Schizophrenia: A Rare but Destructive Mental Disorder

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Just in one year 1.5 million people get diagnosed with schizophrenia around the world. Even though this may only affect 1% of the world's population, there are many studies that show what's happening in a person's brain. Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that hinders one's ability to manage emotions, thoughts, decisions, and the ability to relate to others. It starts to interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, and behavior that impairs daily functioning. People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. With it being a lifelong problem, starting the treatments as early as possible will help maintain the person's brain to be able to function as normal as possible. Although Schizophrenia is not a common mental disorder, its symptoms can be very disabling.

Although the cause of schizophrenia remains unknown, a wide amount of research has come up with many possibilities. Many early theories focused on behavioral or stress-induced events. Although more recently, consensus holds that underlying biochemical abnormalities are more likely the cause. The biochemical hypotheses center on dysfunction of the neurotransmitter systems in the brain, which provide the brain with normal functions. The main theories include the Dopamine Hypothesis, the NMDA Receptor Hypothesis, and the Membrane Hypothesis. New research suggests that elements from each of these theories can be apart of schizophrenia.

The neurotransmitter is defined as a chemical messenger that holds, boosts, and balances signal. These chemical messengers can change both mental and physical functions including pulse, sleep, appetite, feeling and emotion.

The Dopamine Hypothesis explains that schizophrenia comes from the usefulness of drugs that block certain dopamine receptors in treating the disorder. Because dopamine blockers are usually effective, it has been tested that an over activity of dopamine neurotransmission in the outer layer of the cerebrum and limbic areas of the brain may cause schizophrenia. Drugs with selectivity for the D4 dopamine receptor, such as clozapine or olanzapine, can be somewhat effective. It was found that elevated levels of D4 receptor binding have been found in the brains of persons who had schizophrenia. Dopamine could be one cause of schizophrenia.

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The NMDA Receptor Hypothesis is a theory that relates to memory and awareness. NMDA stands for N-methyl-D-aspartate, which is the direct chemical compound. NMDA receptors respond to the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, and is important for normal memory and awareness. Some drugs such as Ketamine and Phencyclidine (or PCP) strongly affect NMDA receptors. These can cause schizophrenia. Studies have shown therapeutic benefit from drugs acting on NMDA receptors, such as glycine and D-cycloserine.

The Membrane Hypothesis relates to nerves that are composed of phospholipid membranes and phospholipid metabolism which are critical to normal brain function. Neurotransmitter receptors, such as dopamine and NMDA receptors, function within the membranes of nerve cells. So interference of the membrane structure could affect how neurons transmit messages through the nerve synapses very easily. Studies have shown that a deficit in the level of very unsaturated fatty acids is associated with schizophrenia, with the activity of the enzyme phospholipase A2, that breaks down membrane phospholipids. These observations observe that damage in the transmission of signals across cell membranes can and may be responsible for schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia affects many people in many different ways. This disease can affect the way you think, feel, and act. The symptoms of this disease vary by the personality of the person. The symptoms can start between the ages of 16-30 years old. Before the obvious signs of Schizophrenia, a person will start to change in personality ways and the way they react to certain things. When a person is younger with Schizophrenia the severeness of the symptoms are more heightened than when the patient gets older. Most of the time,the patient won't actually know what is going on with them. If they start to realize it, they don’t know what is actually happening. The symptoms of Schizophrenia that affect people in a positive way are exaggerated ideas, perceptions, or actions that show the person can’t tell what’s real from what is not.

Here are many of the symptoms that a person with Schizophrenia may have: “hallucinations, these include; auditory(a person hears voices in their heads), visual(sees lights, objects, people, or patterns), olfactory(good and bad smells), or tactile(the feeling of things moving on your body), delusions which include; Persecutory delusions(the feeling someone is after you or being stalked, hunted, framed, or tricked), Referential delusions(when a person believes that public forms of communication are a special message just for them), Somatic delusions(the person thinks they have a terrible illness or bizarre health problems), Erotomanic delusions(a person might be convinced a celebrity is in love with them or that their partner is cheating), Religious delusions(someone might think they have a special relationship with a deity or that they’re possessed by a demon), Grandiose delusions(they consider themselves a major figure on the world stage, like an entertainer or a politician).”(WedMd) Other symptoms are confused thoughts, disorganized speech, trouble concentrating, movement problems, troubles with pleasure, trouble speaking, flattening, withdrawal, struggling with the basics of daily life, and no follow-through with anything.

Diagnosis of schizophrenia involves processing out other mental health disorders and determining that symptoms are not because of substance abuse, medication or a medical condition. The diagnosis is made through; physical exam (This may be done to help process out other disorders that could be causing symptoms and check for any related complications), tests and screening (These may include tests that help cancel out conditions with similar symptoms, also having screening for alcohol and drugs), Psychiatric evaluation (A doctor or mental health professional checks mental status by observing appearance and demeanor and asking about thoughts, moods, delusions, hallucinations, substance use, and potential for violence or suicide), and also Diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia (A doctor may use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Treatments for Schizophrenia are the following; medications that would be given to the patient by their doctor and this can vary with each person and the difference in the person, Psychosocial interventions which can be individual therapy, group therapy, and social skills therapy.

While there are many current treatments for schizophrenia, there is no certain cause or precise medication/therapy that can cure this disorder. Sadly this abnormality alters your brain, from a life worth living to being caged in your own body; as some would say. Although this may or may not be true, schizophrenia is not a simple problem, but with further research hopefully one day it will be.

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