Schizophrenia: Mind and Mental Health
Psychological clarity is something that everyone strives for. A mind that is free from abundant clutter and jumbled thoughts that bring on stress and negativity. Everyone wants a mind that is able to recognize what is presented to it. A reliable psyche that is free from hallucinations and unwanted paranoia. Even though clarity can be achieved, certain illnesses can hinder individuals from reaching it. There are a multitude of disorders that affect the mind in more ways than one. The disorder that most people recognize tampers with the accurate depiction of reality. It is a severe condition that brings on an abundance of challenges: it is schizophrenia.
According to the Essentials of Schizophrenia, “”Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness characterized by positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms that affect almost all aspects of mental activity, including perception, attention, memory and emotion”” (Lieberman et al., 2012, p.11). As far as the “”positive”” symptoms go, they are not good in any way. In this case, positive symptoms are an addition to what a person thinks, feels or how they behave. This includes hallucinations and delusions that can occur regularly. Schizophrenia is a very chronic illness and it has a powerfully negative impact on the brain. It is so powerful that it brings on the uncontrollable symptoms that affect every detail of living.
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The most significant and challenging symptom of schizophrenia is the hearing of voices. Hearing voices is the most common type of auditory hallucination, but sounds and music can be heard as well. According to the Neuroanatomy of Hearing Voices’, “”The main finding of our study is that structural changes associated with auditory hallucinations include the gyrus of Heschl, an area mostly coinciding with the primary auditory cortex””(Liegeois-Chauvel et al., 2004, p.94).
The auditory hallucinations are a result of the slight change in brain structure caused by schizophrenia. When the auditory cortex is changed, it affects what is heard and how things are heard. This brings on the voices, and possible music and sounds, but it can also change how the words spoken by another are perceived. With auditory hallucinations comes visual hallucinations.
Visual hallucinations distort what is seen or make things that aren’t there appear to be present. The things that are seen can range from something as simple as a color or shape, to larger things like animals and even people.””Visual hallucinations tend to be associated with delusional interpretation of threatening or persecutory themes,or, in the context of religious delusions they are seen as visions of religiously meaningful figures”” (Lieberman et al., 2012, p.23). The majority of people who have visual hallucinations see figures ranging from religious and historic to people of high authority. Though people may see these figures, they sometimes believe that they are them.
Delusion is a strong belief in something or an impression that is clearly not the truth. Some people may believe that they are the president, or that they are Jesus Christ. They may even go as far as dressing and acting like the person. There are also forms of delusion that are triggered by the actions of others. Something as simple as a sneeze could be interpreted as a sign for a schizophrenic. It may be received as a sign for danger or some kind of threat that is soon approaching. Once a person is set on that belief, it is hard to change their mind. In Surviving Schizophrenia, E. Fuller Torrey says, “”Reasoning with people about their delusions is like trying to bail out the ocean with a bucket””(Torrey, 1988, p.25). It is close to impossible to shift the belief of someone who is completely certain that their beliefs are true. With positive symptoms like delusions and hallucinations, there comes a wide range of struggles in everyday life.
One thing that all human beings need is social interaction. This need is significantly harder for a majority of schizophrenic people to receive. Many of the symptoms cause the individual to noticeably react. This often scares people away and makes the person seem unapproachable. The public often view schizophrenics as “”psycho””, when their condition is something they cannot control. Due to people’s reactions, schizophrenic people tend to isolate themselves. They feel ashamed or embarrassed of their disorder and hide away. In The American Sociological Review, E. Gartly Jaco says, “” The schizophrenic is generally depicted as one who lives in a mental world of his own fancy, a sort of “”pseudo-community””(Jaco,1954,p.567). Since they struggle to create social interactions for a feel of community, they often create ones of their own. The disorder affects how they interact socially but, it takes a toll on them when searching for employment.
For schizophrenics, finding a job is much more challenging than those who don’t have the disorder. Unemployment is very common in those who are living with the illness. Many of them struggle or fear to work closely with others. Most of the symptoms of their disorder can be extreme, which makes it close to impossible to work without disruptions. Even though unemployment is high in schizophrenics, it does not mean that they do not want to work.
“”Work is a critical component of how people in Western society define themselves, and the inability to work sets patients with schizophrenia apart from others and further contributes to their social marginalization””(Lieberman et al., 2012, p.101). Even though discrimination is not legal when hiring, many employers do it anyway. If people with schizophrenia had jobs, they’d feel more included instead of socially excluded. Schizophrenia affects employment, but it also affects relationships.
The relationships of schizophrenic people tend to be minimal to non-existent. Whether it is family, friends or romantic partners, there will always be barriers. In addition to the positive symptoms, there are symptoms referred to as negative that impact relationships as well. Negative symptoms are a deduction of normal everyday functions and reactions. Functions and feelings like emotion, motivation, speech and even the ability to feel pleasure.
Due to these issues, forming relationships and making commitments are very difficult. Most schizophrenics hold a consistent lack of trust and emotion against others and are not quick to let people in. “”The individual is unable to form a close relationship with others, and there is an inability to recognize others’ emotional needs””(Lieberman et al., 2012, p.27). It is not that they do not want relationships, there is just a barrier up that is hindering them from doing so. With the hindrances that schizophrenia causes, there are ways that they can be reduced and improved.
Medication is essential to the treatment of schizophrenia. The drugs that are most commonly used for are called antipsychotics. They are meant to change the neurotransmitter receptors of the brain. In this change, dopamine is targeted because it is responsible for signals in the brain.
There are a multitude of therapies that are used to treat schizophrenia. The most commonly used ones are, personal therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy(CBT). Personal therapy is personalized for the client. It is centered on their struggles, strengths, weaknesses, symptoms, and how to manage them. CBT focuses on changing non-beneficial behaviors, thoughts, emotions and making strategies to cope with those issues.
“These psychotherapies attempt to ameliorate residual psychotic symptoms and prevent relapse by modifying individual patterns of stress and response to the illness”(Lieberman et al., 2012, p.209). The therapy is a benefit that is given by the psychologist, but it can also be applied when the individual is not in sessions. It is an impactful alternative to those who don’t like taking drugs, or who experience no benefits from it. Therapy and medication can help treat schizophrenia, but they are not cures.
The challenging symptoms of the illness can be treated but, schizophrenia cannot be completely cured. The symptoms will still occur, no matter how many medications are taken and how many therapy sessions are attended. According to The New Paradigm of Recovery from Schizophrenia, “”The primary findings are that recovery was experienced in relation to low levels of symptoms, the need to take medications to avoid hospitalization or psychotic episodes, and personal agency to struggle against the effects of illness””(Jenkins et al., 2005). Even though the treatments only have the power to lower symptoms, it is still a great improvement. It makes the everyday challenges more manageable and less apparent. This benefits the well-being of a schizophrenic and gives them hope for a better future.
In conclusion, schizophrenia is a powerful psychological disorder that has a great impact on the individual, their interactions and the others around them. It is something that cannot go away or be ignored. It comes with noticeable symptoms and reactions that the individuals affected, are forced to live with for all of their lives. It takes a toll on the social,occupational and relational aspects, which brings on major difficulties. People who have this disorder suffer day to day. They feel scared, embarrassed and even ashamed of the illness, that they go to great lengths to try to hide it. A disorder should not have to be hidden. Society needs to open their hearts and minds to all people, no matter the illness or disorder that they may have.