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History of Schizophrenia

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Before going into much detail it is important to understand the general concept of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain that leads to disorganized thinking, delusions and hallucinations. Although the illness primarily affects cognition it can also affect emotion, and behavior. There are many misconceptions about this mental illness such as the idea of split or multiple personalities which will be discussed further later on, (Smith,1993). In Canada it affects 1% of the population or 1 in every 100 people, (Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, n.d). The basis of this report is to discuss in detail exactly what schizophrenia is, who it affects, and how it affects its sufferers. The history of the research done on this illness, as well as the present day theories, will also be discussed in less detail.


For the following research paper information was found a few different ways. The Angus L. MacDonald library, which is the University's library, was used a main source. The town library was also used, as well as various search data bases on the internet. Keywords or terms used were "schizophrenia", "history of schizophrenia", "mental illness", "causes and treatment of schizophrenia", "affects of schizophrenia", "statistics about schizophrenia".


The St. FX library website was used and from this the 'Electronic Resources' link was used which allowed a full list of various journals to be found which provided lots of information relevant to this specific study. This website was also used to search through the 'Novanet Catalogue' to see what books were available at the library. However, although the library on campus was very helpful the town library also helped to find different books about the given topic that were particularly helpful. From the various search databases on the internet websites that had banks of information given through various passages, articles, and excerpts from different books and journals a great deal of information was found.


It is vital to discuss the basics of schizophrenia such as who it affects, how it affects, as well as the symptoms of the illness to seize just how serious this illness is to everyone. Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency. In the 16 to 20 year-old age group, more men then women are affected by schizophrenia. In the 25 to 39 year-old age group, more women are affected by this mind disease. Schizophrenia is one of the youth's greatest disablers. Most commonly, the illness occurs in the 16 to 30 year-old age range, but it can also occur later in adulthood. However, onset after the age of 35 is less common and onset after the age of 40 is very unlikely, (Smith, 1993). Although very rare, a childhood form of the illness exists. Schizophrenia can be found in children over the age of five years. The general population is unaware of how serious and widespread this illness is. Patients suffering from schizophrenia occupy more hospital beds than sufferers of any other medical condition, (Anonymous, 2005). The cost to society due to hospitalization, disability payments and lost wages rank in the billions of dollars annually; however, other costs associated with the loss of individual potential, personal anguish and family hardships are impossible to measure. A common misconception about this illness is that those who endure the illness themselves are the only sufferers. Family members undergo traumatic experiences upon the discovery of schizophrenia in someone close, their emotions are similar to those experienced when a major illness or accident occurs. In other words families feel shocked, sad, angry and dismayed. Some common feelings are sorrow, as if they've lost a family member, anxiety, fear of leaving one alone or hurting one's feelings. Shame and guilt are also common as families often feel they are to blame. This illness may cause lots of problems between parents often leading to divorce, or separation. Therefore, it is obvious that this mental illness is very life changing. It is important to understand the basis, even for the general public, simply because it can affect everyone and anyone.

Now that one has become aware of who can be affected it is important to understand what the illness itself really is. Schizophrenia has been said to be "any group of psychotic reactions characterized by withdrawal from reality with highly variable affective, behavioral and intellectual disturbance," (Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia, n.d.). However, schizophrenia can also be described as a real disease (or group of diseases) with concrete and specific symptoms. Schizophrenia is different from other mental illnesses and is the result of flawed brain biochemistry. This illness may be treated by specific antipsychotic drugs and is almost always treatment to some extent.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are personality changes which are key in recognizing this disease of the mind. Initially subtle and minor these changes in one's personality usually go unnoticed. There is often a decrease in expression of feeling or emotions as well as a lack of interest and motivation upon the onset of the illness. Thought changes also play a large part in the affects of schizophrenia. One becomes unable to think clearly and the barrier to normal reasonableness is established. Thoughts take longer to form, come very quickly, or don't come at al for schizophrenics. Often times one will jump from topic to topic, seem confused or have difficulty reaching easy conclusions. Thinking may also be colored by delusions and false beliefs that have no logical explanation. One may express strong ideas of persecution, convinced that he/she is being spied on or plotted against. Perceptual changes are another dominate change that one suffering from schizophrenia will undergo, (Davis et al, 1991). The world through the eyes of a sufferer becomes topsy-turvy and the nerves carrying sensory messages to the brain from the eyes, ears, nose, etc become confused causing one to see, hear, feel or smell a sensation which does not really exist which is known as hallucinations. A sufferer tends to also lose a sense of their self. When one or all five of the senses becomes affected the person may feel out of time, out of space, free floating and bodiless and nonexistent and a person, (Smith, 1993).

Throughout the following research a great deal of information on the present day beliefs of schizophrenia has been found, but there has also been an extensive amount of information regarding the various beliefs that have been established about the disorder throughout history. The imprecise notion of schizophrenia has been around for a great



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