Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder, or group of disorder rather, marked by a breakdown of integration between emotion, thought and actions. It’s as if a person is cut off at the neck. It is a disconnect between the head and the heart if you will.
Schizophrenia has both positive and negative symptoms. The positive symptoms are bizarre delusions (being controlled, persecution, self-importance), hallucinations (imaginary visions and/or voices), disorganized and incoherent speech, and inappropriate behavior. The negative symptoms are described as “negative” because they involve the absence of adjusted behavior. So the negative symptoms include things like emotional flatness, empty speech (repeating back speech), loss of motivation, lack of concentration, lack of personal hygiene, and social withdrawal.
Biological causes of Schizophrenia:
There are thought to be three primary causes of Schizophrenia: Genetic, structural brain abnormalities, and prenatal abnormalities.
Genetic predispositions do exist. Schizophrenia tends to run in families. For example, John Nash, the brilliant mathematician who was portrayed in the film A Beautiful Mind by Russel Crow, has schizophrenia and his son, who is just as brilliant as his father, developed schizophrenia as well. The hopeful part of the genetic cause of schizophrenia is that growing up in a stable environment can insulate a person from developing schizophrenia.
Structural brain abnormalities have also been linked to schizophrenia. Some individual show sings of cerebral damage. In postmortem examinations it has been found that people with schizophrenia have larger ventricles in their brain causing a shrinkage of the prefrontal cortex. It is also thought that the cingulate and medial temporal cortex are also damaged in people with schizophrenia.
Prenatal Abnormalities: Schizophrenia has also been linked to a mother’s malnutrition or exposure to a viral infection during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Dopamine Theory Of Schizophrenia:
It is thought that schizophrenia may be a result of oversensitivity in the person’s brain of D2 dopamine receptors in the Basal Ganglia and low activity of D1 Dopamine transmission in the Prefrontal Cortex leading to the symptoms schizophrenia.
There are many drugs used to treat schizophrenia that have been shown to be effective, but sometimes it is difficult to get schizophrenics to take the medication because they actually thrive from the symptoms. There is chlorpromazine which binds to d1 and d2 dopamine receptors and blocks them without activating them. There are neuroleptics which focus primarily on the d2 receptors and are effective against the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Finally there are Atypical Neuroleptics which are thought to target D4 receptors as opposed to D2 and D1 receptors. When the D4 receptor is targeted there is less chances for side effects such as tardive dyskinesia. Atypical neuroleptics are good for treating the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
The Schizophrenic Experience:
A psychology professor once told his students, if you ever want to know what it’s like to be schizophrenic just take a a bunch of methamphetamine and stay up for a few days. The reason he said this is because the symptoms of schizophrenia are identical to amphetamine induced psychosis. Drug psychosis related to amphetamines is common amongst drug addicts. Having experienced this phenomena myself, I will try and describe what it’s like.
After being up for a few days on methamphetamine and having taken large amounts of the drug, you begin to dissociate from your thoughts. That is to say that your thoughts begin to run away from you. It’s as if you have so much energy that you become hypersensitive to everything around you while at the same time entering a deep fog. Your hearing begins to tune into every little sound you hear. At this point your soul is so fragile that you begin to feel a strange type of fear mixed with energy (paranoia). It’s a unique type of fear. It’s not like anything you’ve probably ever experienced before. You will suddenly become afraid that people are out to get you, yet no one is there, so you will start creating things in your mind and you will be able to manifest those things you’ve created in your mind in the outside environment. Now obviously these things do not exist, but there if the brain thinks its real then it is. So, if you are sure you see someone hiding behind a tree outside your window you will. These are often called shadow people. It is a strange experience. You see glimpses of people but you can’t make out their appearance and you couldn’t describe them if you had to tell someone what color shirt they were wearing. You just know they are there and can see them duck behind a tree or bush every time you try and catch a better look at them. Sometimes you may be so bold as to chase them, but again there is no one there. What this leads to is not the realization that they don’t exist, but that whoever is spying on you is very good at not being seen. This leads to more paranoia and creates a snowball effect. Till eventually your screaming at the top of your lungs at people who aren’t there.
As for the voices, well they are a little harder to describe. The voices usually come after the shadow people. What you will hear are random voices of people talking. But they aren’t talking about the weather, or if the Lakers won last night, they are talking about you. And they are never saying nice things. They aren’t talking about how brilliant you are or handsome. They are always talking about getting you or saying negative things about you. The voices come from somewhere behind your back and above you usually. Or sometimes they are voices coming from the next room. You press your ear up to the wall and try to make out what they are saying but you only hear fragments. Just like the shadow people, the voices seem to be just out of reach. The more you try and focus on them the more they elude you. Combine all this with a growing fear that people are out to kill you and you will understand what it’s like to experience the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. The funny thing is that when you’re in it it’s actually kind of fun in a sick sort of way. Not fun in the way Disneyland is fun, but in the way that a good spy movie is fun. It’s as if you’re the main character in your own spy movie. I mean, when it comes down to it, the positive symptoms of schizophrenia and drug induced psychosis are flattering in a way. It’s sort of neat when you believe that you’re so important that the entire world is after you. It appeals to a primitive narcissism we seem to be born with, and some more than others. It’s easy to see why people experiencing the positive symptoms of schizophrenia would not want to take medications to get rid of the symptoms. Why would anyone given to narcissistic tendencies want to not be the center of attention?