Schizophrenia is a brain disease that interferes with the abnormality of the normal brain and how it functions. This mental disorder affects different aspects of a patient’s lifestyle, particularly their behavior, emotion and everyday living. Schizophrenia comes from two Greek words schizo and phrene, schizo meaning ‘split’ and phrene meaning ‘mind’ to illustrate a shift in a patient’s thinking.
In the late 19th century, schizophrenia was initially called, dementia praecox, by the psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin and was renamed by Eugen Bleuler as, schizophrenia, in 1911 (Nevid, Rathus, & Greene, 2010). Bleuler changed the name to schizophrenia since Kraepelin’s definition of it was misleading, the definition was misleading as the illness was not a dementia and could most likely occur late as well as early in life. Schizophrenia continues to be one of the many complicated mental disorders and is constantly creating new challenges today.
Although the main causes of schizophrenia stay unknown, biological abnormalities combined with psychological and socio-cultural influences are believed to be involved in schizophrenia. A cure has yet to be found for thus illness, therefore medication mainly focus on reducing the symptoms (Nervis et al., 2010). This paper will view schizophrenia through a life story based on my cousin, the biopsychological perspective, as considerations must be made of the biological, psychological and sociocultural aspects of the condition in order to provide more comprehensive treatments.
Living with schizophrenia is like climbing a slippery slope, especially for those who haven’t been diagnosed or even know that they have the illness. I come from a very religious family, from East Africa. Back in the days, our culture was not educated on what mental illness is, its symptoms, causes and the way to go about treatments.
Mental illness to us was not taken seriously, a person with mental illness was seen as being insane, possessed or dealing with witchcraft. Not so long ago, my cousin named Patrick was diagnosed with schizophrenia, before his diagnosis, he was believed to be unstable and abnormal. His parents and close family members believed that he was poisoned since he exhibited abnormal behaviors from a very young age. Patrick had been taken to different hospitals, institutions, regarding his illness back in Rwanda however, there were few people with the knowledge of mental illness. Different types of prescriptions were assigned to him but mainly the ones that make him weaker and lead him to sleep all day.
In 2013, when he moved to Canada from Rwanda he was found to have a mental illness and was diagnosed as being schizophrenic. Patrick was a very smart individual from a very young age when he started failing his courses and demonstrating a decrease in his grades, that’s when the family was alert as to him having an issue. In Rwanda, a patient with schizophrenia is taken to traditional healers (abanganga gakondo) and pastors for prayers to deliver them from evil and malediction.
I remember trying to have a conversation with Patrick and his responses were always unrelated to the conversations, sometimes he would just talk to himself or even to a wall, he always seemed to be in his own world. His mother began to worry and thought what was happening to his son was due to demons. Her decision was to take Patrick to a psychiatric at Ndera Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital. Ndera Hospital is known for people who are crazy, people with mental illness and a shift in their brain. Patrick stayed at Ndera Hospital for a while, however on his return, we expected to see change, improvement in his thinking, actions and everyday living. Patrick’s symptoms got worse than before he had left for Ndera. This is one of the many examples that show how mental health is viewed in different aspects of the world, how people with the illness are treated and how their families react to the illness. It is challenging when describing the causation of schizophrenia since it differs from one individual to another.
However, many have described it to be the “result of a physiological condition brought out by a life stressor” (Psychiatric Disorders, 1999). When viewing the causes of schizophrenia, we ought to look at the types of schizophrenia that exist. Schizophrenia affects a broad range of behaviors including speech, perception, involuntary & voluntary actions, emotion as well as thought process. Positive symptoms and negative symptoms are the two types of symptoms involved in schizophrenia. Positive symptoms are often seen in psychotic patients, more often than not they tend to disconnect from reality.
Symptoms of a positive psychotic involve hallucinations and delusional thinking. Negative symptoms are affiliated with a shift in a patient’s normal behaviors and emotions. An individual with negative symptoms portrays a decrease in motivation, difficulty communicating and loss of joy in day-to-day life. There are five types of schizophrenia and each type has different symptoms compared to the other. The types include, paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual. Paranoid schizophrenia is often seen in patients with intense fear, hallucinations and delusions.
Most patients diagnosed with this subtype tend to spend most of their time protecting themselves from the fear of being harmed or threatened by another individual. Disorganized schizophrenia is one of the many common types of schizophrenia. An individual with disorganized schizophrenia always has difficulty in communication, a disorganized thought process and in many cases hallucinations and delusions seem to be absent. Catatonic schizophrenia is one the subtypes that is not so common. A patient with catatonic schizophrenia often displays extreme behaviors, like holding their body while staring in a fixed position. The patient facing this type of schizophrenia tends to repeat someone else’s moves or gestures. Undifferentiated Subtype; this is when the patient experiences the positive and negative symptoms of all the above but is not enough to be defined as another type of schizophrenia (Goldberg J 2005-2014). Residual schizophrenia is a type of schizophrenia that involves more negative symptoms as well as more cognitive symptoms.
According to research, schizophrenia is caused by a fusion of psychological, drug use, genetic and environmental factors. The causes can be classified by whether they are triggering factors, or factors that keep the disorder continuing. Researches show that genetic vulnerability can lead to schizophrenia and different genes and factors are involved when leading to the genetic problem. The theory of genetic causation also argues that schizophrenia is an illness of complex inheritance; subsequently, research has focused on finding the group of genes that may cause this mental disorder (Owen et al. 2005). During the research, fourteen genes were found to be the causal, however recent research demonstrates that the suggested group of genes id not in association with schizophrenia.
In some patients, schizophrenia may be caused by duplications of DNA sequences in genes that accountable for brain growth and development. Drug use is often linked to schizophrenia especially the use of marijuana/ cannabis. Marijuana is associated with schizophrenia in a way that it increases the risk of developing the illness.
Abuse, childhood experiences and the social life in which you were born or raised are also one the factors contributing to schizophrenia. One of the common risk factors associated with the social and environmental cause is racial discrimination, unemployment, poverty, and poor housing conditions. More specifically, childhood experiences of abuse and trauma have been found to be linked with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia in later life (Janssen et al. 2004; MacMillan et al. 2001; Read et al. 2001; Schenkel et al. 2005). Antipsychotic and antidepressants medications are one of the many that can treat schizophrenia. These medications work in a way to improve the functionality of an individual as well as reduce the psychotic symptoms. (Rogers, A and Pilgrim, D. (2014) pg. 129).
In conclusion, schizophrenia still exists in today’s world and not all treatments work the same or for everyone. We are hoping that there is more awareness about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses all over the world and that we learn how to live and respect those who are unfortunate to have the illness.