Nicole Fernandes

December 6, 1999

CS110 MWF 8:30-9:20


"Schizophrenia is of a group of psychotic reactions characterized by withdrawal from reality with highly variable affective, behavioral, and intellectual disturbances." (American Heritage Dictionary) Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder, which affects about 2 million people each year, male and female alike. It is a brain disorder, which is caused by chemical as well as physical abnormalities (British Columbia Schizophrenia Society). There are many warning signs for Schizophrenia, although many of them are characteristic of normal people as well, which makes it necessary for intense observation before a person can be diagnosed. Among these symptoms are distorted perceptions of reality, hallucinations, illusions, and delusions (National Institute of Mental Health). Some more difficult symptoms to classify are depression, bizarre behavior, inconsistent sleeping, social withdrawal, personality changes, hostility, hyperactivity or inactivity, forgetfulness, emotional disturbances, sensitivity to stimuli, and drug or alcohol use (British Columbia Schizophrenia Society). Most people classified as schizophrenic are not physically dangerous, but this risk increases if the ailed person abuses drugs or alcohol. When a person is diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is necessary for them to be watched closely for signs of suicide, because their rate of suicide is extremely high. Approximately 10 percent of people with schizophrenia commit suicide (National Institute of Mental Health).

It has been a fact for a long time that schizophrenia is hereditary. Depending on your relationship with a schizophrenic relative, your risks for developing schizophrenia can be increased or decreased. If you have no relatives with this disease, your risk of developing the illness is only about 1%.

Scientists are currently studying what exactly causes Schizophrenia to be inherited. They have thought that perhaps such factors as " intrauterine starvation or viral infection, perinatal complications, and many nonspecific stressors seem to influence the development of schizophrenia" (National Institute of Mental Health).

The development of schizophrenia in children is uncommon and even more difficult to diagnose than in adults. Children with the early warning signs of schizophrenia include "trouble telling dreams from reality, seeing things and hearing voices, confused thinking, vivid and bizarre thoughts, moodiness, odd behavior, behaving like a younger child, anxiety and fearfulness, problems in making and keeping friends" (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry). A new study by Dr. Mary Cannon shows that children who will later on develop schizophrenia have more difficulty in school. Their performance in sports and handicrafts are worse than their peers of the same age. Earlier on in life, babies who will develop schizophrenia have difficulty in motor development, social behavior, and mental abilities. Children also are slower at learning to stand and walk. Anthony-Samuel Lamantia, PhD, a professor at the University of North Carolina says that it may be a genetic mutation which disrupts the development of the forebrain during pregnancy, later causing Schizophrenia. He says that these genes, which are involved in forebrain development also play a part in the development of the heart, head, and limbs, which is why they are also frequently deformed in schizophrenic patients (Psychology Today, Nov/Dec 99, p15).

There are many treatments available today for schizophrenia, although there is no cure. These treatments simply suppress some of the worse symptoms, allowing the patient to live more normally. The first step in treatment involves properly diagnosing schizophrenia. Since it is a chronic illness, treatment and medical attention are ongoing processes. Besides medication, important aspect of the treatment include education, family counseling, occasional hospitalization, Rehabilitation, nutrition, sleep and exercise (British Columbia Schizophrenia Society). One of the most important reasons for education is for the family of the patient. Having such a debilitating diseases in the family puts a huge mental, emotional, and physical change on family members. Families experience a range of strong emotions; shock, anger, sadness and confusion. Learning about the disease and how to deal with it helps the family deal with the difficult strain. Learning about the disease also helps the patient, because their families can better learn to care for them and lower the chances of having a relapse.


Cover picture: Schizophrenia- Wayne Shortner

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Copyright 1997

National Institute of Mental Health

Schizophrenia: Youth’s Greatest Disabler

British Columbia Schizophrenia Society

Chatterjee, Camille (1999, Nov/Dec). Giving Birth to Schizophrenia. Psychology Today, Vol.32 (6), 15.