dictionary. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=schizophrenia. [Accessed 22 December 2014].