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Biology 103
2003 First Paper
On Serendip

The Truth about Schizophrenia

Alice Goldsberry

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects one in every one hundred people worldwide (2). It is defined as a psychotic disorder usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied by various degrees of emotional, behavioral, and intellectual disturbances. There are numerous myths associated with schizophrenia, concerning what it is about, its causes, and the actions of those suffering from it. However, it is time to put these ideas to rest.

There tend to be huge misconceptions concerning the causes of schizophrenia and the actions of those suffering from this disease. It should be known that this disease is not a form of demonic possession, nor is it caused by evil spirits or witchcraft. Although in Greek, schizophrenia translates as "split mind," it has been established that those diagnosed with the disease do not have split personalities (3). It is also a myth that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be violent. In general, people suffering from schizophrenia, as well as any other mental illness, are no more dangerous than healthy individuals (1). Though schizophrenics show a slightly elevated rate of crimes of violence, these are usually the ones who are not receiving proper treatment. Schizophrenia usually strikes people in their prime. Generally, men are affected between the ages of sixteen and twenty, whereas women are affected between the ages of twenty and thirty (1).

Not only is schizophrenia an inherited disease, but is also considered to be genetically complex. Scientists say that an environmental "trigger" must be present as well to bring on the disease. Possible triggers include complications during the mother's pregnancy or delivery, in addition to prenatal exposure to virus, specifically in the fifth month in which most brain development occurs (1). It is believed that complications during pregnancy or delivery increase the threat of the disease, most likely due to damage of the developing brain.

There are other factors at hand when determining the causes of a disease such as schizophrenia. In terms of biochemistry, sufferers of the disease appear to have what is referred to as a neurochemical imbalance. However, current medications for schizophrenia now target three different neurotransmitter systems; these being dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine (2). Another cause of schizophrenia is the type of blood flow to the brain. Schizophrenics tend to have difficulty "coordinating" activity between various areas of the brain. For example, when thinking or speaking, most people demonstrate increased activity in the frontal lobes and a lessening of activity in the area of the brain used for listening. On the contrary, people with schizophrenia show the same increase in activity of the frontal lobe, however, there is no decrease of activity in other areas (2). Thirdly, molecular biologists have found that schizophrenics have an irregular pattern of certain brain cells (2). Given that these cells are developed before birth, this discovery further supports the idea that schizophrenia is formed during the prenatal period.

Over the years, as families try to cope with the reality of having a loved one suffer from schizophrenia, they have come up with various early warning signs that correspond with the illness. These signs include unexpected hostility, depression, and a flat, reptile-like gaze (2). Others noted that schizophrenics exhibit unexpected hostility, as well as bizarre behavior, noticeable social withdrawal, and drug and alcohol abuse. Additional warning signs include the inability to express joy, or cry, as well as several others (2).

Though the extremity of cases involving those who suffer from schizophrenia tend to vary, it has been proven that if medication is taken properly, it makes a huge difference. Schizophrenics should not be labeled as crazy, hostile, or unpredictable. In most cases, they tend to be more harmful to themselves than other people, and do not necessarily have to be feared. With the proper treatment, they are as normal as anybody else. Misconceptions can be extremely dangerous, so in cases of uncertainty, it is never hard to get the facts.


1)What Causes Schizophrenia?

2)Schizophrenia: Get the Facts, a very helpful site


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