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What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder that was first named in 1910 by a Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler. Most people associate the term as meaning split personality. That is not what Dr. Bleuler had in mind when he selected the name from the Greek words, “schizo” meaning split and “phren” meaning mind. When Dr. Bleuler chose the term Schizophrenia to refer to the symptoms that were exhibited by the patients he would be classified by his new term. The symptoms that were prevalent in all the patients that would be diagnosed with schizophrenia, was dissociation between their thoughts and feelings.
Today’s researchers now believe that schizophrenia has a combination or organic causes and are now focusing on genetics in combination with chemical imbalance caused by faulty receptors. Researches in molecular biology are using the conative genomics to pinpoint the specific brain activity of the genome patient. As breakthroughs in this field of schizophrenia research progresses, so too will available treatments.
The Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Today, a diagnosis of Schizophrenia is assigned to patients who exhibit one or more of these symptoms:
• Delusional Thoughts- Most people with schizophrenia show signs of delusion. These thoughts are disconnected to the reality of their lives. They may belief that they are well renowned, or that they have predictive powers. Often there are delusions of being spied on, or followed. Others have delusions that someone is madly in love with them or admires them immensely. Delusional thoughts are a common symptom among those diagnosed with the disorder
• Hallucinations – For the person with schizophrenia, hearing, and seeing things that don’t exist are in the same realm as reality. What they see and hear carries the same impact as the physical world. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination for the person diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
• Confused Thinking and Speech – The ability to communicate with accepted societal means is a symptom that encompasses, confused thoughts, mixed up or nonsensical sentences. The ability to follow the normal flow of a conversation or thought is impeded. Unrelated answers and statements become a normal means of communication.
• Behavioral Abnormalities – Quick personality changes in mood are prevalent. The patient may change from silly to serious within minutes. They may become agitated, and unresponsive, or silly and excessively helpful.
• Impaired Motor Skills – Performing tasks may be cumbersome with excessive motions and physically inappropriate motion to perform a simple task.
• Societal Withdrawal – The person may ignore personal hygiene. Normal eating habits and choices may become disrupted. The person may exhibit a lack of emotions and withdrawal. The person may lose interest any normal everyday activity.
Standard Treatment for Schizophrenia Today
The treatment of schizophrenia has progressed greatly since Dr. Bleuler changed the name in 1910. In the late 1920’s asylums would use shock therapy, and lobotomies in the treatment of Schizophrenia. Molecular biology and advanced research has redefined the disease of Schizophrenia. Now it is classified as a chronic brain disorder with origins in the interaction of neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate. Advanced neuro imaging allows researchers to see structural changes in the brain structure that they believe is organically caused by faulty brain receptors.
Treatments for schizophrenia are evolving constantly. Standard treatment in modern times has included antipsychotic drugs combined with counseling. With monthly breakthroughs in in the understanding of the underlying physical causes of the disease also comes a modification of the treatments available. Currently a team approach is the course of treatment. Until a breakthrough that can pinpoint the exact receptors and brain chemistry imbalance happens, Schizophrenia is a disease that can be treated and managed, not a disease that can be cured. It is still considered as a condition that must be treated for life.
Standard Treatment Choices for Schizophrenia
- Antipsychotic Drugs – The second-generation medications now available for the treatment of schizophrenia offer a more doctors more choices with fewer side effects then their first-generation counterparts. The first-generation antipsychotics are still prescribed when cost is a consideration as they are cheaper than the newest drugs on the market. Antipsychotics alone are not an optimum choice because they only relieve some symptoms and do not address the others.
- The Team Approach – The Team Approach to treating schizophrenia is an encompassing program that addresses all the symptoms that are experienced by those suffering from schizophrenia. The Team Approach includes:
• A psychiatrist as the team leader who coordinates and assesses all treatments, benefits and side effects.
• A psychologist who will be the lead in counseling and therapy sessions
• A Social Worker who works with the patient to interact with societal obligations and daily living chores
• A psychiatric nurse who will assist in seeing that all medication is properly taken
On the Horizon in Schizophrenia Treatment
On the cutting edge of schizophrenia treatment is the research into a class of drugs that will target receptors in the brain researchers believe are at the root of the chemistry imbalance that manifests as schizophrenia. Current research is zeroing in on dopamine and serotonin receptors to correct the chemical imbalance of the patient’s brain. The research into schizophrenia has yielded many answers in the past few years while creating new questions to be explored. With multiple medical disciplines approach the disease from all angles, it is no doubt that any organic and chemical imbalances will be addressed successfully. As in all of medicine today, cutting edge research is on the verge of radical new treatments for schizophrenia.