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Schizophrenia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Myths

One of the severe mental disorders included in the DSM is schizophrenia. This disorder requires a serious treatment as the illness influences a person’s perception of reality, affecting one’s feelings, emotions, and thoughts and disabling one’s functioning. People with this disorder may have unusual behavior, hallucinations, and delusions. This paper will discuss the causes and symptoms of schizophrenia, the ways of its treatment, and the myths that surround this mental illness.

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Schizophrenia has a variety of symptoms that usually develop gradually. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the disorder includes hallucinations (hearing or seeing something that others do not experience), odd beliefs, illogical thinking, agitated or repetitive body movements (“Recognizing the signs,” 2015). In addition, people with schizophrenia may experience a lack of pleasure in everyday activities and have trouble with communication, attention, decision making, working memory, expression of their emotions (“Recognizing the signs,” 2015). Thus, it is a serious disorder that affects every side of a person’s life, impairing one’s daily functioning.

Schizophrenia is often connected with a genetic predisposition, which means that people having relatives with this disorder are at a higher risk of developing it. However, according to APA, “scientists do not believe there is a single gene for schizophrenia” (“Recognizing the signs,” 2015). The researchers note that there is probably a variety of genes that together with external factors may cause the disease (“Recognizing the signs,” 2015). The development of schizophrenia is also more common for young people. As APA points out, people usually “exhibit symptoms in their teens or 20s” (“Recognizing the signs,” 2015, para. 2). However, not only young people may have risks of developing schizophrenia.

Although it is uncommon, the disorder may also be diagnosed in people who are older than 40. Mary Langford is one of the participants of the Schizophrenia Oral History Project, where people tell their stories about living with this illness. She developed schizophrenia at the age of 53 as a result of serious stress (DeAngelis, 2018). Her condition, in addition to the usual symptoms of schizophrenia, was also complicated by depression and suicidal thoughts. As the article states, when hospitalized, she was treated by electroconvulsive therapy that, however, did not help (DeAngelis, 2018). Her way to recovery started after her suicide attempt when she tried to drove her car off a cliff and broke her back. Through therapy, medication, and support from her family, she managed to recover from the most serious symptoms (DeAngelis, 2018). These ways of the treatment of this illness are among the most common and effective strategies.

There is a myth that the recovery from schizophrenia is very rare. However, as APA notes, “evidence now suggests that schizophrenia is a treatable illness and recovery is possible” (“Recognizing the signs,” 2015, para. 13). The treatment of schizophrenia usually combines several aspects that may include both psychological and medical approaches. According to APA, one of the main components of the treatment is antipsychotic medications that usually must be taken daily (“Recognizing the signs,” 2015). Psychotherapy is also considered helpful, in many cases allowing people to cope more easily with everyday challenges caused by the disorder. No less important part of the treatment is support and understanding from family and friends. As several studies note, family support helps reduce the risk of relapse and increases the likelihood of patients following medical prescriptions (“Recognizing the signs,” 2015). Thus, the combination of psychotherapy, medications, and family support may be called one of the most effective strategies of the treatment.

However, apart from these traditional methods, there are also more innovative ones, such as computerized therapy options. APA represented an overview of several studies investigating computer approaches to schizophrenia treatment (“Research roundup,” 2017). Subramaniam et al. analyzed “computerized cognitive remediation training” for improving cognitive functioning in schizophrenia patients (as cited in “Research roundup,” 2017, para. 5). According to the findings, the group of patients that received the computerized cognitive training showed significant improvement in “cognitive functioning and restored brain activity” (as cited in “Research roundup,” 2017, para. 7). The results of another research conducted by Buonocore et al. showed that computer methods used together with psychotherapy also help to improve cognitive skills (as cited in “Research roundup,” 2017). Thus, although computer methods still require further investigation, these studies prove that computerized options can be helpful in schizophrenia treatment and may be used as an effective addition to the therapy and medication.

It is also worth describing electroconvulsive therapy that was mentioned when discussing the case of Mary Langford. Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is usually used as an option for severely ill patients when medications fail to help. ECT is a procedure when the brain gets small electric shocks through electrodes attached to a person’s head. Talking about the effectiveness of ETC, Ali, Mathur, Malhotra, and Braga (2019) note that it is a controversial method. Their overview of several existing studies has shown that some researchers find ETC safe and efficacious and note that, in some cases, it may improve cognitive functions (Ali et al., 2019). However, the researchers also note that some literature “is still inadequate to make definitive statements regarding specific techniques for ECT in schizophrenia” (Ali et al., 2019, p. 82). Thus, concluding the discussion about schizophrenia treatment, it is possible to agree that the treatment process usually represents a combination of strategies. The options may include psychological help, medication, electroconvulsive therapy, and computer methods.

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When talking about such disorder as schizophrenia, it is also worth paying attention to some myths regarding this illness. Apart from the myth about rare recovery that has already been mentioned in the paper, there are beliefs that people with schizophrenia are often violent and have a split personality. In addition, as DeAngelis (2018) notes, there are misconceptions that those having schizophrenia are “disconnected from reality or do not understand what people are saying about them” (para. 5). It is possible to agree that such beliefs may cause more discrimination of people with schizophrenia.

In addition, one may assume that this issue adds to the problem of poverty that many people with serious mental disorders face. Greenbaum (2019) points out that people with serious mental health problems often have difficulties with education and employment and “end up in more deprived neighborhoods and circumstances” (para. 7). In this regard, it is an important question of how to deal with the myths about schizophrenia in society. One may agree that for combating prejudice, it is necessary to educate people about causes, symptoms, and treatments of mental disorders, including schizophrenia. Probably, in this case, there will be a higher possibility for people with schizophrenia to get the needed treatment and support from their friends and family.

It is possible to conclude that schizophrenia has serious symptoms preventing a person from normal functioning in all spheres of life. This disorder requires complex treatment, usually including both psychological and medical help. Due to the seriousness of this mental illness, support from family also plays a significant role and influences the treatment process. In addition, this support becomes even more important if taking into account the myths surrounding the disorder.

References

  1. Ali, S. A., Mathur, N., Malhotra, A. K., & Braga, R. J. (2019). Electroconvulsive therapy and schizophrenia: A systematic review. Molecular Neuropsychiatry, 5(2), 75–83.
  2. DeAngelis, T. (2018). Sharing the reality of schizophrenia. Monitor on Psychology, 49(2). Web.
  3. Greenbaum, Z. (2019). New hope for people with serious mental illness. Monitor on Psychology, 50(11). Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Schizophrenia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Myths." January 29, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/schizophrenia-causes-symptoms-treatments-and-myths/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Schizophrenia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Myths." January 29, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/schizophrenia-causes-symptoms-treatments-and-myths/.

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