Schizophrenia is a major brain disorder that alters a person’s thoughts,
perceptions, feelings, behaviors and the ability to tell the difference between
reality and unreal experiences. Schizophrenia is a combination of thought, mood,
and anxiety disorders. People who suffer from schizophrenia often experience
considerable distress in their personal, social and work lives. Schizophrenia is
found in all races, men, women, children, and all socioeconomic classes. In
America there are approximately 2.2 million people who suffer from
schizophrenia. Schizophrenia can be classified into four different types:
Catatonic, disorganized, paranoid, and undifferentiated. There are currently
many different treatments and medicines available to treat schizophrenia but
there is no cure for the disorder. If the disorder is untreated or undiagnosed it
can lead to severe emotional, behavioral and other serious health problems.
Schizophrenia comes from the Greek roots schizo (split) and phrene (mind) which
describes a schizophrenics’ mind- split from reality. The signs and symptoms of
the disorder can be split into three main categories: positive symptoms, negative
symptoms, and disorganized symptoms. Positive symptoms associated with
schizophrenia, often called psychosis, are hallucinations and delusions. Positive
symptoms cause an excess of distortion of normal functions. Hallucinations are
sensory perceptions that seem real but are without any external stimulus.
Auditory hallucinations are the most common symptom seen in schizophrenia and
are often experienced as “hearing voices”. Hallucinations can also be visual,
tactile, gustatory, olfactory or somatic. Delusions are fixed false beliefs about
reality with no factual basis. Negative symptoms are flat affect, alogia, avolition,
and anhedonia. Disorganized symptoms are disorganized thinking and
disorganized behavior. Disorganized thinking is one of the major features of
schizophrenia. Schizophrenics can have incoherent speech and change topics
every few words which turns their conversations into a word salad. The exact
cause of schizophrenia is unknown but it is believed to be a combination of
genetics and environmental influences. Problems with neurotransmitters and
structural abnormalities in the brain are also thought to be causes of the disorder.
It is also believed that season of birth and problems during pregnancy and birth
can be linked to schizophrenia. Treatment and management of schizophrenia can
be divided into three phases. The first phase is initiation of treatment with the
first episode of the disorder. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important for
future prevention of relapses. The acute phase is the second phase and in this
phase activities of daily living become almost impossible. The symptoms become
worse in this phase and patients often become hospitalized against their will.
Treatment during this time is medications known as antipsychotics and are used
to treat the disturbing symptoms such as hallucinations. The third phase is
recovery in which individuals reengage with life and society. In this phase clients
are taught new adaptive skills and learn how to achieve a new sense of self.
Schizophrenia is a major disorder that many live with everyday. Although there is
no cure however, with the correct medications and education people suffering
from schizophrenia can live normal lives.
1. Mental Health Nursing Care, 2nd Edition. Linda Eby and Nancy
2. Understanding Psychology, 4th Edition. Charles Morris and Albert