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How Does Schizophrenia Affect Humans?

Samantha Schneider
May 2016
Period 4

When one hears the word schizophrenia, they might think of
someone who has multiple personalities, is crazy, or even
psychopathic. Although this might be true in some cases, these are all
common misconceptions. According to the National Institutes of
Health, schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it difficult to
tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think
logically, to have normal emotional responses and to behave normally
in social situations. In this paper, I will examine the question How
does schizophrenia affect humans? through three sub-questions
relating to biology, chemistry, and society. These questions are How
is the body affected by schizophrenia?, What medicines can treat
schizophrenia? and How are the lives of people struggling with
schizophrenia different? (Stannard, 2015)

How does schizophrenia affect humans?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects
approximately 50 million people worldwide. About 1 percent of the
world's population develops schizophrenia, which means that out of all
the people born today, one in 100 will develop the disorder by the time
they reach age 55. The illness affects men and women with equal
frequency; however it differs between age groups. It most often
appears in men in their late teens or early twenties, while it appears in
women in their late twenties or early thirties. Nevertheless, people can
develop schizophrenia at any age. About 75 percent of people living
with the illness develop it between the ages of 16- 40. Children can
also be diagnosed with schizophrenia, but it is extremely rare.
Schizophrenia runs in families; therefore individuals with a close
relative who suffered from the disease have a greater chance of
developing it. (Budden, 2016; "Schizophrenia", 2016)
One of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia is
psychosis. Psychosis (which translates to mind-illness) is defined as the
experience of loss of contact with reality and usually involves
hallucinations and delusions. Since the course of the illness is unique
for each person, discovering the causes of schizophrenia is difficult.
Research has linked schizophrenia to a multitude of possible causes,

including aspects of brain chemistry and structure, as well as

environmental causes. (Budden, 2016)
It is exceptionally important to identify schizophrenia as early as
possible. Studies show that recognizing schizophrenia early can
increase the chances of managing the illness and mental health
recovery. However, it often takes around a decade for people to be
properly diagnosed with schizophrenia. There is no single brain
imaging test for schizophrenia, but a health care provider who
examines the symptoms and the course of a person's illness over six
months or more can help ensure a correct diagnosis. Unfortunately, no
single course of schizophrenia treatment exists. The Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the book health care
professionals use to diagnose mental illness, provides a set of common
standards. The current DSM lists delusions, hallucinations, disorganized
speech, or disorganized behaviour as schizophrenia classification
guidelines in patients, if two or more occur persistently. However,
delusions or hallucinations alone can often be enough to lead to a
diagnosis of schizophrenia. (Budden, 2016; Mayo Clinic, 2016)

How is the body affected by schizophrenia?

While most of the symptoms of schizophrenia are mental,
schizophrenia symptoms can also have a negative effect on the
patient's body. However, these effects on the body depend on which
type of schizophrenia the patient has. According to the National
Institutes of Health, there are five different types of schizophrenia:
catatonic, disorganized, paranoid, residual and undifferentiated. All of
these forms have the same general symptoms, but catatonic
schizophrenia has additional effects on the body, which affects the
patient's motor skills. Catatonic schizophrenia is characterized by
abnormal motor movements. Patients can have slowed motor signs,
especially where there is a dramatic reduction in the patient's activity.
An example is the termination of all voluntary movement and speech.
On the other hand, catatonic schizophrenia patients can also exhibit
excited motor signs, such as a frenzied episode. A frenzied episode
includes shouting, pacing back and forth, talking rapidly and acting out
in violence. (Stannard, 2015)
Schizophrenic patients often have hallucinations that affect both
their hearing and vision. For example, patients will hear voices, which
can be mortifying or degrading. Sometimes, schizophrenic patients
may hurt themselves or others due to the voices they hear or the
images they see from their hallucinations. Speech is also affected by
schizophrenia. This means that patients can have disorganized speech
and have problems putting together sentences and coherent words. In

addition, schizophrenic patients will speak in a slurred manner.

Behaviour is also disorganized, and schizophrenic patients can be
irrational, as well as displaying a lack of interest or enthusiasm.
(Stannard, 2015)
If identified and treated early on, schizophrenia can be managed
fairly well and the chances of subsequent psychotic episodes are
greatly reduced. Additionally, an individual's symptoms can change
over time. The symptoms of schizophrenia are generally divided into
three categories: positive, negative and cognitive symptoms. Positive
symptoms are also known as psychotic symptoms because the person
has lost touch with reality in certain ways. The term "positive
symptoms" refers to mental experiences that are "added on" to a
person's usual experiencetypically these are hallucinations and
delusions. Hallucinations cause a person to hear voices inside or
outside their heads or, less commonly, see things that do not exist.
Delusions occur when someone believes ideas that are false, such as
that people are reading their thoughts or that they can control other
people's minds. Negative symptoms do not refer to negative thinking,
but rather reflect symptoms that indicate a reduction of something,
such as motivation. Negative symptoms often include emotional
flatness or lack of expressiveness, an inability to start and follow
through with activities, speech that is brief or lacks content and a lack
of pleasure or interest in life. (Budden, 2016)
Researchers still don't know exactly what causes schizophrenia,
but they do know that the brains of people living with schizophrenia
are different from the brains of those who don't suffer from the illness.
Research strongly suggests that schizophrenia has something to do
with problems involving brain chemistry and brain structure, and is
thought to be caused by a combination of problems. The major brain
regions that schizophrenia affects include the prefrontal cortex, the
basal ganglia and the limbic system. The prefrontal cortex is the brain
region directly behind the forehead. This brain area is mainly
responsible for complex tasks such as decision-making, strategizing
and adjusting behaviours according to social cues or past experience.
Impaired function of the prefrontal cortex in people with schizophrenia
may be related to the excessive release of the brain chemical
dopamine. The prefrontal cortex is connected to another brain area
affected in schizophrenia called the basal ganglia. This region is known
for producing dopamine and regulates coordinated movement,
motivation and the reward pathway. This complex pathway reinforces
patterns of behaviour that make a person feel good. The limbic system
consists of brain structures that are primarily responsible for learning
and memory as well as processing emotion. A February 2015 study
report published in "European Psychiatry" found altered connectivity

between parts of the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex in people
with schizophrenia. The reduced level of connections among these
brain areas and alterations in brain chemicals are key findings that
may explain the symptoms and abnormal behaviour seen in people
with schizophrenia. (Stannard, 2015; "Schizophrenia", 2016)

What medicines can treat schizophrenia?

A cure for schizophrenia has unfortunately not yet been found.
However, mental health recovery is possible as most patients
symptoms can be improved with medication. Since schizophrenia does
not have one exact cause, the best medicine can do is to treat the
symptoms. Before the 1950s, electroconvulsive treatment or shock
therapy was the only known method of treatment. Schizophrenia
requires lifelong treatment, even when symptoms have subsided.
("Schizophrenia", 2016)
The primary medications for schizophrenia, called antipsychotics
or neuroleptics, help relieve the hallucinations, delusions and thinking
problems people can experience. Antipsychotic drugs are the best
treatment now available, but they do not cure schizophrenia or ensure
that there will be no further psychotic episodes. These medications
work by correcting an imbalance in the chemicals that help brain cells
communicate with each other. The large majority of schizophrenia
patients experience improvement when treated with antipsychotic
drugs. Some patients, however, do not respond to medications. They
have been available since the mid-1950s, and antipsychotics allow the
patient to function better and have better quality of life. Antipsychotics
often have side effects of restless motion, stiffness, dry mouth,
sedation and can cause a disabling movement disorder called tardive
dyskinesia. The treatment of schizophrenia has two main phases. The
first is the acute phase, when higher doses might be necessary in order
to treat psychotic symptoms. This is followed by a maintenance phase,
which is usually life-long. During the maintenance phase, dosage is
often gradually reduced to the minimum required amount to prevent
further episodes. If symptoms reappear or worsen on a lower dosage,
an increase in dosage may be necessary to help prevent further
relapse. Even with continued treatment, some patients experience
relapses. The most common cause of a relapse is
stopping medications. (Budden, 2016; "Drugs to Treat Schizophrenia", 2016;
"Schizophrenia Treatments and drugs - Mayo Clinic", 2016)
Clozapine (Clozaril) was the first atypical antipsychotic in the
United States and it has demonstrated a clear advantage over the
other medications for difficult-to-treat symptoms. Clozapine is often a
very effective medication, but a drawback is that it requires blood

monitoring to check for, and prevent, a decrease in white blood cells

which increases the risk for infection. Clozapine appears to reduce the
symptoms of schizophrenia in some people, but it is hard on the body
and may lead to weight gain, diabetes and other medical conditions.
Clozapine has also been shown to reduce suicide risks for individuals
living with schizophrenia. Clozapine (Clozaril) is the only drug that has
been shown to be effective where other antipsychotics have failed. It
can produce other side effects, including weight gain, changes in
blood and cholesterol, and possible decrease in the number of
infection-fighting white blood cells. The first antipsychotic drug
discovered for schizophrenia was chlorpromazine (Thorazine), which
was soon followed by medications such as fluphenazine (Prolixin) and
haloperidol (Haldol). These drugs can cause cognitive dulling and
involuntary movements. Most of these medications take at least two to
four weeks to take effect. In order to be able to determine whether an
antipsychotic is effective or not, it should be tried for at least four
weeks depending on the medication. Other medicines used to treat the
symptoms of schizophrenia include mood-stabilizing medicine such as
carbamazepine and valproate, anti-anxiety medicines such as
clonazepam and diazepam, and depression medicines such as
citalopram and fluoxetine. (Budden, 2016; "Drugs to Treat Schizophrenia", 2016;
"Schizophrenia-Medicines", 2016)

How are the lives of people struggling with

schizophrenia different?
By interfering with a person's ability to think clearly, manage
emotions, make decisions and relate to others, schizophrenia impairs a
person's ability to function to their full potential. Difficulties with social
cues and relationships are common. It is usual for people living with
schizophrenia to experience depression, although it may be difficult to
distinguish depression from the negative symptoms that affect
someone's ability to display emotion. Negative symptoms can make
picking up on social cues challenging, which can make conversations
more difficult. In addition, some people feel isolated because they
believe that others do not share their hallucinations or delusions. There
is bias around mental illness, as approximately 96 percent of
individuals living with schizophrenia experience discrimination and
mental disorders stigma. Further, people often expect negative things
of them, or nothing at all, because of their illness. Research suggests
that as many as 70 percent of people living with schizophrenia would
like to be engaged in competitive employment, but fewer than 15
percent are actually employed. A common cognitive deficit associated
with this condition is anosognosia or "lack of insight"when someone

is not aware of having an illness. This difficulty in understanding is

based in the brain and can make treating or working with people who
live with schizophrenia much more challenging. Rehabilitation
strategies involving work, school and relationship goals are essential
and need to be addressed in creating a plan of care. Peer support is a
growing area of the field and can also provide employment
opportunities for people needing mental health help. (Budden, 2016)

As this paper has examined, schizophrenia is a serious mental
illness that affects about 50 million people worldwide. In this
document, I discussed how schizophrenia affects humans through
analyzing how the illness impacts the body, what medicines can treat
it, and how schizophrenia changes the lives of those who struggle with
it. Considering there is no one known cause of the illness, I would like
to further research whether environmental or biological causes are
more influential. This illness, although it can be treated, affects so
many and can change peoples lives. Schizophrenia is an important
thing to understand as many have common misconceptions.

Budden, F. (2016). Learn about what is schizophrenia and
schizophrenia treatment options. Schizophrenia.ca.
Retrieved 19 May 2016, from
Drugs to Treat Schizophrenia. (2016). WebMD. Retrieved 19
May 2016, from

Schizophrenia. (2016). Science Clarified. Retrieved 19 May

2016, from http://www.scienceclarified.com/RoSp/Schizophrenia.html
Schizophrenia Treatments and drugs - Mayo Clinic. (2016).
Mayoclinic.org. Retrieved 19 May 2016, from
Schizophrenia-Medicines. (2016). WebMD. Retrieved 19 May
2016, from
Stannard, L. (2015). How Does Schizophrenia Affect the
Body?. LIVESTRONG.COM. Retrieved 19 May 2016, from

o MYTH: Schizophrenia is the same as "split" or "multiple
o FACT: The origins of the word schizophrenia have contributed to
this confusion. Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist at the turn of
the twentieth century, proposed the terms schizo (split) and
phrene (mind) to capture this juxtaposition. Many people have
confused this term with so called "split" or "multiple" personality
(now called dissociative identity disorder), but there is no relation
between the two conditions.

o MYTH: Schizophrenia is caused by bad parenting or personal

o FACT. Schizophrenia is a medical illness caused by a variety of
factors including genetics, stress, substance use and trauma,
among others.
o MYTH: People living with schizophrenia are violent.
o FACT: Almost all people living with schizophrenia are not
dangerous when they are engaged in schizophrenia treatment,
although the behaviour of a person in need of such mental health
help can be unsettling or unusual. Violence is a noteworthy risk
for some people living with schizophrenia who are not in
treatment and who also have co-occurring alcohol or drug use