9 December 2013
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and debilitating mental illness that affects about one percent of the population, more than two million people in the United States alone (Edwards, Stoppler). There is no known single cause of schizophrenia. It appears that genetic factors produce a vulnerability to schizophrenia with environmental factors contributing to different degrees in different individuals (McGurk, Mueser). People with schizophrenia may hear voices other people do not hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. This makes them withdrawn or extremely agitated. People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk. They may sit for hours without moving or talking. Sometimes people with schizophrenia seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking. Families and society are affected by schizophrenia too. Many people with schizophrenia have difficulty holding a job or caring for themselves, so they rely on others for help. The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms (Schoenstadt). The first symptom is positive symptoms which include psychotic behaviors not seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms can lose touch with reality. Sometimes they are severe and at other times hardly noticeable, depending on whether the individual is receiving treatment. The symptoms include the hallucinations, delusions, thought disorders, and movement disorders (Schoenstadt). Hallucinations are things a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel. "Voices" are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia. The voices may talk to the person about his or her behavior, and order the person to do things, or warn the person of danger. People with schizophrenia may hear voices for a long time before family and friends notice the problem.
Other types of hallucinations include seeing people or objects that are not there, smelling odors that no one else detects, and feeling things like something touching their bodies when no one is near. Delusions are false beliefs that are not part of the person's culture. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are not true or logical. They may also believe that people on television or radio are directing special messages to them. Sometimes they believe they are someone else like a famous person. They may have paranoid delusions and believe that others are trying to harm them or plotting against them.
Thought disorders are unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking. 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. Another form is called thought blocking, which means when a person stops speaking abruptly in the middle of a thought. Finally, a person with a thought disorder might make up meaningless words. Movement disorders may appear as agitated body movements. 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 (Nordqvist). "Voices" are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia.
The second symptom is negative symptoms that are associated 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 a "flat affect" which is when a person's face does not move or he or she talks in a dull or monotonous voice, lack of pleasure in everyday life, lack of ability to begin and sustain planned