Schizophrenia “positive or negative, depending on whether they involve

Schizophrenia We all know of at least one scary movie with that stereotypically crazy character.  They have delusions, hallucinations, or are always paranoid.  However, for some people these actions are not fictional, in fact, for approximately 1.2 percent or 3.2 million Americans, this is their reality.  However, it was not until 1887 when schizophrenia was officially classified.  The nonspecific concept of “madness” had been around for thousands of years, but German psychiatrist Dr. Emil Kraepelin challenged this generalized idea and labeled schizophrenia as a distinct mental disorder.  Although schizophrenia is a severe disease, people who have schizophrenia can still be successful.  For example, several famous people have admitted that they suffer from the disorder.  Some of these individuals include; Vincent van Gogh, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Eduard Einstein, Albert Einstein’s son (Wikipedia, 2017). Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but people rarely have any personal experience with it, or know what it might feel like to have such a debilitating disease.  The symptoms of schizophrenia are very much dependent on the individual, and can range in severity from person to person. Such symptoms are classified as “positive or negative, depending on whether they involve disturbances that are ‘added’ to the personality or reflect the loss of capabilities from the personality” (WAEG, 2016).  These positive symptoms can include; delusions, disorganized speech, and hallucinations; encompassing any sense of sound, taste, touch, and smell.  Although these symptoms may sound negative, according to psychiatrist and Oxford professor, Dr. Neel Burton, these are truly positive symptoms “because they are thoughts or behaviours that the person with schizophrenia did not have before they became ill and so can be thought of as being added to their psyche” (Burton, 2012).  Schizophrenia symptoms can also be classified as negative.  These symptoms include; lethargy and apathy.  Although these symptoms seem less severe, they are labeled as negative “because they describe thoughts or behaviors that the person used to have before they became ill but now no longer have or have to a lesser extent and so have been lost or taken away from their psyche” (Burton, 2012).  In other words, they are behaviors the individual used to have, but no longer posses due to the impact of the disease.  After some of these symptoms appear, the next step is diagnosis.  To officially be diagnosed with schizophrenia it is “required that at least two of the following five types of symptoms show up for a significant portion of a one-month period: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms” (WAEG, 2016). Furthermore, it is also required that “the person show impaired functioning in a major area such as work, school, or interpersonal relations; that some signs of the disturbance continue for at least half a year; and that such other potential causes of the disturbance as drug abuse, a medical condition, and certain mental disorders are ruled out” (WAEG, 2016).  As a result of these symptoms, or the diagnosis itself, most schizophrenic patients also suffer from depression since they tend to lack emotional expression, interest, enthusiasm, and generally withdraw themselves from social situations.  There are also a few mental disorders that exhibit similar symptoms as those accompanied with schizophrenia like bipolar disorder, for example.  In severe cases of bipolar disorder  “delusions, severe paranoia, and hallucinations may accompany a manic episode” (Gooding, 2016).  As a result, this often leads to many misdiagnosis of schizophrenia.  In combining the effects of depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia together, schizoaffective disorder arises.  It is described as “a chronic mental health condition characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania and depression”  (NAMI, 2017).  Similarly, people who have schizoaffective disorder are often misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, when in fact they don’t suffer from either of those disorders.    Scientist and researchers have known of schizophrenia for many years but the cause of the disease is not yet known.  Although there is no exact known cause of schizophrenia, many researchers believe it is a mix of genetic factors and environmental influence.  In fact, “individuals with the disease are more likely to have close relatives—mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandmothers, or grandfathers—with the disorder” (Piotrowski, 2017).  The risk of developing schizophrenia increases by about ten percent if a parent or sibling has the disease.  Even higher, “an individual has a 40–65 percent chance of developing the disorder when one has an identical twin with schizophrenia” (Piotrowski, 2017).  However, many people who have a family history of schizophrenia, never develop the disorder, leading “most researchers to assume that no single gene is responsible for the condition and instead a complex interaction of genetics and other factors can trigger schizophrenia” (Piotrowski, 2017).  Most of these researches can agree however that “the neurotransmitters that carry signals from one brain cell to another might be abnormal in those with the disease. Malfunction in one of the transmitters, dopamine, seems to be a source of the problem, though the issue is not fully understood” (Piotrowski, 2017).  This clearly indicates that the part of the body that is most affected by the disease is the brain itself.  Besides these genetic factors, other things like “viral infections, drug abuse, or trauma during birth may increase a person’s risk of developing the disease” (WAEG, 2016).  Schizophrenia is reported to affect “men and women equally and occur at similar rates in all ethnic groups around the world” (BBRF, 2017).   However, “men tend to experience symptoms earlier than women” (BBRF, 2017).  Most symptoms, especially delusions and hallucinations, begin to arise between the ages of 16 and 30.  The most difficult age group to diagnose with schizophrenia is teens since “the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems and irritability which are behaviors that are common among teens” (BBRF, 2017).    Sally is a young girl who was diagnosed with schizophrenia after having several psychotic episodes that required hospitalization.  Her medical history indicated that her mother was an avid smoker, both before and during pregnancy.  It also stated that her mother “suffered from a very severe case of the flu during her fifth month of pregnancy.”  As Sally grew up, she was diagnosed with hyperactivity and other developmental disabilities.  After being hospitalized twice and eventually being diagnosed with catatonic schizophrenia, she failed to follow her prescribed treatment regimen.  Her third hospitalization resulted from “local law officials discovering her walking in a local pond while incoherently mumbling to herself.”  It is obvious that Sally’s diagnosis came as a result of environmental, emotional, and cognitive factors along with the inability to keep up with her treatment.  However, she eventually was able to get control of her treatment and start working. Her psychiatrist ultimately came to the conclusion that “she is able to function in environments that do not produce high levels of demand or stress.” (Stafford, 2013). Many people are able to lead successful and gratifying lives thanks to the availability of treatments that alleviate or even completely erase the symptoms of schizophrenia.  The most common and “most powerful treatment is antipsychotic medication.”  This medication was only recently discovered and implemented but are described as “not only used to stop acute episodes of schizophrenia, but also to minimize future breakdowns.”  However, taking these drugs do come with side effects.  Minor side effects include things like drowsiness, dry mouth, and weight gain.  However, the lasting consequences are more serious.  These patients, who take antipsychotic medication for significant amount of time, often develop tardive dyskinesia which is “characterized by abnormal movements of the mouth and tongue, tardive dyskinesia has no known cure and may not disappear if the drug is stopped” (WAEG, 2016).  Although medication is thought to be the only way to resolve schizophrenia, there is also the option of psychosocial therapy.  There are five main therapies that are used to help those with schizophrenia; individual therapy, social skills training, family therapy, vocational rehabilitation and supported employment.  Individual therapy is focused on the person suffering with the disease, helping them cope with it, and supporting them so they don’t relapse.  Social skills training is also focused on the individual, but it also helps them interact with other people. Family therapy is focused more towards the family and educating them on how to deal with their loved one suffering with schizophrenia.  Many psychiatrists believe that a combination of medicines and a form of psychotherapy often results in the best outcome.  This blend was used with Sally who was diagnosed with catatonic schizophrenia and proved immensely successful in her case.   Aside from patients receiving medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both, there are a lot of things other people can do to help those suffering from schizophrenia prevent or manage their symptoms. I believe it is extremely important to educate yourself and others about the disease even if you are not personally affected by the disorder.  It is vital to support people with schizophrenia and to not underestimate what they are going through, while also being conscious enough to not put them into stressful situations.  While low stress is important, as long as their treatment of choice is positively influencing their life, it is crucial that they are encouraged to be independent and determined to revert to doing some of the things they did before their diagnosis.  They need to practice doing skills independently so they are not forever relying on someone’s aid.  This will not only help them reduce their dependency, but it also helps them to feel more purpose and drive in their lives. There are a lot of myths and stigmas that concern schizophrenia.  The biggest misconception is that people with schizophrenia have a split personality, however this is completely false.  Although schizophrenia patients “do experience delusions and hallucinations, they do not have two separate personalities.”  Another myth is that people with schizophrenia are dangerous and should be avoided.  The truth is that although their behavior is distorted and unpredictable, “violence is not a symptom of schizophrenia and people with the illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.”  Many people also believe that schizophrenic patients have the same physical health as everyone else, however the “physical effects of mental illness, combined with the side effects of anti-psychotic medication and lifestyle factors mean people with the illness have a life expectancy 20 years lower than average” (Rethink Mental Illness,2015).   People must realize that those suffering from schizophrenia have feelings and needs just like everyone else.  They should be treated equally and not be alienated, isolated, or marginalized